Today: Telling People That You Know about Computers
Everyone has a talent in something. You might be shit at the basics in life like spoken words or mathematics, but by god can you do something! And it’s that something that keeps you relevant in peoples lives. Without your ability, you’d be nothing!
With that reassuring comment in mind, today I want to talk about the fact that one of my talents is in computers. At no stage am I attempting to big note myself by writing about my abilities with technology, so please try to refrain from seeing me as some pompous asshole snob. At least in the immediate term.
From a young age I was interested in all sorts of technology. I recently poured over hours of ancient home video in a quest to digitise it before the great magnetic gods ate it up, during which I frequently heard my young self talking or asking about the functions of whatever was around me. I remember spending hours tinkering with stuff I didn’t understand from VCRs, televisons and tape drives to old Apple Macintosh computers, and even old game consoles.
Anything electronic was my game. I just wanted to know how it worked and if it didn’t, how to make it work. Given that, I probably learnt to type before I could feed myself.
And it’s been that affair with technology that’s kept me interested in living. If I didn’t have something new to work on or play around with I’d have probably offed myself a long time ago.
People ask me all the time how I learnt to do what I can do, and I always just tell them I was self taught, and that I spent way too many hours inside as a child. Which is true, though it wasn’t the fault of bad parenting, it was simply that I didn’t want to do anything else. Thanks to those many hours and the fact I was occasionally spoiled by my parents, I always had something new to muck around with. Also I made plenty of mistakes in learning (sorry about all the lost man hours on the business computers over the years, dad).
It might sound a bit wankerish, but I’ve just never found new technology very difficult to setup, navigate or understand. Whether that’s because I’m applying prior knowledge of shitty old gadgets I don’t know, I’ve just always found it really easy. If it’s digital, or even analog I probably know how to convert it, burn it, chop it, re-edit it or whatever.
I may only be at the bright young age of 22, but that has been plenty of time to learn that my “talents” with technology have been both a plus, and a negative in my life so far.
At some point I realised that being interested in technology put me in a separate group to most of my peers. I honestly can’t remember back to the earliest years in primary school but I’m pretty sure it all went to shit as soon as I revealed the kind of things I was mucking around with at home. While most kids would be outside kicking a football around, I’d be inside playing games or something. That isn’t to say I wasn’t interested in other kid shit like Lego, but I was never and still am not, a sporting person.
The fact I don’t like sport is probably just one more thing I can’t really relate to with other people when I’m trying to make new friends, and as an Australian this is a pretty big problem. During football seasons I absolutely cannot tell you who’s playing what or what the latest results have been because I simply don’t care. Generally sport ranks up there with some of the most boring things out there for me, though hand me a question about new technology or your shitty old computer and I could tell you all about it fairly quickly.
Sharing common interests is basically the most important thing in making friends, so my hatred of sport has probably killed a sizeable audience from my “potential friends list”. Not to mention girls generally hate technology and by extension, the people that know it, as far as I can tell (2015 edit: “Cry me a river” – Justin Timberlake).
Anyway, this kind of thing happens all over your adult life. Of course a boofhead footballer wouldn’t hang with a hippy or whatever – that’s not rocket science. But the fact is, whatever your talent you’ll probably find people hassling you about it if they know about it. And I use the word “hassling” because that’s honestly how it feels. From the sparky doing a weekend love job, to me, doing IT any day. Some of it is kind of a niche – which is great if you want to make money – but if you do it because you’re interested in it, and not necessarily to make money, it can be a real problem.
That said I often don’t mind helping friends and I do it all the time; but I’ve had people ring me out of the blue with nary a “How have you been!?” before they shoot into a computer related question. Last time I checked there was a person behind the apparently free technical support line, and that occasionally he just doesn’t want to hear your computer related questions. I am not obligated to support you, especially if I never hear from you until you need me and start acting all chummy.
I’ve felt compelled to help people for free that I really shouldn’t, or that probably aren’t worth the effort. But I feel that comes back to me as a person. On the flipside of the coin though, I have friends through work and extended that have absolutely no problem giving me money and have even paid me extra because they feel I’ve done a good job. They’re paying for the fact that I know how to fix something quickly, not because they want to learn about it (but I do show people) – they just want it to work again, fast.
As it stands, I’ve tried the computer support game as kind of a side business – I might know how to fix your problem, or tell you what you need to fix you problem, but the fact is that I’m just not interested. I have my own challenges with the gear I own at home and that keeps me more entertained than fixing your Windows laptop that runs really slow because it needs more memory straight off the shelf, that anyone with a screwdriver and 60 seconds could install.
That said I’ll probably always end up helping people because it’s what I know and I’d feel bad being some sort of asshole that stands there knowing the answer, willing to let you pay someone else for the pleasure. All I know is, if I did support full time with those kinds of problems, and the endless phone calls about trivial bullshit that is easy to fix, it’d sap all the fun out of technology for me and I’d be left with nothing interesting in my life. What would be left?
2015 Comment – By virtue of age, I figured out exactly why I can’t stand tech support: I’ve already gotten the kick out of fixing the problem for myself. Suddenly the challenge is nil and mundane. At anyrate, I’ve since moved on to more specialized repairs with arcade game hardware that no one else cares about!