James Delingpole

What techies are actually doing when they fix your computer

It’s a shocking discovery – now you can use it too

3 January 2015

9:00 AM

3 January 2015

9:00 AM

Just before Christmas I achieved something so totally, incredibly amazing that I think it probably ranks among the greatest things I have ever done. In terms of danger, raw physical courage and menace overcome, it was at least on a par with cage-diving with great white sharks or taking on the ‘Breastapo’ the other week over that incident in Claridge’s. As far as personal satisfaction goes, it felt like getting into Oxford, teaching my children to read, bagging a Macnab and climbing Everest blindfold on the same weekend.

What I did was this: there was a problem on my computer — and I fixed it. All by myself!

When I took to Twitter to broadcast the fantastic news it didn’t go quite as viral as I’d hoped. Perhaps you’re one of those people who didn’t respond excitedly. Perhaps you’ve always fixed the problems on your computer and frankly never found it any big deal. If so, stop reading now. In fact, piss off why don’t you? This piece is not meant for you. Rather it’s for all those normal people out there — arts graduates especially, I would imagine — who find the thought of trying to mend their computer about as appetising as performing an emergency auto-tracheotomy with a kitchen knife and a Bic biro.

Does that more or less describe you? Excellent. Now read on, for I have something truly shocking to tell you.

OK, so we’ve established that you’re not remotely a computer geek. From which it follows, I strongly suspect, that by far the most valued specialist professional in your life — certainly in the same elite category as your obstetrician, your ‘back man’ or your weed dealer — is your friendly neighbourhood computer techie.

Whenever he comes round to your house, you’re so grateful for his presence that all you want to do is hug him and make him lots of cups of tea (or ground coffee, if His Imperial Godness prefers) and listen to him rambling on about whatever subject takes his fancy. Even though you know you’re paying for his time, you’re not bothered overmuch because the main thing is, you’ve got him. He’s not the voice at the end of the answer message, like he was on the five previous days you tried (because, heaven knows, these experts aren’t half in demand these days). He’s actually here, now, with your computer — which means that by the time he leaves the horrid technological problem which has been destroying your life utterly for nearly a week now will happily and ingeniously have been magicked away by this veritable Turing of geeky wizardry.

Is that roughly how it is for you? Well up till recently it was for me too. But then my email went down. And my computer techie didn’t respond to my initial pleas for assistance. So I realised that if I didn’t want to run the risk of losing many thousands of pounds worth of tempting commissions or life-changing job offers, then I would either have to find an alternative techie or somehow — dream on! — sort out the problem myself by going on to Twitter to see if anyone had any recommendations. Most respondents just took the mickey, as people do on Twitter. But a couple of more sympathetic ones sent me some links which might help.

One particularly terrifying procedure involved resetting my Home Folder permissions. This made me nervous because it seemed to involve my having to remember my main password — something hitherto I have preferred outsourcing to my techies. (God, what power they have to destroy your life: they know everything, these people, from how to get into your bank account to the quantity and variety of porn you consume.) What if I got it wrong and found not just my Mac Mail out of action but my entire operating system?

Fortunately, before I could do any damage I finally got hold of my techie. He did that clever thing techies do where they remotely access your computer and you watch, amazed, as your cursor zigs and zags across your screen as if possessed by a ghost. After 40 minutes of this, my techie decided something I could have told him from the start because I’d done my research: my Mail needed rebuilding. The only way to do this, he said, would be to reinstall my entire operating system, which I’d have to do myself and which would take a whole day.

When this didn’t work either, I sank into a pit of despair. Everything I had read about the problem, everything my techie had confirmed about the problem, was that this was the kind of rare, serious, intractable issue which could only be solved with aeons of techie man-hours and vast wads of cash. This made me so grumpy and objectionable that, for once, my wife didn’t mind when I slunk from the dinner table to console myself with a bout of pointless internet-surfing therapy. I googled ‘How to rebuild Mac Mail’, found a few more leads, all of them useless. All of them, that is, bar one… .

‘I’ve done it! I’ve done it! I’ve done the most incredible thing in the history of the world!’ I crowed, no more than half an hour later. And my wife, knowing my tech skills as she does, agreed that this was no overstatement.

Anyway, since then I’ve been doing a bit of asking around and this is what I discovered: the reason techies look so shifty when you peer over their shoulder as they work and the reason they take so inordinately long is that, as often as not, they’re doing exactly what I did. Then, for the privilege of doing what you could have done if only you hadn’t been petrified by your terror of tech and blinded by your reverence for ‘experts’, they charge you squillions.

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  • Rik

    In my business i was fortunate to employ a true computer geek,30 years ago he was offered a 70k consultancy which he would not take because it required interaction with people.He prefered to stay with my company at 40k because we valued him for his machine skills not his people skills.
    The only problem with keeping this guy happy was you had to learn the basics or his IT dreams would make you bankrupt

  • grimm

    This article reads like the rantings of one of those humanities degree educated twerps who always sneer at technology and so called “techies” as though being interested in computers and technology were clear signs of being a failure as a human being.

    Enthusiasts for technology are among the most ridiculously stereotyped people in the modern world. The lazy, easy assumptions about their nature (propagated by ever-so-witty writers and comedians) are that they are feeble, emotionally and sexually stunted young men incapable of normal human relationships.

    So Delingpole finds (like many middle class technophobes before him) that if he holds his nose and makes the effort to deal with technical problems himself rather than hiring a “little man” to do the work for him it is not all that difficult. His brief interest in technology did not contaminate him and turn him into a sexual inadequate.

    Now he declares that the techie community has been cheating him all along. Typical writer!

    • Swanky

      But it’s a fact that techies are generally very poor communicators and are impatient with the very people that hire them to help. Not only have I experienced this myself, as a company employee, but a relative of mine (by marriage) wrote a book about it. Which I read.

      • terence patrick hewett

        Those in the sciences are not noted for their limp wristed introspection; it probably has a lot to do with the ruthlessness with which we get rid of anything which doesn’t work. Our creativity enables us to take 430 tonnes of assorted scrap metal, fill it with 500 people and propel it thorough the air at 500 mph, millions of times a year without significant loss. Have any of you “creative” types ever given birth to anything as magnificent as a Spitfire, a thing of aching beauty and of death; you see we do art, drama and history as well. You depend on us for everything you do, even the medium we are now using, the sciences created: you cannot switch on a light, turn on a tap or go to the lavatory without our leave.

        The inconvenient truth is the world is driven by creative science, engineering and technology. The development of the transistor by
        Bardeen/Brattain, at AT&T Bell Labs in 1947 and the mass production of microprocessors, wrought changes in society that dwarfed any of those achieved by political philosophy. The invention the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 has ensured a barely controlled dialogue between millions and has changed the world forever.

        The ignorance of science by the humanities is palpable. Having no mathematics, the worlds of classical mechanics, quantum mechanics and relativity and the questions thrown up by these, are closed books. They do not even understand how the simplest of everyday devices work.

        Fifty years ago C P Snow wrote on the fact that Science and the Humanities regarded each other with mutual incomprehension; and it has got much, much worse. A re-reading of Snow’s “The Two Cultures” shows that nothing has changed since then. “If the scientists have the future in their bones,” he claimed, “then the traditional culture responds by wishing the future did not exist.” F R Leavis’s poisonous response, exemplified this attitude and it triumphed; we abandoned the future to make money in the City. We abandoned space technology, of which we were second in the world after the USA, and after that abandoned just about everything else of integrity.

        So when you “creative types” decorate your next tea cosy; remember we created the scissors as well.

        • Swanky

          You don’t seriously expect me to read that tirade, do you? Apart from anything else, you have no idea who I am or what my capacities are. What a moron.

          • terence patrick hewett

            My alleged imperfections are of course subjective and many would no-doubt agree with you: but if you engage with the intertubes simply
            wishing to hear the echo of your own voice, you will be disappointed.

            As far as the Humanities are concerned; intellects are noticeably lacking. If there are any, I don’t see them. Where are the G K Chestertons, the Hilaire Bellocs, The Bernard Shaws, the Rudyard Kiplings, the Cardinal Newmans, the Huxleys, all slugging it out? There aren’t any. Very few scholars any longer, read primary texts in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, where once it was commonplace. And it certainly shows in their work. If you really want scholarship, you have to look at the Sciences. What is loosely called the Humanities have gone backwards. Why? Because they no longer have precise moral ideals, coherently and rationally thought out. The problem is not that these people are highly educated, the problem is, that they do not have enough.

          • rtj1211

            And the intellect in most science requires one morning because the next three years are about being a factory shop floor worker grinding out drudgery of data.

          • terence patrick hewett

            Really? Poor you.

          • pearlsandoysters

            Excellent observation! Nowadays, humanities seem to be but supplement for social sciences, which does not speak to their credit. However, it should be noted that the sciences are not faring much better when it goes about the fundamentals. I tend to believe that there’s a paradigm shift in the offing.

          • Dodgy Geezer

            …Where are the G K Chestertons, the Hilaire Bellocs, The Bernard Shaws, the Rudyard Kiplings, the Cardinal Newmans, the Huxleys, all slugging it out?…

            Those are all dead white poets. So they don’t exist for modern culture. How CAN they be any good – none of them were disabled, Welsh or lesbian…..?

          • Why don’t you just tell us what your capabilities are. Not that it makes any difference to TPH’s comment. It may have been a response to your comment but, really, It wasn’t all about YOU.

          • Swanky

            It was directed at me: he could just have made his statement to all and sundry without replying to me. I didn’t read more than the first few lines because it was clearly a broadside against ‘creative’ people, about which the author clearly knows nothing. In fact his very clumsy apologia really just proves my original point!

          • Yep, a reply to you but not about you, as I said. Given that you didn’t even bother to read his comment I really cannot see how you can make a judgement about his knowledge of ‘creative’ people. You are committing exactly the same mistake of which you accused TPH.

          • Swanky

            Look, I’m not interested in jousting for the sake of it. (Why are you taking this guy’s side, unless you share his prejudices?) It was an obvious case of a narrow mind boasting — while denying that a ‘creative’ and practical character can co-exist in the same mind. I have no time for that. Cheers.

          • Yeah, I’m no fan of pissing in the wind either.

          • grimm

            Yes, I’m sure he does want you to read that tirade. It might do you some good. Do you have trouble dealing with text longer than a couple of sentences? Do you have trouble reading anything that doesn’t fit neatly on the screen of your iPhone?

          • Swanky

            Oh blimey here’s another one. Do you have a shell or can I just squash you by looking at you?

          • grimm

            So, you really do have nothing to contribute except provocative waffle (I have read your other comments) – the sure sign of an internet troll.

            “…can I just squash you by looking at you?” What infantile drivel.

          • Swanky

            I am so far above you it’s hard even to see round the Earth’s curvature.

        • grimm

          Absolutely terrific reply. Thanks.

        • thomasaikenhead

          “The inconvenient truth is the world is driven by creative science, engineering and technology. ”

          You forgot to mention art, history, literature and love to name but a few essential ingredients of life?

          One of the greatest inventions of mankind was writing, and that was not scientific or technical and yet without it science, engineering and technology beyond the most basic level are not possible, as the standard of living of pre-literate societies makes very clear.

          • terence patrick hewett

            You are certainly correct. Most of the more sophisticated communities in the African hinterland; the Kingdom of Zimbabwe for example, were at the end of long trade routes emanating from the mediterranean region, and controlled commodities such as the trade in ivory and gold. But they were precisely that; trading societies. The absence of a sophisticated written language is crucial for the development of higher level narrative. Even with complex writing systems such as Egyptian cursive hieroglyphics this is difficult, but it does not preclude disciplines such as mathematics, engineering and science. The non-pictographic consonantal alphabets such as Phoenician, Greek and Latin, descended from pictographic systems and enabled the societies centred on the mediterranean to dominate their known
            world and eventually the narratives of the globe itself; even in the matter of dress, the great gift to the world of the middle Celto-mediteraneran civilisations are the triubhas. The philosophical decedents of the Graeco-Roman tradition both figuratively and literally wear the trousers. It can be argued convincingly that the decline in the power of Islam after the fourth battle of Lepanto was due to the lack of a simple and universal non-pictographic alphabetical system.

            The movement to re-write a history which is solidly backed up by manuscript and archaeology has more to do with current global power
            politics than scholarship. When I was a student I shared a flat with a Scots mathematics postgraduate and when we got pissed he used to start to play the “Scots invented everything” game. To which I countered with the “Scots invented nothing at all” game.
            Neither of us would give ground so we used to go down the pub and find someone else to argue with; which is exactly where I am going now; so God bles us every one said Tiny Tim.

        • rtj1211

          The inconvenient truth about science is that it is every bit as ruthless and brutal as other professions. Scientists are out there to steal other people’s innovations, trash other people’s theories, stall competitors’ publications and tell untruths as a pressure group to get milions in grant funding.

          It is about creating ‘truths’ in the academic literature which do not stand up to commercial due diligence, filing patents not to make the UK a return on its research investment but to tick boxes for academic promotion purposes and taking 15 years to solve a problem which could be solved in 5 because that way, more grant money comes to their institution.

          I saw all these things and many more during a 20 year sojourn in ‘science’ and its commercial interface.

          Do stop your nirvana claims and deal with the real world, where science is just as sordid and cut throat as the professions inhabited by humanities graduates.

          • beenzrgud

            Thankfully I’ve never been involved in the sort of publicly funded research that takes years to reach its conclusion. Having witnessed the self satisfied social clubs that exist in many universities I decided early on to avoid that sort of environment. I’ve mostly been employed in privately funded tech research which moves pretty quick. I think it probably pays better too. I agree that many people see science as some perfect system when in fact it is open to all the usual human failings that plague everything else, from intellectual vanity to downright dishonesty. I’ve taken huge amounts of abuse in the past when I’ve pointed this out to people. They also don’t like it when I point out that what they consider to be the gospel truth is in fact just the most likely explanation based on the current evidence. We actually know very little as an absolute cast iron truth. We build models that enable us to do useful things like go to the moon, and that’s pretty much it. Saying all this, there is no way I would swap my career for one in the arts. The buzz and excitement from coming up with something new cannot be beaten !

          • terence patrick hewett

            No one is perfect! Of course it is not a nirvana and of course they are out to disprove each others theories: that is what the scientific method is all about.

        • pearlsandoysters

          It’s a rare pleasure to read such a self-congratulatory piece. What’s amazing is that it completely ignores the peaceful co-existence of arts & sciences during the Renaissance and the recent proposals to introduce arts into engineering curriculum, since it has become blindingly obvious that no real breakthroughs are possible without well developed artistic imagination.

          • terence patrick hewett

            I certainly agree with you. I paint in egg tempera, oils and water colours: even though the techniques are rather different. An artistic sense of proportion is important since much work, because of the need for speed, is rule of thumb and informed guestimation: a skill much despised by people who do not have it. Whether it can be taught is another thing altogether.

            Although the sciences have more than its fair share of mono-manics (whom we all know and love!); there is still a strong tendency towards polymathy. My old maths tutor was such a good pianist that he could have become a significant virtuoso if he had so desired. Another German academic of my acquaintance, now deceased, was such good tenor he could have put not a few professional singers in opera that I have seen to shame. The list is long. But I have yet to meet an arts graduate display any interest in third-order differentials.

            One is tempted to postulate that if all those arts graduates in finance had knowledge of mathematics then a great deal of pain would have been avoided. They would have realised that software based on financial models using the Black-Scholes formula and the Gaussian copula function, have their limitations in that they merely give us a better understanding of random behaviour and that they do not predict the future.

            The real hotsy-totsy example is of course: We’re All Going to be Murdered in Our Beds Millennium Bug. Everybody in the universities and industry knew it was tosh since all the hardware and software that it was likely to affect had been replaced donkeys years before. We in academe and industry managed to abstract £50 billion out of the back pockets of the gullible before the cut off point. The only government who never fell for it was the Italian, who just shrugged and said that if anything went wrong, they’d fix it. As for climate change models; no one enters that nest of scorpions unless they are mad, bad or dangerous to know.

            Modesty forfends: but in my experience, to paraphrase Solzhenitsyn “if you have one skill you can learn another 50 quite easily” practical or academic. A knowledge of first principles leads one to all sorts of places.

            As to the original post: it was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek demonstrator; as the correspondent Grimm says:

            “Enthusiasts for technology are among the most ridiculously stereotyped people in the modern world. The lazy, easy assumptions about their nature”

            Since these assumptions really do not stack up.

      • greggf

        “.. it’s a fact that techies are generally very poor communicators ..”

        Only, it seems, with people Swanky.
        They communicate excellently with machines.

        • Swanky

          But communicating with machines is only half their job. The trouble is that they don’t seem to know this.

          • greggf

            Possibly Swanky. But don’t you think that techies might say the same about you were you to plead ignorance about technical matters?

          • S

            If we didn’t have ignorance in ‘technical matters’ — and most of us have some ignorance, it’s just a question of extent — what would we need techs for? I’m talking about companies where the techs are supposed to help forward or implement the organization’s goals. Instead they are more interested in their own. They don’t do well what they were hired to do. They can’t complain about it: that’s why they have jobs in the first place!

          • greggf

            “I’m talking about companies where the techs are supposed to help forward or implement the organization’s goals.”

            Ah, I see what you mean Swanky.
            In my (humble) opinion, as an engineer, there’s too many non-technically qualified people requiring such help in companies. A better balance, more like it used to be, might enable the UK to better compete in the technical sector, and, for example, render your complaint somewhat redundant.

          • pearlsandoysters

            How very true! I guess at some point they expect people to behave in line with rules of linear codes.

          • S

            I’ve got the impression over the past few days that we’re not all talking about the same things. There is a sort of arrogance among techs working for company systems, in that they seem to think that the project the company hired them for is not important — and that the employees desperate to understand and use the system the techs have rolled out, are not entitled to assistance and are trollish if they mention flaws. Techs do computers all day long. They fail to notice that other people have other job descriptions, for which they are responsible, and being ace at every kind of computing task is not part of it. Techs very often end up being part of the problem, instead of the solution they were hired to be.

      • ManOfKent

        With such a narrow minded stereotypical view of techies (no doubt fed by the seemingly equally biased narrow minded views of your relative) its hardly surprising that they give you short shrift.

        • S

          They don’t. I’m talking about my impersonal experience, not by personal ones. And the relative is a guru of sorts, so his critique is from ‘the inside’ not the outside.

    • Renan Teté

      I’m a unprofessional techie for friends, I don’t live in UK and yet, I can confirm all he wrote as something that happens quite frequently. He’s done nothing wrong, you’re just butthurt.

      • grimm

        What the hell does butthurt mean? Is it be one of those “down-to-earth-nuthin-fancy-now-we’re-talkin-turkey” type of expressions that Americans are so easily taken in by? Why don’t you just say what you mean in plain English.

        • Swanky

          It probably means you.

          • Renan Teté

            Hmm, I think it does, yes.

        • Major Plonquer

          As any American will tell you “it’s like well, y’know, like well, y’know.”

        • Renan Teté

          Do what techies do, search on google and ask for payment after that. haha

          But you’re right, maybe I should’ve said arsehurt

    • Samson

      Tech enthusiasts are stereotyped, but writers and those humanities people are all the same.

    • ManOfKent

      I wouldn’t get upset about it. It only demonstrates that your average techie is significantly smarter than your average thicko journo and most are extremely thick………

    • pearlsandoysters

      There was an excellent article or better to say lamentation in salon.com in which one American woman was on the verge of moving out of the area due to “poor dating scene” inundated with types commonly known as “geeks”. Her verdict was very unflattering, to say the least. There’s no denying that everyone is different, yet stereotypes often cover the very basic features of the people/professional groups and paradoxically are pretty often true to life.

  • FrankS2

    You Tube has detailed instructions from people of good will on how to do anything. Your confession does rather underline the pointlessness of arts degrees. Fortunately, I didn’t get one.

    • Swanky

      Fortunately, I did. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met my husband, who is the most valid judge (of me, never mind anything else) I have ever encountered. And he loves me. I think that lots of people are married, and they even love each other. But they don’t think the other is the best judge they know. I do.

      • EricHobsbawmtwit

        Ok dear.

        • Swanky

          Happy new year!

          • EricHobsbawmtwit

            You too.

  • ItinerantView

    Few too many James over the festive season ? a joke at your own expense, fair enough but please,try learning GIMP from scratch or even PS for that matter.
    The first mac I had, I threw off a wall because of its inbuilt obsolescence, nice business model but frustrating for anyone that can read a diagram and replace one little piece of silicon with another, (without having to learn to micro-solder,I’m not that geeky) after removing a few screws,oh the horror the horror.
    So I built my own machine,yes built I say, with strange things like ‘graphics-cards’ and ‘fans’ bought from, gosh- a computer parts shop, read a diagram or two,then had a stonking little machine but then I’m an artist, what would I know about art graduates ?.
    Seriously though some of us have to make do without media profiles( all the best and keep up the good work in 2015 btw I see the alarmists are reporting scientists full of ‘fears’ yet ‘nobody knows’ but ‘could be’… ‘ramping up’ ;
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/11317974/Is-the-pause-in-global-warming-blowing-out.html )

    Macmail ? don’t be such a wimp James, wait ’til you know someone pro has been scanning your machine and there’s not a lot you can do to stop them even via proxies,Tor,VPN’s from virtual discs or Linux on a stick,doing research on some really nasty people, or disseminating
    information from some really nasty places.
    That sick feeling someone you would rather not know your whereabouts is honing in, not nice out here sometimes James, if one likes to be anonymous as possible or just values privacy.

    Not that anything I produce is illegal, I’m merely a painter,a maker of pictures,whether digitally or vermillion and beeswax,apparently afforded a special place in hell in a certain ideology but that’s another story.

    It is merely enough these days for someone,somewhere to take offense and in some parts of Europe,reportedly the truth is no defence.You know what I mean,so man up ,be hungover when you’re dead and get back to those wonderful, shouty polemics.

  • Sean L


  • Popular Front

    ‘performing an emergency auto-tracheotomy with a kitchen knife and a Bic biro’ That is almost as good a surgical line as De Niro in ‘Ronin’ saying: “it’s OK, I once removed a guy’s appendix with a grapefruit spoon’.

  • Mnestheus

    It speaks volumes that Dellers is still posessed of an operating system that takes a day to reload. Boy should straighten him out if he ever wants to make Pop.

  • Pacificweather

    But a Mac never goes wrong! Come back Microsoft all is forgiven.

    Techies who are really good are few and far between. If you find a good one tell nobody or you’ll lose her in the flood.

  • beenzrgud

    I get tired of going round to friends houses to spend hours sorting out their computers. The really annoying thing is that when you try and explain to them how to manage their computers better in order to avoid things going bad, or just how to do common tasks, their eyes immediately glaze over and you can tell they’re taking no notice. It’s like they can’t be bothered because they know they can nag me to come and fix it for them. I’m sure if they bothered to learn they’d find it’s actually quite easy to understand, but they tell themselves it’s difficult before they even start.

    • rtj1211

      It’s probably that what is ‘simple’ to you is frightening and scary to them……..

    • Ambientereal

      This is also true for all electronic and electric devices. The users don´t even read the user manual or user instructions and start to use the device. At some point it stops working and the user realizes that even from the start things never went quite right. We have still a century ago mind where the most complex thing one could buy was can of food.

      • beenzrgud

        True. My friends also seem to think that just because I have developed lots of software that I must automatically know how every bit of software ever written works. Hence I also end up sitting there reading the Help sections and doing searches to try and figure out how to get the software to do what they want. Over the years I’ve obviously got better at this as I have become more familiar with various packages, but at the start I was no more knowledgeable than they were. I think it’s just laziness on their part.

  • Perseus Slade

    I thought they normally planted some naughty stuff on computer,
    then reported you to the Thought Police to collect the bounty.
    Smart of you to do the computery stuff yourself Mr D,
    otherwise it could have been the inhuman zoo for you.

    More seriously, if you persevere, you can usually sort things out by yourself.
    Especially with a Mac.

  • Perseus Slade

    I think your male did get rebuilt.
    Well done!

  • terence patrick hewett

    If you want to join in an adult discussion on science, you will find it in the Graun:

    UK science is excelling, but are we funding the wrong projects?


    • Cyril Sneer

      Don’t be silly, you can’t get an adult discussion in the Guardian.

      • terence patrick hewett

        Suprisingly enough, this one is quite informed.

  • IainRMuir

    Servicing central heating boilers is another racket, especially some of the older ones. Just a metal box with a gas burner inside.

    Watched it done – remove the rusty, dusty bits, check the seals, £85 please. All hidden behind the threat of a massive explosion. If people can’t be trusted with this, they shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car either.

  • EricHobsbawmtwit

    The problem isn’t that they’re shifty or pretending to be doing something really complicated, the problem is that it’s very hard to diagnose something immediately and like you, they will need to do a bit of research (unless they’ve encountered the problem before).

    Their advantage is that they generally understand what the buzzwords and acronyms mean, so on the whole they can find the answer faster than you.

    • Mike

      Spot on reply. I entered computers in the 1970’s and they were a very simple affair. Now though there so many variables that its impossible to have all that information in your head but the internet comes to your rescue. Knowing what the buzzwords mean get you to the problem and finding a fix much quicker than lay people.

  • Nea

    1. The thing is you should never be afraid these techies will get to know about the quantity and variety of porn you consume. You’ll never surprise them, those are constant across the entire male population.
    2. In addition to looking shifty, my techie gets invariably in a state of mumbling during the entire procedure. There are over 15 years since he mended my first computer and I never heard a full subject and predicate sentence from him about what what he was doing. During recent years, he is acting remotely, from Italy, and speaking over a lousy connection doesn’t improve at all the clarity of his messages.

  • Stereotomy

    The idea that there’s anything underhanded about using google would never occur to any of these stereotypical techies.

  • oddbubble

    I can reinstall an operating system in under an hour (one of my work tools is a key ring with several different OS’s on usb sticks), its weather or not the customer has made regular back ups of their documents that takes time but luckily most people don’t have much more then 50gb of data.. Then there is the fact that the vast majority of people I have to go back to have ignored what I told them and ended up messing there computer up again one way or another.

    Yes I know many of my customers passwords etc, but I would never use it against them and I never look at peoples files unless I really have to. But I do know of other guys who do and have then reported people to the police.

  • Sean Inglis

    The skill is in determining which of the dozens upon dozens upon dozens of “answers” you should ignore.

    • newname

      My son works in high tech (a very useful kind of son to have) and he says that his most important skill is knowing how to find the information he needs.

  • The PrangWizard of England

    Oh, dear! you really should get out more. Are you the habit of getting into a similar panic when the lights fuse, or your car gets a flat battery?

  • Sean Inglis

    This is also the reason columnists look so shifty when they sit in front of their screens and start working away at their inches; we all think it’s difficult, that they’re all making original observations, coining neologisms, subverting formats, constructing never-seen-before tmesis.

    In fact it’s all consulting dictionaries or a good thesaurus, fumbling through Strunk and White, pawing at Fowler’s Modern English Usage, checking references, quoting, paraphrasing, pastiche, homage. Then cover it in great globs of sticky mechanically recovered opinion when you’re finished.

    Oh, once in a generation there’s a Joyce or a Beckett, something original, I’ll grant you. But mostly we’re being taken for fools. We can do it ourselves.

  • Dodgy Geezer

    I suppose I count as a techie – though I don’t provide ad-hoc support to people (at least, not for money). But I think I understand their problems.

    1 – a computer system is a complicated thing. To some extent, blame Microsoft – they could have designed their operating systems to be simple to understand, and to be generally separate from application code and data. But they wanted to tie all code together into their system to establish a monopoly. The result is a more complex system than necessary.

    2 – Because it’s complicated, nobody – not one person in the world – understands ALL of a computer system. We know some bits in detail, and the rest simply as ‘black boxes’. So we can’t be sure that ALL of your system is OK

    3 – because we don’t know what the machine should look like, what you have done, why you have done it, or what odd thing the machine has done as a result of some obscure combination of events, we CAN’T give a precise answer in many cases. To find out everything that has happened on a system would take a team of experts several months of skilled disassembly. That isn’t going to happen. So the standard response is pretty much always:

    a – reboot. That gets rid of any obscure thing you are running at the moment.
    b – if the problem hasn’t gone away, re-install. That’s a reliable way of sorting things – it must work, by definition.

  • Rush_is_Right

    If you’re a Mac user, I really have no sympathy, you fully deserve all the inconvenience that is your due.

    • Swanky

      Well that’s nice and rational then. Thank god techies don’t run anything else.

      • Major Plonquer

        Techies run everything. And I do mean everything.

        • Swanky

          And are delusional into the bargain, apparently.

    • JabbaTheCat

      Why thank you, but there is no inconvenience to being a Mac user, it’s actually a delightful experience compared to Windoze…

  • wudyermucuss

    Run ccleaner and advancedsystemcleaner before you shutdown each day.

    Run auslogics defrag weekly,scan for viruses weekly,scan for malware weekly(use malwarebytes).

    Keep anti virus,firewall,malware programmes up to date.

    If you have problems:

    Run disc check

    Re install the master boot record (MBR).

    Run Spotmau powersuite.

    Run Comodo boot time anti virus scan.

    Register at bleepingcomputer and state your problem,giving full details;wait for geeks to respond.

    Google problem,you will find forums,posts,articles on similar problem.

    The above have rescued me many times!

  • davidofkent

    I assume from the vague ramblings here that the writer has a Windows OS computer. Ordinarily, I would suggest learning a little about Terminal, but I imagine that would cause more harm than good on a Windows machine. My advice would be to switch to a Unix OS computer. Linux would be way beyond him.

    • Rifleman1853

      You assume that the writer has a Windows OS computer? If he had one of those relics, why would he do this?

      “I googled ‘How to rebuild Mac Mail’ . . . ”

      Mac? Since when does Windows run Mac Mail?

    • Major Plonquer

      MacMail? On Windows? You must be one of those non-techie techies everyone avoids. FYI: Linux IS a Unix OS. Good grief.

      • davidofkent

        Unix-like but rather less easy to navigate for a person who can’t manage a Mac. You must be one of those techies who thinks he’s the only one who knows anything about computers.

    • JabbaTheCat

      MacMail is part of Mac OSX, which itself is BSD Unix with Apple’s GUI…


      • davidofkent

        I missed that, thank you. I couldn’t believe that anybody using a Mac could appear to be so hopeless.

  • Richard Eldritch

    I’ve often felt the same way about Journalists.

  • Mike

    OK, I admit it, I’m a techie but I don’t charge squillions but generally do it as a favour to my close friends. Many people could fix their own problems if they bothered to do a web search with the symptoms but few seem capable. Its very rare the computer hardware has died and its usually something they did or downloaded that caused the problem.

    My frustration these days is few bother to keep safe their ISP providers user names and passwords, their wifi password or their email passwords so when I try and fix their problems we hit a brick wall until they can find it or in the case of ADSL routers I have to contact the ISP by phone.

    Then there’s back-ups, they have all their photos, music and docs but do they back them up on a portable hard drive, I wish.

    Most of my friends are retired, many are widows whose husbands have died and they only need is a web browser, emails, photo storage, skype and the odd letter. With the advent of ChromeBooks in the past couple of years, that is all they need and all they should be let loose on as it does all of those functions and back-up is with Google.

  • Reminds me of the hammer story. Guy is called in to get a machine working. Takes a hammer hits machine once, machine fixed. Bills company for £500. Company questions bill. New bill sent, itemised this time:
    Hammer: £10
    Knowing where to hit the machine with hammer: £490

    If you know where to hit the machine with the hammer you save a fortune. If not, stop whingeing.

  • Swanky

    To all the male readers of this page (I exclude the article writer, who is beyond the scope of this message and beyond the scope of many things, I’m afraid).

  • George McCann

    The problem is that the lazy option is to do a system restore because it will fix a lot of problems, it amazes me how many times i go to fix a broken computer and ask “what did you do that made it crash?” to be told “nothing” except the log tells me they just tried to install a new game or downloaded something because a pop-up told them to and for some reason a lot of people think downloading something is the same as doing nothing.
    However sometimes i am just as annoyed because if a computer has hardware issues no matter how many times a restore is done it won’t fix it, this is true of a computer with overheating issues and yet a lazy/clueless “Techie” will still do it and make all of us look bad because the problem will come keep coming back.

  • jorjun

    He’s got a point. Your actual ‘techie’ is somebody who writes & designs software applications. These others – these people who claim to be ‘in the computer industry’ are nothing of the sort. They are as involved in information technology as a security guards is involved in commerce. Didn’t stop Labour from insisting they are all roped together in a collective. A collective where feckless idiots get paid more than they deserve. For equality.

  • rtj1211

    There is another solution of course: have an el cheapo back up machine to use during the time you get your Mac serviced. A bit like your local car dealer loaning you a car for the day whilst they do your 30,000 mile service for you.

    Who knows, maybe you can even rent one for 7 days in this day and age??

  • Disqust

    Where on the spectrum of superbeings do I lie then? I have a first degree in music, which enabled me to rise to the top of that particular profession; then through no fault of my own, having to retrain, I chose technology as I’d been using computer skills to compose and record music. Got my MCSE and MCT. So I’m a creative and a nerd. Is this a dichotomy or are there others out there who can see that it’s simply two different sides of my personality? The world isn’t and doesn’t need to be divided into two opposing camps.

  • Bonzodog

    I am a techie – a Unix/Linux specialist for one of the world’s biggest and best known IT companies – and I can let you into a secret. I frequently resort to Google for help in trying to fix an arcane problem buried away in Red Hat. However, this is the point ( and why I earn the money I do): I know how to ask the question and can understand the answer.

    • ilPugliese

      I fix my own computer and my wife’s, provided it’s Windows (did it for a living), but I refuse to touch friends’ or neighbours’ computers, since I got someone’s unbootable machine operational for them with an identified problem, then got blamed for not fixing the problem. (The friendship didn’t last.)

  • Cyril Sneer

    I’m an unofficial techie guru to my friends and family, and an official one at work and I don’t mind it. If I only knew more about cars than I do computers, it would’ve saved me a fortune.

  • Al Bowlly

    Good article, James.

  • Cyril Sneer

    So the author is using a Mac…. well that’s the first of many issues you have there.

  • BonzoDog

    Whenever my computer goes haywire I kick its tyres and it comes good. But on the last occasion I knew I was in real trouble because I couldn’t find its tyres. Why? Because its wheels had fallen off.

  • Damian Hurts

    For decades IT professionals have been posing as demigods in both office-based and remote working environments when most graduates at least knew straight off that these IT ‘professionals’ were nothing but boring and overpaid nuissance paid to perform the work of mediocre librarians or cleaners. Yet it didn’t matter, back then the computer-illiterate bosses thought these people were indispensable so IT ‘professionals’ ruled and lived like kings. In those days it was good to have them as friends in the office but naturally, they were best avoided privately. How times have changed now that the kids run their own competitive businesses.

    It is obvious – IT ‘professionals’ right across the board are overrated. We can fix our computers ourselves, we know how easy that is. Ergo, we ought to reduce the wages of IT ‘professionals’ drastically and pay them what is required by law, the minimum not a living wage. Let’s see whether we these ‘professionals’ will dare to revolt by returning to the good old days when even the simplest of tasks took days to complete, simply because these highly-paid IT ‘professional’ weren’t pulling their weight.

  • pearlsandoysters

    This article is slightly delusional. Macs are pretty simple to maintain, once the system is fool-proof most of the time. The real problem is that there is new literacy divided between those with thech knowledge and mere mortals. That may lead to serious difficulties in the future, compared to which the problems described in this article pale into insignificance.