Linked by Kroc Camen on Tue 15th Jun 2010 10:03 UTC
Apple Apple have updated the Mac Mini. It now sports an aluminium (no, I am not going to spell it "aluminum") enclosure, an HDMI port, an internal PSU (no power-brick!) and oddly, an SD card slot in the back. There's also an access hole on the bottom to change the RAM easily.
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This is, in my experience, what most people call a techie. Now, etymologically speaking, techie is just a short word for "technicians", which means people who are very knowledgeable in one specific domain of science and technology. We need such people because as human knowledge gets more and more complicated, when choosing between "knowing everything a little bit" and "knowing something for sure", the second choice becomes more and more sensible, as long as it's combined with people who made the first choice in order to coordinate things up.

What are real-world technicians ? A lot of people become technicians because they're passionate, but let's restrict ourselves to some examples of peoples whose job is to be one. As I said before, professional photographers can be considered as such. They work at such high picture quality level that they can't anymore just take pictures and assume that the camera will do fine. They get extensive knowledge about photography theory, and then apply it on professional cameras which allows them to set everything up by hand instead of setting everything up all by itself. This is because current technology can't, in the end, fully replace human taste when you have neat results in mind.

Then, we can consider the case of plumbers and electricians. They exist because working with pipes and electrical circuitry is both cumbersome and dangerous. People don't want to risk their lives trying random things out, and don't have the time or the will to learn enough to work on the broken system safely. However, they have some spare money. They hence call somebody who has studied plumbing/electricity a lot and knows for sure how to solve common problems and how to find out solutions to less common problems.

And because the techie stereotype is nowadays over-linked with computer science, this short list of examples wouldn't be complete without a computer scientist, so let's take a network administrator. You have four hundred computers. You want to make them work together. However, at such a large scale, the "just try putting a large hub in the middle, connecting every computer to it, and crossing fingers" methodology won't work, be it only because default configuration of computers only allow for 256 machines to be simultaneously connected to a network. Or because a single router failure can take the whole company's network down. For that reason, you hire a guy, who knows about the internals of computer networks and can explain why something which looks that simple can crash that easily, ask him to make the computers work together, and give him all information that he may ask for, so that he can get, based on his personal knowledge, make some computer network that rocks without you even knowing a single thing about its internals except colors.

Globally, good real-world techs have the common characteristic of being a black box. You give them money, they do the dirty work for you and you keep your own hands clean. A good tech is the most user-friendly tool ever invented, because he allows you to get a problem solved without even slightly knowing what's happening (try this with things like a screw driver or a hammer... but not when I'm around). Hence, he's one of the most valuable professionals in a company. I don't know how I could get anything done if I did had some knowledgeable people around me, honestly.

But for some reason, people keep exposing misconceptions about "techies" (even though their real nature is simple and obvious), and bashing them for the sake of bashing, in a fashion that somehow make them look as if they were jealous of the hardly-acquired capacities of the techs.

I just can't get that. Do you ?

Edited 2010-06-16 20:06 UTC

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