A look at how computer support is still required despite the advances in technology over the past few years.
The computer is one of the most significant achievements of mankind. Their ability to automate complex algorithms and large amounts of data in a fast, efficient, cost-effective, and reliable manner has aided in creating much wealth. But this isn’t to say it’s all rosy in the world of computers; support is still needed.
The reason being that since the advent of the computer in its various forms over the last 50 years, they have become more and more powerful due to ever increasing complexity. It has been possible to all but eliminate past technology problems with the latest technology, but in the endless pursuit of creating new wealth and value we come to accept new trade-offs. It seems that to reap the gains we have we are always willing to sacrifice something – there is an acceptable trade off.
That trade-off is the need, in a small amount of circumstances, to employ the use of experts whose sole job is to understand the technology the work is performed on rather than do the work itself.
To give a specific example, before the advent of the transistor, hundreds or even thousands of vacuum tubes (also known as valves) we used to perform calculations and temporarily store data. They had a very limited lifespan and would need constantly replacing. This resulted in a clear ceiling of what was practically achievable with this technology.
This gave a strong incentive to produce a technology that could achieve the same performance but without the problems. Human ingenuity gave us the transistor, and in turn the microprocessor, to solve these problems. We could (and did) then take these new technologies to their own limits. They could handle much larger amounts of data that needed storing. Transistor-based RAM was too expensive to use as storage and hence the motivation for magnetic disc based mass storage which has its own reliability compromises and the cycle continues (today solid-state drives are gradually replacing traditional hard drives due to their speed, physical robustness, and low power demands).
The point being that pushing the boundaries of technology’s value and accepting the costs of quality support has been proven extremely valuable.
There’s also the element of what Adam Smith identified when it came to value-adding processes, namely the division of labour. Incidentally, this is even described and celebrated on our £20 note with the quote “the great increase in the quantity of work that results” referring to people specialising in particular skills to get most from a complete system (a pin factory production line visually depicted in this case, perhaps in the industrial heartland of Manchester.)
The kinds of problems that require support today are computer networks, hardware failure, data management, and software configuration. When it comes to data management and making sure your data is safe the same question remains, “How much data can you afford to lose?” Specialist computer support will understand how to effectively and efficiently automate backing up the vast amount of data modern companies produce and use.
This article was written by Christian Winsford, a technical advisor on computer support Manchester.