Computer Plumbers

I ran across a BBC piece about people being trained to become computer plumbers. Now it might seem like a little bit of a juxtaposition, we often think of plumbing as ‘low-tech’ and computers being ‘high-tech’, more of that up-down dichotomy I suppose. Of course the reality isn’t much different, people often recruit my help when their computers get their pipes clogged so to speak.

I like the term because most people seem to fundamentally believe they understand plumbing: after all, it’s just things flowing through pipes. Nothing mysterious about that. Compare this to computers, which people seem to treat as systems of vast complexity, never to be understood. An attitude like that tends to make people start randomly clicking things, and then giving up in despair when things don’t work. If one goes with the attitude that things are usually happening for a reason, it’s generally a lot easier to fix things.

On a side note, we don’t learn about computers in computer science. Computer science is called information science or something like it in most other languages, which sounds a lot different. In reality, we primarily learn a funky subset of math, and it just happens that computers have a lot of applications of the funky math. Of course, it’s not that uncommon for computer nerds to gravitate towards things like computer science, so the person in computer science may also happen to have the knowledge to be able to remove whatever Kazaa installed. It’s interesting to note that there are people who are in computer science who have no knowledge about, and little intersest in, computers. Often they are doing management minors (ew).

So, Computer Science: the mathematical study of theoretical plumbing systems. Knowledge of plumbing not required.

2 Responses to “Computer Plumbers”

  1. Ira says:

    It’s interesting to read your description of computer science. The fact that it is so heavily focused on math is one of the reasons I always turned away from it, despite my interest and skills in computers. What would happen if a new breed of computers came about that didn’t use funky math but instead used some other obscure disipline?

  2. Jean-Sebastien says:

    It’s interesting to note that in french although Computer Science is “Informatique” which is closer to what it is, the science of information, people still associate “Informatique” directly with the computer “ordinateur”.
    I can also say that most people (family, friends and employers) expect a McGill computer science graduate to be very good at upgrading PC hardware, fixing Windows, removing viruses, etc… unfortunately I’ve been deceiving a lot of people :).