The Quick Version

I run a technical support company aimed at the home market, so I am constantly helping people to replace their computers. I spend even more time fixing things when they choose the wrong ones. I believe most folks are buying computers that are a positive liability and I know there is a better way.

Who does this guy think he is?

lt's only reasonable that if I am to write things on technology that I explain why I feel qualified to do so. My answer goes something like this:

From the stone age onwards

I have been a geek for a very long time (about 38 years in fact). I used to make pocket money writing computer games from the age of 12 (that's creating the games, not just playing them as a 12 year old would do now). When I first started programming I didn't actually get to see a computer, I would write my software on a piece of paper (called a coding sheet) with a pen (although now it feels like it might have been a quill) and the results would come back a week later on a print out[1]  (by which time I would have forgotten why I wrote it). Things have gotten a little better since then.

Big Boys' Computers

That's me on the right (ok, only joking, I wasn't born when this shot was taken), but it does feel very close to the sort of kit I started on.

That's me on the right (ok, only joking, I wasn't born when this shot was taken), but it does feel very close to the sort of kit I started on.

I went on to do pretty much every kind of job in the computer industry (programming[2], support, training, bug fixing etc) and I worked all over the world. I ended up being a Product Manager and Product Marketing Manager for some of the largest software companies in the world (like SAS [9th largest in the world at the time] and Informix [6th largest in the world at the time]). Product Managers are the folks who decide what features get put into software products and manage the programmers, the testers and everyone else to actually deliver the product (amongst other things).

Explaining Techno Stuff

Product Marketing Managers are the embedded geeks in the marketing departments of large software companies. Techies are famous for not being able to explain their stuff in a format that normal people understand and marketing folks are famous for glazing over when geeks speak. Someone needs to find compelling ways to explain all this techno stuff and to do it in plain English. Personally I find both worlds fascinating and can swap between them, apparently that makes me weird (I like to think in a good way).

Having done that sort of thing for big companies, I then spent years doing the same for the venture capitalists (the guys with all the money who fund start-up technology companies). I have lost count of the number of start-ups and mid-sized companies I have helped create products or explain what they had created to normal humans.

Helping folks with their home computers

These days I own a technical support company in the UK aimed at the home market. But I am not a CEO sitting in a back office barking orders (mostly). I make a point of getting stuck in and doing this stuff myself. As I write this I have just come from setting up an iPad for an 86 year old lady who sensibly wants to be able to order her groceries online when the snow comes in the winter. I had to solve a whole bunch of issues with getting files off a Windows XP PC that failed to boot (and was infected, naturally) and moving them to the cloud and making it all work on a big screen because she had eyesight problems and so on. I am up close and personal with all the technologies you see in the home. All the time I am switching from Windows Laptops to iPads, to Amazon Fires, to Chomebooks, to Android Phones to who knows what. I am constantly challenged to make these work and to make things work together. Because all the stuff is constantly in flux, on top of working, I have to study about 2 hours a day and I have been doing that for long as I can remember. I like it.

It's not just another review site

I suppose I might be a little different from the average person writing websites on these matters, in that I am not a tech journalist reviewing products (although there is nothing wrong with that, I consume their stuff avidly and I'm a big fan). I'm not someone working on big company IT matters and thinking that qualifies me to speak on home computers (well, I'm not that any more). I'm someone at the sharp end, taking the manufacturers' claims and trying to make them work for normal people with everyday needs. I can see from what other people say that this gives me a different perspective.

There are plenty of reviewers reporting on the fact that this laptop has 4Gb of RAM and this has 8Gb and then producing graphs to see if it's worth the price deferential. I, however,  am questioning whether you should be using that type of computer at all.

I feel compelled to write these web pages as every day I see people suffering because of the equipment they choose. Either their machine has been made unusable by Viruses and Junk Software or they have lost the family photo collection because their computer didn't automatically back everything up or some nasty criminal has accessed their bank account or credit card and taken all the cash. It's not just something happening in novels and movies, it's real and it's affecting people just like you. It doesn't have to be that way. There are technologies that solve these problems, but public perception always lags behind reality, so someone has to step forward and say what is happening out there. Looks like it's going to have to be me.

And in conclusion...

So why do I feel I am qualified to speak on these matters? It's the combination of having spent several decades working out how to create technology products and now another decade implementing them with normal people who are not interested in the excuses of the technology industry. Although life keeps reminding me that I don't know everything, I feel that my background gives me the right to have strong, but hopefully informed, opinions on all these geeky things.

Does that sound immodest? Of course it is, but you did ask.

Footnotes for geeks

[1] For the techies in the audience. That's a ping time of about 60,480,000ms. It's down to about 20ms now. Good times!

[2] Right down to machine code and I don't mean just assembler, I mean editing the hex codes in directly, sometimes with physical switches. It's a good foundation for understanding all the layers we have built on top of it over the years.

Your Comments

Don't be shy, say what you think. The comment system below is there for anyone to ask a question or make a point. Especially don't hold back if you are a normal person just trying to make sense of it all. It's easy to get the opinions of geeks on geeky matters, much more interesting to hear how this works out for you or what bits need more explanation. No such thing as a silly question, jump in.