People my age remember what an appliance repair shop was like when radios and TVs had vacuum tubes, and having a rabbit was not a wine bottle-opening device or a pet bunny – they were rabbit ears. It was the only part we could work with before dialling for help.
I have a repair man, younger than me but old enough to have climbed microwave towers hooking up things for CNCP in the days of twxes and telexes went from tower to tower, from town to town.
But we don’t see people fixing things much anymore because someone (or a bot) or a software tool in a call centre somewhere is re-setting our settings or installing a patch or upgrade while we sleep.
Back in the day, most offices had a resident geek person, which is how I met Warren.
We don’t see each other very often these days.
Warren used to make house calls. He’d come in his truck, carrying a box of gadgetry. Over time, he’d bring something resembling a doctor’s bag, then come on his motorcycle bringing only a disk, a phone, and eventually only a thumb drive.
More recently, for most things, he handled my problems by entering my computer remotely from his home 98km/61 miles away. And since most things sit still, get upgraded by vendors who reach into our machines remotely while we sleep on a Tuesday night – they leave no sign of forced entry, they break in through the back door while I sleep …
And in the morning, when we tap a key to wake up our machines, we get that telltale message or dialogue box on our screen requesting that we log off and re-boot
I’ve been thinking about him lately, one of the few people still around since that first landing in Calgary—most left for other firms, other industries, or retirement. Of those still in the business, our paths cross at industry events, but feeling connected to people you also compete with is tricky in any business.
I’ve always stood back, wanting to understand but not by looking over his shoulder. I remember so many times when something was utterly bonkers on my screen – all he would do was smile, start tapping keys very fast and mumble, “That’s interesting ….”
I helped Mr. & Mrs. Warren and his family sell their family home before relocating to Bowden a few years ago, and I’ve paid him for his work. Still, he never asks enough for his services – without which I’d be back in the stone age trying to make a daisy-wheel printer and my first computer talk to each other. What he’s done for me and the value he’s added to my life, in work, value and friendship, has massively eclipsed what little I’ve done for him.
As I explore a new tech avenue I’ll call ‘understanding A.I.,’ I could not have gotten from there to here without Warren’s work, support, coaching and jumping in to help when I’ve massively messed up.
I have a semi-retired friend I met 24 years ago when I moved offices from Edmonton to Calgary to reside here. As I settled in, got file boxes unpacked and computers connected and took my coat off, I was greeted by a geeky-lookin’ guy with glasses and a mild-mannered attitude.
I soon learned in that open office environment; people would roll out of their cubicles, look down the aisle to holler in his direction, “Warren, help!”
A few years later, I moved on and soon after, so did Warren. Every time I get a new box, he sets it up, and every time it doesn’t work correctly, I holler, “Warren, help!”
As years pass, these boxes get better, and we operators get better at troubleshooting when something goes wrong. I feel confident, perhaps smug, because I have a redundancy of two desktops at home, a laptop, internet service provider A at home, provider B at the office – and multiple email accounts for my domains, two on provider A’s system, one on provider B’s system, and a G-mail account that everything forwards to. In short, there isn’t an outage of services I can’t handle or figure out sort of a sustained long-term power outage—all thanks to the strategy of having Warren help me.
It’s been a long while since Warren’s made a house call. My machines could probably use a good check-up and get some obsolete programs deleted by someone who knows what they are doing.
This reminds me I need to run backup copies of everything on my external hard drive.
If I don’t, I’ll get a scolding.
I’ve often struggled with Warren to get a standard charge bill for his services, but he always undercharges me. And I’ve often fed a meal because otherwise, we wouldn’t visit long.
What do you do when you have computer trouble?
I know what I do; I roll back my chair, dial my phone and say, “Warren, help!”
Good morning Mark, I never realized that you were paying for a service regarding your Musings. I guess I should have since nothing in this life is free. However, I am confused. What is included in free and what am I paying for if I subscribe to a paid service?, CG, Cobourg, ON
Thanks Mark. I just watched a few YouTube sessions with Nir Eyal. Very interesting concept regarding distractions and just staying focused for a defined/ set time. No ‘To Do’ lists. His book is something I too will consider. I am pondering the purchase of Mehdi Hasan’s The Art of Debating. I enjoyed your musing today. It is full of excitement and promise, RT, White Rock, BC