This is the truth about being a computer technician as I seen and lived it. I started working on DEC mid-range computer systems in 1980 and UNIX systems soon after. You could not find any PCs in the entire company I worked for. Presented here is some history of the evolution and development of the common use of PCs through my eyes as a long time technician.
In 1981 Microsoft came out with DOS (Disk Operating System). Soon after, productivity software solutions became available such as Word Perfect, for word processing and Lotus for spreadsheets. By 1986 Harvard Graphics was the graphics program of choice, similar in function to Powerpoint used today. Microsoft Office had been around since 1989 but Wordperfect and Lotus 123 were so dominate at the time very few used it in an office environment. Most secretaries and engineers at that time were comfortable with what they knew and resisted change. It took many years before Microsoft Office dominated the office and engineering environment.
Back in those dark ages there was no such beast as a computer technician for personal computers working in companies. The few personal computer techs that did exit at the time worked for the companies that sold the computers. Computer technicians that worked for companies were higher qualified ones that worked on more sophisticated systems much more complex than the PC. There were no certifications available for PC technicians. Most companies called on their, in resident, electronic technicians to perform whatever menial work that was necessary when users of PC systems needed help.
PC’s soon started to fill spaces in offices that use to contain IBM terminals and for the engineers, UNIX terminals. We UNIX technicians use to say they were proliferating like cockroaches. In fact, we actually found PCs to be laughable and constantly made fun of them. We thought of ourselves the “real” computer people and the PCs were little more than a joke to us. We tried our best to keep the PCs out and was successful for a time but with so many of the engineers buying home computers we finally lost and gave in to the phenomenon.
It took many more years before PC’s made their way into the production plant floor. They finally dominated that environment with the introduction of so many PC applications for production activities as a cheaper solution.
You would think that with PCs being able to do so many things that the computer tech job would evolve to include more skills and knowledge, but the opposite is true. Before the Internet, it was much harder to troubleshoot, gain the necessary knowledge, obtain drivers and compatible hardware. The Internet has become the computer tech of today and the knowledge is available to anyone that decides to call themselves a computer technician.
Technicians back in the dark ages usually had a two year degree in electronics. They actually had real technical know how. A good technician knew how to work on electronic devices at the component level and had expertise with electronic test equipment. They were a true technical animal. What is called a computer tech in todays terminology has very little “technical” ability. The process of working on PCs has become streamlined and made so simple that most Grandmothers can now do it if they set their mind to it. Technicians use to be a rare thing to find. Now your neighbor, brother, and 10 people in your church congregation is one. The field is so diluted with non-technical technicians the designation of being called technical is almost a misnomer.
I can see computer techs becoming obsolete very soon. Almost anyone can work on their own computer. The biggest thing I see “technicians” doing today is cleaning off spy-ware infections and virus’ since most software created for that function performs poorly. Computers have evolved to the point that most work can be done using an Internet browser. Soon everything will be able to be done on a browser. A browser looks and performs pretty much the same on any computer platform. Linux is available for free and has become an easy installation Linux is getting easier to install and can be used to run the browser without the need of virus or spy-ware software due to its resistance of such things.
Computers have become so cheap it almost at the point of becoming easier to buy a new one than spend the money most computer techs charge for repairs. Many other consumer items have already arrived at this juncture. Upgrades can be performed by very low skilled “techs” in stores such as Best Buy, or you can do it yourself. So the next time you run across a computer technician I wouldn’t let him or her intimated you with their great knowledge of what the best spyware program is. You are just a few clicks away from knowing everything they know.
Sources: Personal experience