IT staff -are they nerds or cool?

I.T. staff lurk in the back room of every office, and we all call on them for help. But today they are being thrust into the limelight by a new comedy which shows them as nerds of the network.

By Tracey Sparling

I.T. staff lurk in the back room of every office, and we all call on them for help. But today they are being thrust into the limelight by a new comedy which shows them as nerds of the network. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING asks can computer geeks ever be cool?

IN a cluttered basement deep in the bowels of Reynholm Industries, sit Roy and Moss, the I.T. Department.

Reviled and mocked by cooler colleagues, their world of servers and firewalls is rudely interrupted by the arrival of Jen, a new "relationship manager" who knows as much about computers as a yak.


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She doesn't want to work in a dingy basement, and they don't want a manager who doesn't understand BASIC let alone binary, but they discover sometimes there are benefits to having a woman about the place...

This is the plot of a new Channel4 comedy starting today, which could soon be enjoying success like The Office if audiences feel a similar affinity to the plot.

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We set out to discover if the stereotype portrayed on screen, reflects the reality of the high tech IT world here in Suffolk.

At first, local IT workers treated the programme with scepticism. Matthew Harman, director of Harman Computer Services in Kesgrave, said: “I only had chance to watch the first few minutes of it online. My first opinion was 'is this supposed to be funny?' - as I didn't find it entertaining in the slightest.”

He added: “Also, it is not true to life in any respect, because most calls to helpdesks, including internal helpdesks, are now more frequently answered in Bangalore, by Indian graduates!”

Mark Learmouth, of Mark Learmouth IT consultancy, said: “I'm not sure about the stereotyping of IT staff, but the comedy was very weak. It seems to be harping back to the 80s when IT staff may have been seen as nerds and geeks, but I think that 21st century IT staff are as varied as any other staff, good bad, geeky or not.

“I do not feel that, as an educated and mature person (over 40), that I would be considered a nerd or geek by most people. I suspect that this comedy will die a death, not because of the stereotypes but because it lacked good humour or a storyline.”

Although Robert Attersoll, technical support supervisor at Archant which prints the Evening Star, agreed times had changed, he did find the funny side.

He said: “It looks like a good series. I don't think all IT people are like Moss and Roy, but they do have some characteristics I have seen in the profession. And yes we do speak BASIC and binary! Luckily we are able to have a laugh at ourselves.”

One of Moss and Roy's funny moments is to tell staff with a computer problem, to switch the machine off and on again. “We do say that,” laughed Robert “because it is amazing how many IT problems are really simple. I've been up to the main office to find people have switched the computer on but not the monitor!

He said times are changing: “IT used to be a really geeky. I think you used to see nerds like Moss in the past, but these days we are mostly family men.”

But are they cool? Robert said: “A lot of people in IT have a sporty side. Among my colleagues martial arts seem to be popular - from hapkido to kuk sool won - because we try to keep fit.”

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Are you the coolest IT worker in Suffolk? Do people stereotype you because of your job? Write to Evening Star Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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The first episode of The IT Crowd is on Channel4 tonight at 9pm.

Weblinks:

www.nerds.co.uk

www.channel4.com/entertainment/tv/microsites/I/itcrowd

Did you know?

The word geek is a slang term, meaning 1) a boring and unattractive social misfit, 2) a person who is preoccupied with, or very knowledgeable about computing, 3) a degenerate.

Moss lives with his mum, who also dresses him, styles his hair and buys his clothes. He's highly intelligent, scared of spiders and has the social skills of a serial killer. The closest he's got to a woman is Lara Croft, and he struggles to communicate with anything that doesn't have a keyboard.

The smiling but lazy face of the I.T. Department, Roy's spiky personality ensures he'll always be kept away from normal people as long as possible. He's king of the basement, indulging his love of comic books, fast food, computer games and random arguments with his best friend Moss. He feels neglected if a girl doesn't talk to him after he fixes their computer.

Jen knows nothing about IT, she only got the job because she said she had extensive experience of computers like using mices, clicking, double-clicking, and that thing that goes on the floor... the er hard-drive? As well as being their line manager, Jen is Roy and Moss' agony aunt, relationship coach and guru about life outside the basement. Not that her life is going particularly well, it's just better than theirs.

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