What are your duties as the service manager for Central Stores' Computer Center? I take care of any problems regarding service; we support the sales end of the Computer Center. So, when faculty, staff and students who purchased computers through the Computer Center call, we solve different problems that come up. The Computer Center manager is under the Central Stores director; I'm under the computer store manager. And there are five technicians. Everybody specializes in one area, and I do just about everything. How long have you been on the job? I started about 11 years ago, with Will Bredfield at the Illini Union Bookstore. I worked with Will for about five months, until spring 1985, when Central Stores took over [the operation]. I came with it; I was part of the package. What did you do before that? I went to school at Parkland and was in the electronic technician program. At the time, the personal computer field was just starting, and all we had was a Radio Shack TRS-80. I came in at the UI at the time IBM came out with PCs. It was just starting to explode. And the business continues to explode, it seems. What kinds of changes have you seen since you started working in this area? We do so much business here now. People rely so much on their computers. I specialize in recovering data from crashed hard drives. You'd be surprised at how much people don't back up their work. As the computers have gotten better, people depend on them more and don't seem to realize they should still be doing back-ups. We have professors who come in and have research data - maybe a year's worth - that they haven't backed up. They come in panicking. But usually we recover it. With the constant introduction of new computer products by the manufacturers, how do you keep up with the changes? Do you attend a lot of workshops and classes, or do you just read a lot of manuals? In the early days we did take classes at Apple. But products come out so fast now that we get a bulletin on it, and the first time you have time to look at the computer is when it's been broken down and there's a problem. Especially with the newer systems software, it's a lot more complicated for everyone to understand than just regular DOS used to be. How did you get interested in working with computers and electronics in the first place? I've always been interested in those little Radio Shack radio kits, and had one of the first Pong games. And I've always thought it's fun fixing things, taking things apart and trying to put them back together again without having a screw left over. When is it your role - as opposed to the role of staff in the UI's Computing and Communications Services Office - to assist people with problems? CCSO mostly helps with connection to campus more than hardware. We only help with equipment people bought from us. We also work on everything the university owns, even if the departments didn't buy it from us. We do support repair of that equipment. We hire students every semester who go out and do pick-up and delivery of departmental equipment, and usually it's 24- to 48-hour turn-around on repairs. The pressure is really on us because people depend on their computers and laser printers so much. What's one of the most common repair jobs you and the other technicians do? People dropping their laptops and breaking them - that's a real common problem. They're easy to break because they have a glass screen. They're also expensive to replace. What are some of the more extreme cases in which people turn to you for answers or repairs? We had someone set a laptop computer on the roof of a car. It fell off, they ran over it and cracked the screen. We've also had computers come in from South Farms that had so much dirt in them that plants were actually growing out of them - or they've had bugs crawling out. Do you ever reach the limit to your ability to solve a problem or repair equipment? Yeah, you do. But all you can do is try to help people. What do you do when you reach a dead end? There are companies that do data recovery, and we can recommend people to them. But it's like thousands of dollars and they charge you per megabyte. What's the most rewarding aspect of your work? It's gratifying when people are pleased with your work. We're always dealing with people who are upset because their file servers have gone down, or they've lost data or something's not working. They're always very pleased and grateful for our help. I get a lot of letters thanking me and other technicians for the work we've done.