No, I won’t fix your computer

As many of you experienced, I keep being asked the same question over and over again: “You work with computers, right?”. We all know what happens next. There always has been the common misconception that software developers know everything about computers, which often leads to questions like “How do I insert page numbers in Word?” or “Why has my printer stopped working?”, questions that, for example, a PhD in Operative Research is supposed to have an answer to because he works with computers. Let me clear things: We don’t work with computers, they are working for us.

It’s not that we don’t like to help people solve their problems, on the opposite, for most of us that’s the very reason why we ended up doing what we do. It’s only that this kind of problems are boring. In fact we thrive to solve problems because we can learn something out of it. Figuring out how to calculate the height of a person in a picture? Super interesting! Printer problems? Not so much.

But we help them anyway, only to deeply regret this decision hearing them say “I thought you were a computer guy” when we say that we don’t really know the weird software they’re using to edit their photos, and you start asking them question about it.

Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes. (Edsger W. Dijkstra)

I mean they’re not expecting a mechanic to fix their car without before taking a look or a doctor to diagnose their disease just looking a their face (most of the time)

So dear friends, when you ask us why your damn printer it’s not working, don’t expect us to know everything about it. We will ask questions, a lot of them, before even getting close to the printer, only to eventually find out that it wasn’t plugged in.

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