Computer Programmers Are Not Computer Repairmen

Established 1988

Programming HTML Code on a dark screenI’ve been a programmer since 1988 and in that time I’ve found that computer programmers are not typically computer repairmen as well.

I’m a database developer now but I’ve done plenty of coding over the years. I started out learning BASIC on Apple IIe computers in high school and wrote programs on my Commodore VIC-20 at home. I wrote code for 6 hours straight on a hot summer day and burned up my VIC-20.

If I would have been as interested in the hardware as I was in the software I probably would have realized that I fried the power supply or something equally simple. But the machine eventually got tossed out with the rest of the day’s garbage.

Necessity is the mother of invention

I’ve only been fixing computers since 2002. I spent most of my time working on the software side of computers writing code, removing viruses, and building websites. Then my hard drive crashed. As they say, “necessity is the mother of invention”, and a hard drive crash will definitely motivate you to open up your computer and take a peek.

I recall a comedian who said,

Why do people that don’t know how to fix cars bother to open the hood. What are they looking for? A giant on/off switch?

I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea.

I’ve reinstalled Windows a hundred times at this point in my life. I typically reinstall all of my computers every year and a half to get rid of “bit rot”. Bit rot is what happens to your computer when you use it for a couple years, install and uninstall software until little pieces of software left behind seem to clog up and slow down your PC.

But companies like Best Buy pretend that your computer is a nuclear reactor that only qualified technicians should handle. The computer was already dead so I figured, why not? I pulled a couple cables, unscrewed the drive, screwed the new drive in and put the cables back. The rest was a breeze.

After that, adding RAM, installing additional video cards – everything was pretty easy.

There must be others

When I talked to my fellow geeks at work about my new-found skills I found a very strange phenomenon. Computer programmers typically don’t fix their own computers.

I’ve worked with all kinds of programmers and for the most part they all lacked the curiosity to get inside a computer. I was actually pretty shocked. Programmers are known for their curiosity and problem-solving skills. Why wouldn’t they want to get inside to see how everything works? Most colleges teach you about the insides of a computer so it’s not like programmers don’t know the parts, how they work, or what they’re for.

I dunno

In the end, I don’t really have an answer. When I asked, most of my colleagues just shrugged. I suspect that many of them haven’t had a problem with their hard drive because they buy a shiny new computer every couple years to keep up with the processing requirements of their development tools. And most of them use source control or some form of backups anyway.

What do you think?

What are your experiences with people that you consider “programmers”? Let us know in the comments!

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