PEBKAC – Even Microsoft is getting in on this

Who knows what PEBKAC means? For anyone that has ever worked a tech support line you know what I’m talking about. Even Microsoft is getting in on this line of making fun to make a point.

PEBKAC is an acronym for “Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair” and the first time I heard it was from Olaf Wagner, a good friend at K2. Olaf is a techie and a great mountain biker rider too. He is one of the co-founders of K2 (the workflow/BPM vendor – not the sports company) and he used this term to describe a problem that was reported while he was the de facto tech support manager. When asked about a particular problem he said very nonchalantly “oh, yeah … that was a PEBKAC issue” to which I said “huh?” This was a few years ago and it came back to mind today because I saw the advert below for Microsoft Research. So, it seems Microsoft is getting in on the fun too. I like it. It shows a sense of humor and a bit of humility.



Microsoft is getting in on the PEBKAC game too

PEBKAC - Even MSFT is in on it

Thinking back a few years I think I witnessed what must have been a PEBKAC moment while I was working at Kofax. This was before I had ever heard of the the term but I’m pretty sure I was witnessing a PEBKAC moment in the making. It started innocently enough with a comment from Harold Gue. Harold worked the phones in the Kofax technical support center. He made a very courteous and calm comment to the person he was speaking to on the phone and it went something like “Excuse me, may I put you on hold for a moment?” and was followed with Harold standing up and letting out a head turning scream. After a deep breath he sat down and took the person off hold and calmly said “Ok, so where were we?” and moved on. While I’m sure Harold does not remember this particular exchange --- he’s probably had hundreds of them. I still remember it and it reminds me that he is a true professional – whether dealing with a PEBKAC moment or something else.

I’m sure we have had moments where we were the “Problem” and perhaps a few cases where we were on the other side of the phone – perhaps as a tech support / call center rep or maybe just answering questions from colleagues or family. I know I’ve been on both sides. Even though I’m loathe to admit it – there are times when the idiocy of my own actions proves that I am, in fact, the problem that exists between the keyboard and the chair. Fortunately, in (most of) these cases the person on the other side of the call was as smooth and as professional as Harold Gue. I hold him up as the gold standard.


This graphic reminds me of the movie “Office Space”

Keep an eye on the guy with a stapler obsession.



What are your PEBKAC experiences?
Which side of the keyboard were you on when it happened?

If you dare to share your PEBKAC moment please comment here.

Another example – In comic strip form:
Source: Iliad Link:


BigMac said…
Funny... I was there and remember those brilliant "Harlod" moments... My thought around PEBCAK are: "If you create something idiot-proof, nature will just create a better idiot."
ce's geekbook said…
tis funny till, ... Well I probably use the term a bit too often .. when I told the owner of the company he used up all of his PEBKAC errors for the week. And he knew what I was talking about :O

yep still have a job.. lol
Anonymous said…
Reminds me of early Windows 95 support days. Also ID10T pronounced ID ten T.
I remember in the Audio Visual industry (that often overlooked world until you can't get your PC to work on a projector, or when the giant NASDAQ video wall goes down) a tech support engineer had a similar moment. In this case a system was built and being tested by the installer. All was perfect in the installer's eyes except he couldn't get the video from the VCR to show up on the projector. He swore up and down it was our video switcher, and that going through all the proper steps for trouble shooting was not needed. Regardless the support engineer calmly followed the process. "Sir, let's begin with your video source, the VCR." The installer responded screaming "The Tape is in the bleepin' VCR!!!" The engineer then asked, "Is the VCR plugged in?" Silence follows, a string of profanity, and then the sound of the phone hanging up. Yep even the best and brightest of us make PEBKAC errors or whatever you may call it for the situation or job, but following through the simplest steps can frequently avoid headaches. Fundamentals First.
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