It often happens like this: I'm called to the desk of a colleague who needs some technical assistance – he's the guy who emailed me last week to tell me that the email system was down.
He says, “I've been struggling with my computer thingy... no matter how hard I try, I cant get my printing to work. I was trying to get it to work all night. I think this computer is broken.”
I ask him to demonstrate the fault so he steps through the procedure that caused him to first notice the problem... but for some reason this does not work, more rather it really does work. Try as hard as he can he cannot prevent pages of flawless printing emerge from the Laserjet.
“Oh well, let me know if it happens again”, I say as I skulk back to my desk and resume my real job; I don't even work for the IT department and I am starting to resent this waste of time.
I wonder to myself – why is this always happening to me. Why am I so frequently called to attend to 'broken' computer systems that seem to miraculously have fixed themselves before my eyes? How can I explain these seemingly Jesus-like miracles of computer repair?
Most computer users find their machines profoundly frustrating and that their 'long struggle' has consisted of performing the same incorrect or blindly random actions over and over again. They lack the confidence to improvise around a problem because they genuinely believe the computer to be an illogical baffling machine.
The moment when the 'computer person' forces them to step through their routine is the first moment they actually take the time to consider what they have done and then realise their obvious mistake. The mere presence of the computer 'expert' restores their faith in the fact that computers are just machines which can be mastered.
My alternative theory is that people who are 'good with computers' create some kind of positive influencing field within which computers are compelled to behave deterministically. This field's influence is at it's strongest near us and within our line of site. The field can also be transmitted down the Internet to the machines we directly control. Those blessed with this force of goodness tend to have happy computing careers as our computers rarely crash and hallways do exactly what they are told to do and nothing more.
Other human beings are cursed with a negative field; Under the influence of this power, terrible things happen to computers. Machines start thinking that 2+2=3 and become as perplexing and as illogical as a HAL 9000 running MovieOS. Cruft accumulates so rapidly that after a few short weeks the niftiest Vaio becomes an ideal home for creatures parasitic creatures called 'Bonzi Buddy' or 'Gator'. These poor users are cursed with a life of constant computer failure and woe.
For these afflicted people, the only relief occurs is when a person with an opposing force stands near to their computer. The stronger (good) force can cancel out the weaker (bad) force causing the computer to briefly go back to normal. Unfortunately these beneficial effects will be short lived – often lasting no longer than the exact time it takes me to get back to my desk.
“I used to be a computer tech at my university and this happened ALL the time. People always told me, "go away, then it'll happen again and I'll call you back" – it was as if my presence was preventing the error from occurring!” - no_springs
”I think your latter theory is the most likely. I spend about 6 to 8 hours a day on my computer, which I believe emits enough anti-bogons to prevent it from ever breaking. Except for that one time my hard drive platter exploded. But I think a luser might've been using my computer around that time.” - machfive
machfive invokes the theory of quantum bogodynamics – the idea that there might be an elementary particle of bogosity called a bogon. This particle is somehow responsible for computers going haywire. The bogon is emitted by crufty software and lusers, but can be cancelled out by it’s opposite number the anti-bogon.