There are times when I’m secretly tempted to argue that computer users should get off their asses and learn about computers, so as to spare specialists the need to explain the intricacies of first-tier Outlook 2007 settings and to be willing to break things to learn themselves.
…And then I need work done on my car.
I am absolutely, positively sure that if I took enough time and tried hard enough, I could understand all the inner workings of my car. I’d be able to diagnose a need to replace spark plugs from a need to replace a leaking lower intake manifold gasket to fix a rough idle.
Like that jargon? I’m a sponge like that. I even know where the damn thing is… now.
Now, I don’t really believe people should learn about the inner workings of their computers. I gave up that elitist viewpoint long ago while working with a wide variety of amazingly competent people who just happened to not be system administrators. People have better things to do with their time. I accept and appreciate a certain degree of specialization.
Here’s what I like to do with my car: drive it and put things in it (including people). That’s pretty much it. Now, I really like to drive my car. For a measly 135 horsepower 2002 Elantra, it’s a joy to drive most days.
But as for other things? I check my oil and wiper fluid when it’s not freezing outside. I get oil changes and mileage-based maintenance. I get funny smells and sounds checked out.
These things saved my bacon this weekend. I may have been a few engine starts and revs away from a real-deal engine fire. I didn’t much appreciate the cost–and, as always, had that heart-stopping reminder that just three years ago, I may have had to keep driving the thing while I found the money–but as a services-based worker myself, I understand that time has cost.
Especially since I was there for 6 hours waiting on my repairs, no coffee shop in walking range, no bus stops nearby. Let me tell you, that time cost me more of my peace of mind than I’d’ve liked.
But I am not going to break my car in order to learn how to fix it. Screw that. That’s my life in my hands, going 70 MPH on I-85 N.
Sure, personal computers aren’t going to get people killed, but I make promises that are based on the availability of my most powerful computer (rather than, say, my netbook). So when my hard drive starts to sound like a passenger train (click-clack, click-clack, click-clack…), I’m further reminded of the joys of (my own) specialization. A quick trip to my local big-box electronics store nets me a new hard drive, and a bit of interwibble research gets me freeware hard drive cloning software. Sure, it takes 15 hours to copy a 1 TB drive, but I caught it before the drive failed completely from whatever bearing is rattling around in there (thanks, Seagate).
I don’t expect my non-developer coworkers to be able to do this so easily. That’s unfair.
But is that just a cop-out for me not caring to take the time to learn the inner workings of my own car?