We make fun of certain people for sound reasons. The computer industry is a terrible place for two relatively innocent book writers to have found themselves. We used to think publishers were ruthless and mercenary, but compared with the computer industry they are angels of mercy. The problem is that there's too much money sloshing around. A hardback publisher's product retails for £13, and probably sells a couple of thousand copies; multiply these figures by about 40 for a conservative comparison with the big software world, and by 100 for a comparison with hardware. Money, like power, corrupts. The relative poverty of publishing encourages the people who work in it to be polite, trained, literate, committed and refreshingly undeluded. Are these the words that spring to mind when you think about computers? Taken as a whole, the computer industry is (let's put it mildly) arrogant, inefficient, untrained, greedy ... and patronizing. (What other business routinely refers to its customers as "end users"?) In the sections that follow we report some true stories illustrating the thesis... but first let's generalize a little.
Computer shops. These fall into two types. (1) The first kind of shop is in the "tasteful" style of a open-plan office: the only computers in sight are a discreet distance away, and software boxes stand on uncrowded shelves. There are spotlights, potted palms, furniture made of stainless steel. A suited personage with a folder descends on you as you enter and enquires after your business. No sordid hands-on experience until you have been thoroughly counselled (i.e., they've found out how much you have to spend), and then they charge you so much your eyes will water. Promises of "support" sound plausible, and they're insistently reiterated ... they're also frequently untrue. (2) The other kind of shop also sells televisions, hi-fis and answering machines. They have big cardboard boxes containing hardware stacked on high shelves. Loud music blares at you continually. The staff are all louts. The computers are grimy, and always have "Abort Retry or Ignore?" on the screen. The shop's understanding of the word "support" is that the least loutish of the shop assistants will prop open the door with a heel as you drag a box into the street.
"Oh, thank God! I've been trying to get support from Apricot PLC but after calling seventeen different phone numbers they told me they don't deal with end users and that I have to approach my dealer but my dealer went out of business last year and the only other dealers I can find tell me that I have to approach Apricot PLC and after calling seventeen different numbers...."
This issue of ai is perhaps the place to record a singular fact. In all the time we have been in business we have never heard a single good word said about Apricot PLC's public relations. Most people agree that they make or at least made terrific machines. (There is less enthusiasm for the F series with its increasingly dodgy disk drives, we admit; and some correspondents have been positively blasphemous about their Portables.) But everyone is unanimous about Apricot's wonderful customer support service. Oh, and WordPerfect UK's too.
If the sternness of this section seems intimidating... we do like to hear from you, but letters are so much less intrusive. We have come to think of many customers as friends, but sometimes well-meaning friends can cause as much disruption as bovver boys throwing bricks at the windows. (It is also sordidly true that whenever we spend time on the phone we lose valuable orders from people who can't get through to place them. If we go out of business as a result we'll be offering no support at all, written or otherwise, for anyone.) 2b1af7f3a8