A Personal Anecdote on the Complexities of the Computer Industry

This is an open ended paper I wrote during my first year of college. The topic must have been about science in someway. I tackled this assignment with humor. Enjoy.

The Complexities of the Computer Industry
By Matthew Pitaro
March 23rd, 2006

This past summer I had the wonderful opportunity to work for my dad at his office. My dad is an electrical engineer at Sonetech Corporation. God bless nepotism because if I wasn’t the VP’s son, I never would have gotten the job. Though after the summer was over, my experience in the technology field was adequate for the position I held, or positions as it were. Being the son of an electrical engineer, you are exposed to technology at a young age. From since I could remember, I was always using a computer. I became confident and self sufficient when it came to solving the many technical problems with them, especially with Windows. Actually, I remember using Windows 3.01 and making the transition into Windows 95. I remember it well because everything became much more difficult from that point on. In addition to always being around computers, our family time TV show of choice was Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Getting the job at Sonetech wasn’t as simple as it seemed. My dad decided that the best way to do it is to employ me under his home-based business called Clear Valley Systems, a website development company. Clear Valley Systems was contracted by Sonetech to build their website. My office was a three sided cubical that was accessible either from the main lobby or one of the doors to my dad’s adjoining office. However, his office was not a cubical; it was an actual room, with magnificent walls connecting to the ceiling.

Each day of the summer I was given a task. The first day’s task was to clean off the table in my cubical so a computer can be put there. I then went into the laboratory and salvaged for all the basic computer parts to set up in my office. There were hundreds of drawers with labels which in theory made finding everything efficient, but the system was ineffective because items in the drawers were misplaced.

After I finally set up the computer and started it up, I came to a detour. I don’t remember exactly what the problem was, but I needed to figure out a password. The person who used the computer before me is no longer with the company. I then decided to use a technique known to computer geeks called “The Back Door”. Basically, I had to put myself in the shoes of that person and figure out what password he would have used. After randomly typing several words like, “Sonetech”, “EE”, “Eienstien”, “Engineer”, “ENGINEER”, “Engineering”, “ENGINEERING”, “Electrical Engineer”, and “Electrical Engineering” I stopped and reevaluated my situation. After pondering for five minutes, I tried the former employee’s first initial followed by his last name. I tried his last name followed by his first. And I tried several variations based of this particular case sensitive password designation. Eventually, with one of the name variations I used, I gained administrative access. I sat back in my chair and said, “Wow, I can’t believe that worked!” After all, how many words in the dictionary, with any possible combination of uppercase to lowercase letter were possible passwords? The first thing I did after I gained access was change the damn password to something I could remember. Sadly, I don’t remember what that password was. It’s irrelevant though, that computer crashed two weeks later and went back to the lab, which might explain why it was there in the lab in the first place.

In desperation, Sonetech issued me one of the ten state of the art Laptop computers they received from a project contract. I remember spending one long day at the office setting up the laptop, mainly because they’ve been in the boxes so long that they were no longer state of the art. Apparently, when I opened up the box, the laptop was already prone to viruses because taped to the plastic wrapping was a CD that read something to the effect of “Insert This CD Before Startup. Contains Virus Definitions”. I stared at the label and wondered how I was going to get the CD in before I started it up. It would need a power supply first, to eject the CD tray. Well, I took my chances and plugged in the computer, started it up, then put the CD in. Nothing bad happened and things started to look like the laptop was going to avoid the lab for a while. After I finally got Windows XP going, I installed Service Pack 2. I believe that took somewhere in the neighborhood of five hours. I’m not complaining though, I was still getting paid ten bucks an hour to sit there and watch those green rectangles crawl along the progress bar.

The work I did at Sonetech for that summer wouldn’t make for an interesting story, but the process of going about that work would. I could write hundreds of pages about the methodical process of problem solving in the technology industry, but the last thing I want is to publish one of those 500 page reference manuals. Scott Adams has the right idea about publicizing the industry; he makes a daily four-celled comic about it.