Fixing your PC can be harder than fixing a car
Since the advent of the home PC, users have always wondered why the darn machines are so hard to fix when things go wrong.
IT professionals try to come up with analogies or comparisons that are either inaccurate, or too hard to explain, and invariably, we end up insulting somebody.
"It's not like plumbing, or electrical work." we say. "Those things haven't changed in 50 years."
Well, that really ticks off plumbers and electricians. To top it off, it's never been that great of a comparison.
So, at the risk of alienating yet another profession, let's compare computers to cars. Auto mechanics get a lot of the same complaints as IT folks.
"How can it cost so much?" "The problem wasn't really fixed." "I couldn't understand a word of what he was saying."
In fact, there are a lot of similarities between car problems and computer problems. The most aggravating one is the inability to recreate it.
For example, the engine makes a clunking noise, but only at certain times, and certainly not at the time you're driving around with your mechanic. Similarly, your word processor crashes, but never when the IT folks are around.
In reality, cars are usually easier to fix than computers. This is due to a couple of reasons. First, it's easier to determine exactly what you're doing in the car. Does the clunking only happen on the freeway? Does it happen when the engine is cold? Questions like these are usually easy to answer.
Computers, on the other hand, are used for a wide variety of functions: general office productivity, financial management, games, Web browsing, and the increasingly popular entertainment management. Even for the most attentive users, it's often difficult to explain exactly what was going on when the problem occurred.
The other big difference between computers and cars is that most folks don't really tinker with their cars, but really customize their computers. Sure, lots of folks customize the appearance of their vehicles, with spinning rims and whatnot. It's also very common for people to maintain their own vehicles, with oil changes, tire rotations, filter replacements and the like. But such tasks do not materially affect the performance of the car. For the most part, mechanics see cars that have the exact same "guts" that they left the factory with. Any mechanic will tell you that if you've customized the drivetrain of your car, it will be much more difficult to ascertain the nature of any problems.
Computers, on the other hand, are inherently customized within days of an owner taking possession. As a result, IT professionals rarely see computer that have the same guts with which they left the factory.
is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. Call him at 944-8742 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org