The Need for Computer Experts

Written By: Timothy Fish Published: 5/3/2007

So, you think you are a computer expert. What is it that makes you think that? Is it because you can find a lot of stuff on the internet? Is it because you can download music and ring tones? Is it because you play lots of games? Is it because you use certain software packages? If that is your entire claim to fame then I must inform you that you are not among the ranks of the computer experts. Unfortunately, computer experts appear to be a dieing breed.

Part of the problem is that there are people with little knowledge of computers who look at those with some knowledge of computers with awe. They must be computer experts since they know how to turn the thing on, or something like that. There was a time when that was true. Turning on a computer required a computer expert. The whole machine filled an entire room and programming it required moving wires around. When we consider the processing power of these machines, it required a computer expert to operate a glorified calculator. Now, many of us carry more processing power in the cell phones that hang from our belts.

Over the years, computers have become more and more powerful, but improvements in the user interface have made them accessible to people who know less and less about them. It no longer requires an expert to operate a computer and there seems to be less of an interest in becoming experts. It is a little like the aeronautics industry. In the old days, all pilots were daredevils. Now, even the fighter pilots operate planes that nearly fly themselves. Because the need to be an expert to do many interesting things on a computer no longer exists, there are fewer people who see the need to learn enough to really understand them.

There are many areas of the computer industry in which a person can have knowledge and still be considered a computer expert. No one knows everything, but computer experts usually have specific knowledge of some areas and a general knowledge of the others. One expert may know how to design a computer chip, but seldom does any programming work. Another expert might focus on programming and have limited knowledge of hardware.

Consider this, some people spend their days writing blog entries and posting comments to forums. Though these people know how to do things with computers, they may know little about how to actually develop a website, write a program or build a computer. To be considered a computer expert, a person’s knowledge needs to go deeper than to just how to use the tools that someone else has developed. Even a person who knows how to use software to do CGI is not a computer expert if he wouldn’t be able to develop the software he is using if that was required.

I say all of that to say this. There is still a need for computer experts. It is the computer experts who will continue to make it possible for improvements to be made. Someday, we may have software that allows us to tell the computer what we want and it will write the program for us. When that day comes, we will not need computer experts to write software and create inventive features for websites, but if that day comes it will be computer experts who develop that software. By that time, computer experts will have turned their attention to more interesting pursuits than just telling the machine what to do.