This past weekend the wife noticed that her computer was making a strange sound after just a few minutes of use. I recognized it as the cooling fan and suggested giving the whole using a deep cleaning. The computer is five years old, after all, and it's never been done. While this is something Reiko has consistently rejected, the noise was bothersome enough that she allowed me to break out my special screwdriver set and get to work scrubbing the unit clear of dirt, grime, and dust while also confirming the processor fan was indeed the issue. Two hours later the machine was reassembled less 100 grams of unwanted particles, and running much cooler as a result.
"You really like computers, don't you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Most people wouldn't know how to open a laptop, or even what that stuff inside does."
"Well, I'm sure lots of people could figure it out. Doesn't Koji-san1 do this sort of thing?"
"No. You're the only one in the family that can do this."
"But he's part of the design team working on the mag-lev Shinkansen ..."
"He's an engineer, but the computer is just a tool to him. Remember when he brought his computer to Eiden to get fixed?"
How very odd. The computer is just a tool to me, too, which is why I keep them maintained2. This seems to be a common thread, though. I've met dozens of computer programmers in Japan who couldn't tell me what kind of processor they had in their development computers. They couldn't even tell me if it was an Intel or AMD chip. How much RAM did it have? They didn't really know. Did it have an SSD? I had to explain what an SSD was before people would shake their head 'no'3.
This isn't always the case, though. While working at Naked Technology in Tokyo last year, almost everybody could tell me exactly what was under the hood of their work-issued notebooks. Network stuff was a bit different, but that's one of the reasons I was hired.
So this begs the question: is it really so abnormal for a person who has a technology-related job to know how their tools work? I can understand that an accountant might not know the specifications of their computer despite using it 30+ hours a week. I can understand that a carpenter may not have a complete grasp of the physics involved with hammering a nail into a piece of wood. But can a person who works with technology really not know, or care to know, whether their computer is up to the challenge?
Clearly I've asked way too many questions in life ...