It's the early 1990s, and one user in a lab at a university hospital has a reputation. This pilot fish has always assumed the stories are just exaggerations. Then one day fish gets a call from the user, who is having trouble creating some tables.

"First, I asked her what program she was using," fish says. "She didn't know."

WordPerfect? fish guesses. At the time, a new version of WordPerfect had just introduced tables. User doesn't know.

Is this a database you're doing? fish asks? It might be, user agrees, after fish has explained what a database is.

Could it be dBase IV? fish asks. Yes, she says, I think that might be it.

Fish starts walking her through the process of inserting a record in a database. But nothing fish tells her to do seems to work. Yes, the computer is on. Yes, there's something on the screen. But after almost half an hour on the phone, there's no progress on this table.

"I even offered to walk the three-quarters of a mile to her lab to help her with it," says fish. "This offer was turned down because she didn't want her supervisors thinking she couldn't do her job.

"OK, I said finally, let's make sure we're both in the same place. Read me what it says on your screen.

"Her answer? 'C, two dots, and a crooked line.'

"Yep, she was at the C: prompt the whole time."

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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