Cars and Computers — Ned Martin’s Amused

General Motors doesn’t have a help line for people who don’t know how to drive because people don’t buy cars like they buy computers, but imagine if they did... What if Bill Gates built a car ...

The Microsoft Rocket

So you climb into your new Microsoft Rocket.

You turn the key. A Head-Up Display (HUD) on the windshield lights up with the following message:


Baffled, you open the owner’s manual and look up “Starting your new Microsoft Rocket.” The book says that when you see Customer:>, you should type the word AUTOS and hit the horn button. You do, and the windshield turns white, and little pictures start forming all over the windshield, about 1 per second, until the windshield is so full of them you can hardly see out of it. You look closely at these pictures and notice that they have words on them like “ENGINE”, “TRANSMISSION”, “FUEL SYSTEM”, “IGNITION SYSTEM.”

Still the car has not started. The owner’s manual says that you should now take your mouse (stored in the center console) and start activating all these systems by double clicking on each one of them. So you do.

After about 5-6 minutes since you first turned on the key, the engine in your Microsoft Rocket sputters to life.

Slowly you pull away, and everything seems normal as you cruise down the street. You decide to turn on the dealer installed radio. As soon as you turn it on, the engine dies, all four wheels lock up, and the car screeches to a halt. A message pops up on the windshield and says:

“System Conflict: An unknown accessory has been installed. You should turn off all systems and reboot your automobile. Contact manufacturer of accessory and ask him what he did wrong. Do not contact Microsoft, nothing is our fault.”

So you turn off the radio and start over.

Soon after this, you are again cruising down the road. Up ahead, you see a stopped school bus. So you take your mouse, and move the cursor on the HUD to the menu item that says “TOOLS.”

Clicking on that item, a drop down menu drops down, and lists several items, one of which is “VEHICLE CONTROL SYSTEMS.”

You click on that, and several other menu items come up, one of which is labeled “BRAKES.” But “BRAKES” is in gray letters, not black, and you have this sickening feeling that you forgot to turn this feature on.

So you quickly hit the escape key and move the cursor to “SETUP.” A few more quick clicks and you see the menu item called “ACTIVATE BRAKES.” Just as you are about to hit the mouse button, you hit the bus.

Now imagine what General Motors might do if cars were bought like computers...

Helpline: General Motors Helpline, how can I help you?
Customer: I got in my car and closed the door, and nothing happened.
Helpline: Did you put the key in the ignition slot and turn it?
Customer: What’s an ignition?
Helpline: It’s a starter motor that draws current from your battery and turns over the engine.
Customer: Ignition? Motor? Battery? Engine? How come I have to know all of these technical terms just to use my car?

Helpline: General Motors Helpline, how can I help you?
Customer: My car ran fine for a week, and now it won’t go anywhere.
Helpline: Is the petrol tank empty?
Customer: Huh? How do I know?
Helpline: There’s a little gauge on the front panel, with a needle and markings from ‘E’ to ‘F’. Where is the needle pointing?
Customer: To ‘E’. What does that mean?
Helpline: It means that you have to visit a petrol station and purchase some more petrol. You can install it yourself or pay the petrol station to install it for you.
Customer: What!??! I paid $12,000 for this car, and now you’re telling me that I have to keep buying more components? I want a car that comes with everything built in.

Helpline: General Motors Helpline, how can I help you?
Customer: Hi. I’ve just bought my first car, and I chose your car because it has automatic transmission, cruise control, power steering, power brakes and power door locks.
Helpline: Thanks for buying our car. How can I help you?
Customer: How do I work it?
Helpline: Do you know how to drive?
Customer: Do I know how to what?
Helpline: Do you know how to drive?
Customer: I’m not a technical person! I just want to go places in my car!
Helpline: Where do you want to go today? [apologies to Microsoft]

Helpline: General Motors Helpline, how can I help you?
Customer: Your cars suck.
Helpline: What’s wrong?
Customer: It crashed, that’s what went wrong!
Helpline: What were you doing?
Customer: I wanted to run faster, so I pushed the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor. It worked for a while, but then it crashed - and now it won’t start!
Helpline: It’s your responsibility if you misuse the product. What do you expect us to do about it?
Customer: I want you to send me one of the latest version that doesn’t crash anymore!