PEBCAK

The ‘Magic’ of IT

By Michael Czaplinski

Of course, every IT professional knows that what they do isn’t really magic, but magical thinking tends to be very common among the computer users that IT is called upon to assist every day. Read on for some musings from a veteran IT professional who has seen his share of computer crises.

Michael Czaplinski writes, “I’ve worked my entire professional life with personal computers, and most of that time has been spent helping other people use them. I have been the voice on the other end of the 800 number who has to tell you that you should turn it off and turn it back on again. (And really, it’s rather depressing that this actually does fix a great number of computer problems.) So I’ve learned a thing or two about the place that computers have in people’s lives.

“A computer isn’t just a television screen with a typewriter keyboard glued to it. (Kids, ask your grandparents what a typewriter is, but just go with me here for a moment.)

“It’s a magic mirror that allows you to conjure your thoughts onto it—as direct an extension of how your brain works as we have ever managed to invent as a species. Even better than using Silly Putty to make copies of the Sunday comics (again, kids—ask your grandparents).

“More than your choice of car or the contents of your refrigerator, the files on your computer are a direct reflection of what goes on inside your head. Indeed, there are things on your computer that aren’t inside your head because a computer is a better place to store them.

“But the thing is: People don’t question magic. They don’t want to. They have no interest in understanding what goes on inside the magic black box. They just happily keep enjoying cat videos and Szechwan enchilada recipes.

“Until that black box stops working.

“Nothing will send modern humans back to their evolutionary roots as a cave man, wondering what they did to scare away the rain clouds, more than hitting the “On” button and having nothing happen.

“This is a state I am very familiar with: Almost everyone I’ve ever helped through a computer crisis has been in that frame of mind, and in more than a few cases fixing the computer problem was much less challenging than fixing the user.”

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