The Adventures Of Alan: Oops! Something Went Wrong

The Adventures Of Alan: Oops! Something Went Wrong

By Alan Hancock


In an age of smartphones, tablets and wearable tech, printers are still something of an unknown quantity, at least to me. The “off and on again” solution is entry level troubleshooting that even the most computer illiterate individual is able to deploy to solve their software issues.

But printers?

These are good old-fashioned machines with actual moving parts. Does anyone really know how to fix one without sheer good fortune?

In my experience, there is nothing quite like a printer malfunction to completely obliterate productivity in the workplace. It happens all the time. You click print, you walk to the printer but the document tray is empty and you haven’t got a clue as to why that is. You scratch your head and you frown before concluding that the problem here was probably ghosts. In fact, it’s clearly ghosts, because what else could it be?

And yes, there is a red light blinking at you but the icon next to it is indecipherable, so it may as well be hieroglyphics. The little screen is so inadequately sized the text is shorthanded to such an extent it’s as comprehensible as receiving technical support from Rocky Balboa over the phone.

Not to mention the “helpful” animation that details the solution. It’s one that depicts the printer followed by flashing ink levels, then “A4 TRAY” for some reason before finishing with what appears to be a dragon torching the thatched roofs of a medieval village.

You can head back to the computer but all you’re likely to find is a message box containing the disconcertingly vague phrase “Oops! Something went wrong” and it’s at the point that tempers fray.

Would either of these machines care to elaborate on what the “something” is that went wrong?

If that’s not frustrating enough, you also have to contend with the accumulation of colleagues around you, diagnosing the problem with their equally unqualified opinions asking whether you’ve tried this or that, which of course, you have. Eventually, they’ll give it a final cursory glance, a shrug and clarification that yes indeed, they don’t know what’s wrong with it either.

Or, like me, you’ll have someone like Ian sidle up to you overflowing with testosterone, brimming with machismo and a rolled-sleeves “let’s have a look” attitude.

Oh, he’ll look at it all right, he’ll look the hell out of it. He’ll show it who’s boss. He’ll check the back, blow the dust out of the vents, pick it up, shake it like a piggybank, open all the flaps, close them again and press all the buttons as if you hadn’t already done all of those things. And, after admitting he’s none the wiser he’ll even threaten it by saying “it better have my documents printed by the end of today because I’m finishing on time for once”. Then he’ll walk off like an embarrassed bully at the denouement of a cheesy 80’s feel-good film.

Usually, I’ll just resolve my printer problems the way I used to as a child when my Playstation froze: I’d assume the malfunction was actually a personal attack on me. Then, I’d retaliate by simply refusing to use it as if by denying an inanimate, unthinking machine the opportunity to fulfil its destiny, I’d come out on top.

Problem solved.

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