Computers vs. cars

Why isn’t computer repair like car repair?

When something goes wrong with a car, you take it into a garage; in most cases, the work can be done the same day. If parts need replacing, they usually have some on hand.

But when I took the iMac into the shop yesterday, I was told it would take three to five days before someone could even look at it. Ordering parts would add some time beyond that.

Now that’s not to complain about the store I took my computer to — in fact, their tech called today to tell me that he’d isolated the problem to a fried power supply, and that the computer would be ready for me by the middle of next week, which exceeds my expectations. But it does raise the question of why computer repair takes so much longer than car repair.

I made some guesses. First, it occurred to me that computers aren’t as entrenched as cars are, and there’s less infrastructure involved in their repair — and fewer mechanics. Ask again in 20 years.

But then it occurred to me that we take the car in for the most minor of problems. The engine light goes on, in it goes. We don’t know a damn thing about cars except how to drive them.

Computers, on the other hand … I’m much more likely to fix (or at least diagnose) small problems myself. I handle network configuration, routine disk maintenance, RAM installation, OS upgrades, software installation — the equivalent, I guess, of an oil change.

Which makes me the computer equivalent of someone who spends a lot of time underneath his car, working on it. Whereas other people send their computers off to tech support the way we send the car off to the garage — for routine maintenance. So there’s a difference.