Home > digital, London, Media, working > Smashing the Spinning Jenny

Smashing the Spinning Jenny

The concept of Luddism came up in conversation today (in context of when discussing the immovable Tube unions who hold London to ransom on an alarmingly regular basis – get with it guys, or you’ll be replaced with tech – have you seen the DLR???).

In view of this, plus some hugely funny tweets from #clientsfh (clients from hell) made me cast my mind back to one of the classic moments of tech stupidity back in (what is now) the olden days.

be still my beating heart ;)

The year was 1997. I was working in the ad sales team for Internet World magazine at publisher VNU, and received a very furious complaint telephone call as follows:


I have a complaint about one of your advertisers


OK, which one? Can you tell me which ad is the problem?


Page 88 [the classified pages at the back], the one at the top right.

Pause for me to shuffle through the magazine in question and find the ad, which is for a porn bulletin board – headline of “Free sexy images” or somesuch.


OK, I’ve found the ad you mean, what seems to be the problem?


Well, I call the number on the advert and all I get is a screechy noise


Oh. [starting to grin to myself] That’s because the number advertised is the one you’re supposed to connect to with your modem


What’s a modem?


It’s the thing you use to connect your computer to the internet.


(blustering) Well, I haven’t got a computer!


So, why are you reading Internet World magazine then?


I picked it up in the doctor’s surgery.

He remained furious right until the end, and seemed unembarrassed about the fact that he was so furious because he’d been denied his access to free porn.

Needless to say that by the end of the call I had the phone on loudspeaker mode with my colleagues and I crying with laughter in the office. Definitely better than any CD-tray-as-cupholder urban myths – and one that actually happened to me.

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