Turning Crashes Into Cash

Fake News written by James Baughn on Saturday, April 24, 1999

from the i-need-the-windows-install-disc-stat! dept.

SPRINGFIELD, MO -- Get ready to add another acronym to your vocabulary. The latest acronym to hit the computer industry is CMO, Computer Maintenance Organization. Eric Herbert, the founder of BlueScreen Insurance and Support, Inc., is the pioneer of the CMO business concept. "It's simple," Herbert explained. "Just like an HMO, which (theoretically) provides affordable health care, a CMO provides affordable computer tech support and repairs."

While BlueScreen only has one office in Springfield, business is booming. The company expects to offer franchises in the coming months. "The real money isn't in portals, or e-commerce, or any of the other high-tech buzzwords bandied about by pundits," Herbert commented. The real money is in providing "health" care for the myriad of problems associated with the dominant computing platform, Wintel."

The BlueScreen CMO provides two services: insurance and tech support. Computer users can purchase varying levels of insurance depending on their needs. The insurance policy will pay for computer repairs, tech support, or other expenses related to computer failures. The monthly premiums are based on a variety of "risk factors". Herbert said, "Windows 98 users who experience 5+ crashes per day and have a history of 'tinkering' with the Registry are likely to pay the highest premiums. Linux and *BSD users, a very 'low risk' group, pay almost negligible premiums."

Tech support is provided either at BlueScreen's walk-in "clinic" or via a house call. Eric Herbert invited this Humorix reporter to visit the walk-in clinic and observe how the business operates.

BlueScreen's clinic resembles a doctor's office, with a waiting room, a couple of observation rooms, and an "operating" room. In the waiting room, computer users bring in their sick "patients" in boxes or carts. Scattered around the room are old computer magazines, and in one corner sits a stack of Linux CDs with a placard reading "FREE FOR THE TAKING".

I asked one of the waiting room occupants -- a 14-year old -- what was wrong with the computer he was holding in his lap. "It's my idiotic father," he replied. "He doesn't understand a thing. Yesterday he wanted to buy a book from Amazon.com. When he was asked for his credit card, he actually inserted it into the floppy drive! Now it's stuck. I tried to explain to him that he's supposed to type in the credit card number, but he kept saying, 'But isn't that insecure? I just read about these hackers who steal credit card numbers over the Internet...' What an idiot. Thankfully we have BlueScreen insurance... the isn't the first time my father has done something stupid..."

About this time an alarm bell sounded and a voice said over the intercom, "Code 8! Code 8! I repeat Code 8! Doctors Wallace and Merjiwak, please report to the KRUD radio station offices at 101 N. Fenster Drive immediately! This is an emergency!" I asked the secretary what was going on, and she explained, "A Code 8 means that a mission-critical Windows NT server has crashed. We just got a call that the NT network at the KRUD radio station has bluescreened hard. The station will be off the air until the system can be repaired, so this is treated as an emergency situation that must be dealt with on-site."

A couple of minutes later an "ambulance" (really a mini-van with sirens mounted on the roof) with "BlueScreen Emergency Response Team" painted on the side took off down the highway. I found out later that the ERT had no choice but to reinstall Windows NT on the entire KRUD computer system, an operation that took all day.

The BlueScreen clinic only employs four "doctors". With two of them away responding to the Code 8, and one on vacation, only Dr. Nuhilman was left to treat walk-in "patients" the rest of the day. He invited me into the "Operating Room" to watch as he performed "surgery" on a damaged computer. "It's a mess," he said as he worked, "This computer was dropped out of a second-story window by the owner's ex-girlfriend as she was throwing him out of her apartment. This box isn't as damaged as it could be, but it's still in bad shape. I've never lost a computer yet, and I'm not about to lose one today..."

During the rest of the day the doctor operated on several other patients. A computer was brought in with a corrupted Windows 98 Registry (a "Code 3"); the doctor had to reinstall the OS, an operation he apparently does quite frequently. Later on somebody brought in a computer and told the doctor, "I just bought this at a yard sale. It doesn't work". The doctor quickly discovered that this "yard sale bargain" didn't have a motherboard.

All in all I was quite impressed by what I saw during my visit. The BlueScreen CMO provides a lucrative service that is desperately needed. The next day I sent an email to Eric Herbert inquiring about the possibility of granting Humorix a BlueScreen franchise (we could open a clinic here at Humorix World Headquarters), but, at press time, he hasn't responded yet.

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