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Computer Support Specialists

History

The first major advances in modern computer technology were made during World War II. After the war, it was thought that the enormous size of computers, which easily took up the space of entire warehouses, would limit their use to huge government projects. The 1950 census, for example, was computer-processed.

The introduction of semiconductors to computer technology made smaller and less expensive computers possible. Businesses began adapting computers to their operations as early as 1954. Within 30 years, computers had revolutionized the way people work, play, and shop. Today, computers are everywhere, from businesses of all kinds to government agencies, charitable organizations, and private homes. Over the years, technology has continued to shrink computer size and increase speed at an unprecedented rate.

Computer support has been around since the development of the first computers for the simple reason that, like all machines, computers always experience problems at one time or another. Several market phenomena explain the increase in demand for competent computer support specialists. First of all, as more and more companies enter the computer hardware, software, and peripheral market, the intense competition to win customers has resulted in many companies offering free or reasonably priced technical support as part of the purchase package. A company uses its reputation and the availability of a computer support department to differentiate its products from those of other companies, even though the tangible products like a hard drive, for example, may actually be physically identical. Second, personal computers are ubiquitous in private homes, and the sheer quantity of users has risen so dramatically that more computer support specialists are needed to field their complaints. Third, technological advances hit the marketplace in the form of a new processor or software application so quickly that quality assurance departments cannot possibly identify all the glitches in programming beforehand. Finally, given the great variety of computer equipment and software on the market, it is often difficult for users to reach a high proficiency level with each individual program. When they experience problems, often due to their own errors, users call on computer support to help them. The goal of many computer companies is to release a product for sale that requires no computer support, so that the computer support department has nothing to do. Given the speed of development, however, this is not likely to occur anytime soon. Until it does, there will be a strong demand for computer support specialists. A growing tendency among companies to outsource computer support jobs overseas may dampen job growth in the United States.

The growth of the Internet and e-commerce is also creating employment opportunities for computer support specialists. Many people who purchase goods or services on the Internet need assistance during the purchasing process. Others simply have trouble using a Web site or its features. Computer support specialists answer site users’ questions via “live chat” features at company Web sites, as well as respond to customer concerns via telephone and e-mail. 

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