Friday's child

9th April 1999 at 01:00
Cassandra Hilland on what it's like to be... a technobrat

He is, without doubt, the college's most mechanically-minded person. If there's a problem with the network server, they come to Andy. Want to know a bit more about your zip drive or your ISDN? Or any other technobabble? He's your man.

Andy's "doing" computing (naturally), physics, maths, further maths, and a couple of AS-levels for good measure. He's currently designing his own computer program.

But this isn't enough for him. He's driven by this desire to improve, to solve, to initiate. Whereas most arts students see a word processor as a necessary evil to be handled with extreme care, the Technological Teenager delves into its directories with unrestrained joy, fiddling with circuits and hard drives...

This teenager is pretty obsessed. He's normally in college before 8am, so he can surf the Internet before the lines jam up. He leaves late because he's surfing the Net again, or playing computer games. He's always got a pet project on the go. Last term it was creating stylish screen-savers.

This term it's even more exciting. He's creating a set of web pages. After all, who else understands the Internet's "hypertext mark-up language" - or HTML as he calls it? This lad is on to something big, if only he knew it.

Before you know it, you are finding it impossible to manage without him. He's the first port of call for stressed staff and students when computers crash or viruses attack. Suddenly, this mild-mannered chap who was so helpful has become the college technocrat. And he's 16 years old.

But Andy looks very tired nowadays, and his work is starting to suffer. He becomes irritable and arrogant. Try teaching a bunch of students the basics of desktop publishing when he's in the IT centre with you! He swaggers about with his pager. His deluxe mobile phone rings in lessons. He plays silly buggers with the machines. People realise that the nice lad who set up the computers for them is the same one who down-loads dodgy things from the Internet and has worked out how to snoop into other people's files. The creature has turned on its makers...

Technological Teenagers are becoming more common as many institutions struggle to cope with computers. These lads (and for some reason they usually are male) are very helpful and give an awful lot back. But at what cost to their own education?

And perhaps the Andys of this world need to socialise more, rather than spending so much time on projects in stuffy computer rooms. The sort of "techno" he'd benefit from is the musical synthesised variety played at the parties he's missing, thrown by the sort of people he needs to see more of. Otherwise he could deteriorate into a Nerd.

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