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What is PEBKAC?

Tech support representatives often have to deal with "PEBKAC" issues.
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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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One recurring character played by comedian Jimmy Fallon on Saturday Night Live was a perpetually exasperated office computer guru routinely called to fix distressingly simple computer problems. His frustration was barely hidden behind a single word which has since become a catchphrase for many real-world computer geeks: "Move!" In this same vein of computer geek humor, another acronym, PEBKAC, has recently gained popularity.

PEBKAC literally means "Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair," although few computer technicians would actually use that acronym within earshot of the repeat offender. A typical PEBKAC situation generally involves basic user error, such as clicking on the wrong icon when saving a file or accidentally changing the formatting parameters of a word processing program. Such issues are often fixed with a simple keystroke or reboot, although the deeper issue of basic computer literacy still remains.

It is believed that the acronym PEBKAC, or a popular variant: PEBCAK, first appeared in the 1970s as IBM computer technicians began to commiserate with each other over time-consuming fixes they were asked to perform. As a form of shorthand, a standard repair report might contain the informal notation PEBKAC or PEBCAK to let other programmers know the real problem sat between a chair and keyboard.

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This isn't to suggest that all PEBKAC situations are minor, however. As many fledgling computer users have discovered, it is possible for one person to create a Gordian knot of computer issues through a series of unfortunate events. While the root of the problem may indeed lie between the chair and keyboard, no computer system is completely fail-safe. It's at moments like this when a good working relationship with a tech support employee can be crucial.

The use of the PEBKAC acronym is generally a safer way to vent frustration without actually offending the client or co-worker. Some may privately refer to a user error problem as an ID ten T situation, which appears as ID10T when spelled out completely. There are also apocryphal stories of frustrated computer technicians charging a "PITA fee" to especially difficult clients. While this acronym may sound legitimate or technical, much like PEBKAC, PITA really shorthand for Pain In The (posterior).

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Ruggercat68
Post 4
@Reminiscence, I'm glad you have a good IT manager at your place of employment. When I was working for a local insurance company, our IT manager was just like the Jimmy Fallon character, but worse. He wouldn't just ask someone to move, he would bark "Get up!" and then let out a heavy sigh as he sat down. We always dreaded the idea of reporting a problem to this guy, because we knew he was convinced we did something stupid to cause the easily correctable problem. I remember coming up with a few "work arounds" so I could keep processing claims without having to call him for repairs.

The company finally hired an assistant IT manager and she was much easier to work with. She once laughed about the term PEBKAC when I showed her this article.

Reminiscence
Post 3

I know there are times when our company's IT manager is quietly thinking "PEBKAC" while solving some of my computer issues. I'm not completely illiterate when it comes to computer technology, but there are times when the usual solutions just don't work. Our IT manager is very patient with us most of the time, but he will definitely let someone know when the problem was caused by carelessness on the part of the user.

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