Sunday, April 25, 2004
Plumber, electrician... digitician?
The day's spoils: 1,136 pieces of spyware and 42 viruses. "It had Ebola," Gosselin tells Meredith Judge about her family computer. "One of the worst ones I've seen."

Another day's work for Gosselin, an employee of Geek Housecalls and one man in the burgeoning army of overqualified, unemployed, or free-spirited computer technicians being deployed to front porches around the country. Gosselin is a Harvard MBA-turned-computer nerd laid off from his prior full-time job. This new breed of tradesman can solve the technical problems of increasingly wired homes with PCs, laptops, personal digital assistants, BlackBerrys, DVD players, cable, faxes, printers, cellphones, and the wireless web.

For many tech-savvy households, the services of these itinerant professionals have become indispensable in an era when expectations of what technology can do are rising and the machinery has become too complex for the average person to manage. They can remove a carpet of dog hair from any hard drive vent, one of numerous computer-related tasks awaiting them in the American home. They restore old computers, set up new ones, network multiple home computers, install and smooth out programs, organize tangles of cables, debug, kill viruses, train, even customize computers to fit the quirks of any family configuration.

"While Dell might help me with my computer, and the cable company might help me with my cable modem, there's no one who does it all," said Paul Osterman, a professor who studies work in the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "It may be the beginning of a profession. It's being driven not by your computer, but your home network in the house and the increasing complexity -- it's creating a need for this."

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