I possess the only computer that can smell fear in its user and act accordingly, usually flashing indecipherable messages on my screen accompanied by exclamation marks. Both the computer and I know it is bluffing but that is of little consolation to a guy still trying to figure out how to tune his car radio.
The computer also has a work schedule that allows it to wander off into some black hole whenever it chooses. Not surprisingly, it is usually when I am on deadline.
My computer and I are not the best of friends. That is why I have become friends with a trio of young men in Smyrna that have pulled my high tech bacon out of the fire on more than one occasion over the past several years. They are known commercially as The Tech Savers and a truer description there never was.
Jeremy Commins, Aaron Myerson and Shaun Almack are principals in the firm and next Saturday will celebrate their 10th anniversary with an open house at their offices on Concord Road - near Georgia Power - with goody bags, free food and a chance to win a custom-made computer with more bytes in it than a pack of junkyard dogs.
In 2001, Commins was a part of IBM. Meyerson was a professional counselor and Almack was an unsatisfied technician at HP. It was Commins who decided to go into business for himself and got Meyerson and Almack on board. They set up shop in Cobb and are still going strong a decade later.
How have they managed to build their business over the past ten years? Meyerson says it has been through word-of mouth from satisfied customers. Of their original group of clients, everyone is still on board with the exception of one that moved away.
Their service ethic is impressive. One client lost their home to fire on Halloween. The Tech Savers showed up with computers for the family's use, video games and candy for the kids and sifted through the ruins until they found what was left of the computers and retrieved their photographs.
It is obvious that their business relationship over the past ten years has not impacted their friendship. During my visit with them, there was a lot of good-natured needling among the group about who is the most important but, in fact, they have divided up the work in a way that allows them to concentrate on specific areas. Commins is the outside contact. Almack handles computer repairs and maintains servers and Meyerson concentrates on problems that can be handled via email and works to market the organization.
And how do they make decisions? "Two of us just outvote the other," says Commins. "Although it is not always the same two." Meyerson says he just waits until his colleagues are out of the office and then does whatever he wants.
On a more serious note, the group says the number one issue for their customers is spyware. Spyware programs can collect various types of personal information, such as where you surf the internet but can also install additional software in your system. Be especially wary of those sites offering to remove the spyware. This is a major source of credit card fraud, and is usually coming from overseas. Also, The Tech Savers say never open an attachment without knowing from whence it comes. It is not unusual for a joke circulating the Internet to be infected with a debilitating virus.
What about ten years from now? In the ever-changing Information Age, that is too far into the future to even hazard a guess, they say. Certainly, we will be communicating differently than today. It is no small irony that 67-year-old Republican Newt Gingrich chose to announce his presidential campaign via social networking. Who could have imagined such a thing even a decade ago?
Whatever happens, the Tech Savers plan to continue rescuing people in need.
They recently got a desperate call from a client who was in Jerusalem and couldn't find her way back to her hotel. Somehow, they got her and her hotel together via the miracle of the Internet.
Impressive? Very much so. However, I suspect when you are used to dealing with a panic-stricken columnist on deadline with a computer that smells fear, getting someone to their hotel room half a world away is no big deal.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.