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Being a technical support person is a funny thing. The experiences are quite vast. Where else can a college dropout transcend the social status and rank of a large bank conglomerate? Technical support…

Thanks for calling the Helpdesk, how can I help you?

The other day I had a phone conversation. At one point during the diagnostics stage, the user said something to the effect of “I’m such an idiot”. This struck me as odd. I’m sitting here talking to an employee of semi-large bank. I don’t recall the position or title of this person. But chances are great that this person played a significant role in the bank infrastructure. Which is to say they are most likely not an idiot in the fullest sense of the word.

When I go to the mechanic to have my transmission rebuilt, and I don’t know what’s going on, I’m not an idiot. Or when I go through the process of obtaining a home loan and I don’t know what all the paperwork is for or what it means, I’m not an idiot. But when someone calls not knowing how to address an issue with their computer. They, along with the bulk of society, regard that as an act of idiocy.

I believe this is a result of the natural cycle of computers and the people that use them. Before market saturation was reached with computers, the only endeavors that justified their being purchased were those educational, scientific, or business related. They were costly machines, and such an expense could only be justified in those three ways (to educate, to discover, or to profit). Because of this, few people had access to these machines.

As time moved on, the machines grew more complex. Not only that, but as they improved in their abilities, they also became less expensive.

So what happens to the old hardware? It gets put in the basement, or stored somewhere out of sight. Which brings us to the first stage of development in the technical support phenomena. Little kids everywhere ditching their toys and instead spending time on Dad’s toy. In their tinkering they develop a natural aptitude for the elements of computers and an understanding of their environment.

The kids grow older, move out of home, work technical support. The generations of people which preceded this generation are in awe of their abilities on these strange machines that have so eluded their already developed minds. They struggle to grasp the concepts which were so easily absorbed into the young minds of their children.

These kids are working technical support, living life, falling in love, making babies (not necessarily in that order). Their babies start growing up, and soon their babies are in the same position that they were in so many years earlier. Only its more intense. These babies have so much more to work with (in terms of technology). Everything they interact with is in some way a computer.

This phenomenon will dwindle to something fairly insignificant in about 15-20 years, but will always be present to one degree or another.

We are currently in the earlier stages of this cycle I’m referring too. The end being a point in which all people are so well versed in computers and technology that the gap between what a technical support person is and any other person is (in the sense we know now it) becomes reduced to such a degree that it, for all intents and purposes, is unnoticed.

Society is currently working through the first crop of children who grew up tinkering with old business computers. I mark myself as one of these. My father being a business entrepreneur bought his first computer in 1979. It cost $14,000 and filled a pickup truck when moved. I didn’t show up until 1983. It probably wasn’t until 1988 that I had my first experience with a computer. Which was to shut off the computer in our living room because it had been on a long time, and I was afraid it would break if it didn’t have a rest. Unfortunately my concerns were unwarranted, and my dad was in the middle of some writing project. I do not know what it was, but computers didn’t have auto-save back then, lets just say the work was no more.

My tinkering in computers started (my best guess) in 1996. Initially it involved doing something that would break the computer, and because it belonged to either my parents, or the parents of my friend, we were then under a deadline to get it fixed before the corresponding parent found out, or needed the computer.

Here I am now, getting older. I’m not married yet, but most people in my age group are married, and based off of my immediate circle of friends, are in the process of, or have had their first baby. Which means that in the year 2020 we will have the second generation of technical support technicians begin their first journey’s into the world of computers and technology.

It is my estimation that the third generation (year 2042 through 2051) of technical support workers will be the final group with widespread use. Beyond this there will remain only a niche market containing those individuals whom where raised in a situation that did not allow their comprehension of technology to develop.

In other words, those who currently sustain the market will have all died off. Technical support as we now know it will have died. There will always remain technical support. It will just exist for a much higher degree of difficulty.

It is evolution.

*Disclaimer: The calculations depicted in this writing in regard to 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation technical support individuals is based off of a linier scale, which inherently will be inaccurate to a degree as it does not take into account the earlier time these newer generations will be exposed to technology.

Title image used with permission and courtesy of Carl, check out the original here.

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One Response to “The Rise and Fall of Technical Support”

  1. on 19 Mar 2009 at 10:11 pmNavid

    But what of the advancements of the technology itself? One would think that at that point computers would be so advanced that they would practically be able to fix themselves (or at least a highly advanced form of troubleshooting). Not to mention the fact that because nearly every piece of knowledge available to mankind is now or will be on the internet, the layman can become his own technical support, furthering the demise of the over-the-phone technical support.

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