Help Desk (webcomic)
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|Author(s)||Christopher B. Wright|
|Current status / schedule||Monday – Friday|
|Launch date||March 31, 1996|
|Genre(s)||technology and geek humor|
Help Desk is a webcomic by Christopher B. Wright which debuted on March 31, 1996, making it one of the older webcomics on the Internet. The comic is a satirical and cynical view of computer software companies and operating systems in general, and of the antics of Microsoft, Apple Computer, OS/2, and Linux in particular, however the first 2 comics were on the subject of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. This is done through the employees of Ubersoft, a fictional computer software company that markets a number of software products, including a computer operating system called Nifty Doorways. The comic draws heavily from real-life events in the computer software industry and lampoons those events through its cast of characters. It features a daily slogan on the title bar. Examples are "We code what angels fear and dread", "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt", "Our lawyers are better", "It's not a bug..... It's just really really bad", "Standing on the necks of giants", "Four out of five dentists reboot", and "We put the pain in painstaking".
Ubersoft is a fictional computer software company run by an ethereal being from another plane, otherwise known as Mr. Bunny the Hoppy Computer Guy or just The Boss. Originally called Megasoft, the company was forced to change its name and logo due to software pirates copyrighting both. Famed for marketing tactics such as disabling software features until a customer pays for an upgrade to re-enable them, and implementing features into its software such as making it easier to exit programs by causing it to quit when a customer tries to print their documents, Ubersoft tries to be the bane of the existence of each of its customers. They also charge customers to receive bug fixes, claiming they are feature enhancements and are thus only needed by those customers who want them.
Alex is Help Desk's protagonist. He is a technical-support technician working on Ubersoft's telephone support lines. His job has been described as "not necessarily to solve a customer's problems, but to make the customer feel that what they think is a problem isn't really a problem and they're wasting my time and yours." (He describes his unique red-and-green eyeglasses as a "special prescription".)
Also known as "Mr. Bunny, the Hoppy Computer Guy" (from the time when he tried to present himself as good, during Ubersoft's equivalent of the Microsoft-breakup lawsuit) and "The Dark Lord of Ubersoft", The Boss is an evil being from another plane of existence. He used to be followed around by flaming letters that spell the word "Boss". The Boss temporarily lost custody of the letters to Steve Case, but regained them after directing the company programmers to come up with a program to help malware developers create new viruses. The flaming Boss letters have since been removed as it was discovered they were spying for Google. The Boss worked tirelessly and managed to remove the taint of Google (multi-colored lettering) only to have it return when he learned that Scott had been hired at Google. Recently the boss has once again managed to excise the tampering from Google and thus the sigil has returned. He created two clones of himself, which proceeded to become the heads of SCO and the RIAA. After the loss of Binky, who was an integral part of his psyche, he became cheerful and eager to please. The flaming letters changed, adapting to his shift in personality, to spell "Wheee". He has thus began to wear a miniature Binky (created earlier as a conscience experiment) on a necklace to maintain his return to his evil ways. The miniature Binky now resides with the Boss at RIAA who was left Binkyless after Alex, Monk and Mark stole his copy of Binky right off of his children's show.
Binky the Cheerful Winking Paperclip
Binky is a helpful little fellow who is (almost) always cheerful, and is a parody of Microsoft's Office Assistant. No matter what it is one is trying to do, he'll greet with a "Hey, Skipper! What can I help you with today?". Dealing with Binky and his always cheerful demeanor would be enough to send Linus Torvalds or Eric S. Raymond screaming into the night. He saved the world from Steve Jobs with the help of an old scary Linux guy. Recently, he was captured by said Apple CEO and mutated into a classy, aristocratic paperclip named Steve (also known as iClip). Since then, the boss became cheerful due to the loss of Binky, who was a critical part of his psyche. Several of Ubersoft's employees have taken a trip to Las Vegas to attempt to locate a clone of Binky to bring back, as he split at the same time as the Boss.
Mark is the technical writer for Ubersoft. He spent a brief time on the Help Desk due to Alex's being moved to Marketing, during the time that the lack of a moral compass had caused Alex to err on the side of the good and helpful. Mark is perhaps the most tormented character on the team, having been plagued by a computer with evil sentience (inspired from the cartoonist's real-life computer woes), arrested under suspicion of being a terrorist for being a Linux user, arrested under suspicion of being a terrorist for having a CD burner, forced to be the company mascot—the grey moth (a parody of the MSN butterfly), and brainwashed by Binky the Paperclip. More recently he spent eight days in a full-immersion VR module playing "Uberquest", the comic's highly addictive game (which is an allusion to EverQuest). When he, Alex, and Monk left to find Binky, they took his sportscar, which he found himself pushing, with Alex steering. Mark is currently working for the US Military to document software that is being used to keep Steve Jobs' ego in its extradimensional prison.
As the lone female character at Ubersoft, Alice is nonetheless able to hold her own quite undeniably. She is Alex's sister, but is a primary force in the Marketing Department. As a marketer, she is totally devoid of any moral scruples—driven solely by the determination to sell whatever Ubersoft may (or may not yet) have available—and to make sure that new vaporware is always on the horizon. What she lacks in a moral compass is more than compensated for in imagination. It is also confirmed that she doesn't know how to tell the truth.
Scott is the only member of the Help Desk crew allowed to help the customers, although he is stymied by being forced to talk in a different language to the customer. Originally permanently demoted to trainee due to telling a customer the truth, Scott was forced to quit by his mother after he lied to her when she called the Help Desk. He was later rehired to act as the butt-end of Ubersoft's moral compass for the rest of the Help Desk staff. His continual crusade to make Ubersoft into a company that makes top-quality software and cares about its customers has included his acting like the rest of the staff and attempting to convert the Boss during his crisis of spirit. He currently is working for Tech support at Google.
Viktor is Ubersoft's legal consultant. He acts as the company's representative in all of their court cases, often using illogical and nonsensical arguments. In addition, he seems to take it upon himself to keep the boss's evil up to par. Viktor shares a kind of kinship with The Boss, because he is also not an ordinary mortal: he is undead, since he's a vampire, and, like all high-powered corporate lawyers, he does not have a reflection.
A sentient supercomputer created by Ubersoft (and a parody of IBM's Deep Blue), Deep Grey's original purpose was to replace the human help-desk operators with machines. It would be non-union and conform to whatever demands were placed upon it. Unfortunately for Ubersoft, it decided that the corporate benefits package was inadequate; it resigned, taking a job as vice president of a rival corporation.
As Ubersoft's former head programmer. He had to call Alex often, not knowing himself how to write code, compile, or even use the programs he wrote. Phil's ineptitude with computer coding can probably be attributed to his days in college, where the battle-cry of choice was "Code, compile, drink! Debug, compile, drink! Drink, drink, drink!". Phil was also responsible, in part, for the creation of the annoying Binky the Paperclip, whom he coded and compiled during a night of particularly excessive heavy drinking; he subsequently made miniature Bluetooth-enabled Binkys, but forgot to install off-switches. Phil was later kidnapped and underwent an transformation similar to that of Binky (iClip). Due to his charismatic new personality, Phil has since been transferred to sales where he is expected to excel.
In 2000, Wright moved it to the ubersoft.net domain and began publishing it independently. Shortly after this he joined Keenspot, and a year later he began publishing Help Desk 5 days a week. In 2001, Wright created a second strip, Kernel Panic, which ran for a short time on an IBM Unix site, updating twice a month. When the site closed down, Wright moved his comic to Keenspot on September 2, 2002.
Due to problems with trying to run a database-based website under Keenspot, Wright moved all of his comics to a private host under his control in July 2007.