Grandpa’s Guide to IT (Offense Four)

How hard is IT anyway?

I am often amazed at how highly competent men and women look at a computer, immediately throw up their hands and declare that they are too stupid for this crap. Mind you, I felt the same way the first time I sat down with Windows 8, so I know the feeling. I understand, but it surprises me. If it was hard, I couldn’t do it.

I try to explain that yes, it’s a complicated system, but it does obey basic laws that are surprisingly similar to what they do for a living. Unless, of course that living is primarily dependent on theft and graft… wait….nevermind, I stand by my original statement.

I even have a Powerpoint presentation describing a PC like a simple hydraulic system. The CPU is the pump, the hard drive is the fluid reservoir, the RAM is the working load, and the operating system is like a supervisor with a severe mental disability. It will randomly fire people for no reason, break equipment, repurpose tools in weird ways, and you have learned to be most suspicious when it is being cooperative and helpful.

But I think that might be the issue. Anyone who has used a computer remembers the first time they sat down with someone to be shown the logical progression of how to do something and instead heard the dreaded usage litany that we are all so familiar with:

“Ok, first you click here….err…its not here.”

“All right, now that you are in here….umm this doesn’t look like it looks on my machine”

“Well yes, that was supposed to work, but it didn’t…let me see if I can figure out why..”

“I don’t know why that bit shit itself, maybe the IT guy did something with the printer? That always frigs up my antivirus.”

It is very hard sometimes to establish a logical flow of operations when all the average computer user sees is a random series of catastrophic events that prevent them from ever learning the basic operation they set out to learn.

I have since learned that “I am too stupid for this crap” is just a way of saying, “I am going to feel like murdering everyone in this office if you make me sit here much longer.”

So we do understand, however, users constantly and consistently misunderstand us.

I have a friend, who shall remain nameless (primarily because I quite like him, in spite of the fact that he is a deranged lunatic with bizarre and dangerous habits.), who said to me, “I could never do an easy job like computers for a living.”

I did not take offense because I could easily put this daft statement into perspective. This man was constructed entirely out of elbows, nose, and grin. Nothing pleases him more than to hurl himself face first into any ailing machine his employer is willing to pay him to fix. He is quite willing to dangle from ladders, ropes, or harnesses. He will climb down any hole in the ground, be it a sewer pipe or Grand Canyon. He will cheerfully rebuild any machine in which even an archaeologist would fail to find any value. On the weekends, he will happily destroy any vehicle in his quest for just one more awesome 4X4ing story. Nothing deters his enthusiasm for mechanical things, and he has managed to bleed into the components of just about every piece of industrial machinery in this city. That’s right, our entire economic infrastructure is working primarily because this maniac was willing to offer blood sacrifice to the machine gods.

Locking this cheerful engine of destruction into a cubicle and a chair would be a cruelty akin to posting a list of all the people who will die in this week’s episode of Game of Thrones because I read the books years ago damnit, and you new fans haven’t even begun to suffer.

But I decided to help him understand why my sit-down job is actually rather rough at times and enjoyed myself immensely.

I spake unto him thusly:

Imagine that, for whatever reason, your boss tells you to replace the rotors, pads and calipers on that little Toyota over there. You already have an idea about how this job is going to go. In fact, I bet you can even estimate how long it will take you to within a few minutes.

Good. Now let’s apply typical IT factors to this job

You find out that the owner picked up a radio station in the parking lot at Burger King and the car automatically downloaded an update. Now the parts you were given will not fit.

The owner tells you there is nothing wrong with the brakes, he can stop the car just fine. The problem is loud exhaust, caused by the fact that you might have replaced the coolant in his radiator last Fall. He tells you that you are an idiot and angrily marches off to inform the boss of this fact.

You order the new only parts that will now fit on this ‘updated’ car but find out that they are a proprietary size that will not fit the car as it is now. Looks like you have same some rebuilding to do. With very expensive parts that are obviously marked up by this manufacturer to take advantage of this lock in. It’s a good thing the owner told you that you were an idiot, or you might have felt guilty about the fact that the job is now ten times more expensive and will take three times as long.

One brake pad will only work if it is installed on the driver’s side. Both sets of pads look identical. There is no labeling. But you consider a 50% chance of catastrophic and potentially fatal road failure to be about average for the industry. Hey, if the airbag works, it’s all good. Backup and recovery is the most important thing.

You try to open your tool chest only to find that it is locked. When you asked the boss why he locked it, he says, the manufacturer of the toolbox locked it because he had not paid this year’s license fee.

You pay the license fee only to find out that your wrenches seem to be slipping on every bolt head. You find out that the boss hasn’t been paying the maintenance fees, now the whole world has updated to a new sizing standard while your tools have been left behind. None of your tools will ever fit any nut or bolt currently in use, anywhere.

The boss tells you that you can use the brake fluid on the shelf over there. However, it is utterly critical to the business functions that the bottle remain exactly where it is. If that bottle is moved even half an inch, transactions for the day will not be processed and he will lose money. You can only use it after the shop has closed for the day.

The estimate given to the customer bills for one hour of shop time but everyone knows it will take two days because of all of the unforeseen issues. Both the customer and the boss loudly proclaim your incompetence.

You go online to look for advice on how to somehow get this done in an hour. ‘Experts’ in your field tell you that you are an idiot and should never have allowed yourself to get put in this position. Everyone advises you to find a new job.

Should I go on?


Well then. That, my friend, is how easy my computer job typically is.

To my brothers and sisters in the field who have ever been told that their job is easy? The look of deep sympathy on his face is something I wish I could show you. Users will learn if you can put things into their frame of reference.