15

In Russian we have a word эникейщик [eni-kay-schick], literally "any key person".

This is someone whose job is performing very basic, routine computer-related tasks: install a driver, set up Internet access, connect a printer etc.

This is not a system administrator: the system administrator does more complex tasks, like desiging and implementing security policies, setting up backup and restore plans, and so on.

This is a somewhat derogatory term, assuming the person is not able or not willing to do something better than this.

What do I call a person like this in English?

"Do you guys have a system administrator?"

"No, we're a small company. We have a _____ who comes and fixes our computers for 20 bucks and a pizza".

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    @Quassnoi Technical support as a service isn't limited to computers. But as a quasi-title, "tech support" will be understood to denote computer services of the type you describe, especially in the context of the term "system administrator." – deadrat Oct 4 '15 at 14:41
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    @GrahamNicol: I believe swearing is allowed on a language related site, as long as it's germane to the topic of the discussion. – Quassnoi Oct 4 '15 at 15:45
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    i've always called them IT guys. US english here – ell Oct 5 '15 at 19:07
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    Whatever you do, don’t name them. You’ll just get attached. – Paul D. Waite Oct 5 '15 at 20:02
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    I've heard the term computer janitor used in some US-based online communities. Note that this term is derogatory, since, much like a traditional janitor may prefer to be called a "master of the custodial arts", a computer janitor may prefer to be called an "IT professional". – Harrison Paine Oct 6 '15 at 12:43

12 Answers 12

28

I'm presuming 'any key person' is derived from 'press any key to continue'.

An expression with a similar degree of derogatoriness would be 'tech support monkey' or 'IT monkey' (in essence add 'monkey' to the end of anything). Also used as 'data centre monkey' to refer to the 24/7 staff at data centres who press reset buttons etc. on demand, 'cabling monkeys' who lay cables etc.

This is British English IT related slang; I can't remember whether it translates to the US. Beware that in some countries 'monkey' might be read as racist (it isn't in this circumstance).

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    +1 That's not "somewhat derogatory." It's downright insulting! – DavidC Oct 4 '15 at 21:35
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    American here, I'd also understand "tech support monkey" to have this meaning. – David Z Oct 5 '15 at 0:20
  • In the US, guy/gal can almost always be used instead of monkey. i.e. "cable guys" can be frequently used. – user530873 Oct 5 '15 at 2:54
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    Great answer. I might be more likely to use "IT monkey" than "tech support monkey" in this particular case. – AndyT Oct 5 '15 at 10:10
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    This doesn't seem any more insulting to me than the OP's original phrase. One might even argue that it's less derogatory. E.g. programmer might self-deprecatingly call him or herself a code monkey. – stannius Oct 5 '15 at 16:41
20

Update:

As @abligh rightly noted, computer technician (see below), does not have the derogatory connotations the OP is looking for.

In my experience, when someone wishes to refer to computer technician with very low-level skills, one refers to him or her as the computer guy, particularly if one wants to complain about his work.

For instance,

"I've been having trouble uploading my videos all week, but the computer guy just keeps recommending that I reboot my computer and try again later."


The term technician is not inherently deprecating. But it does suggest training below the level of a scientist or engineer:

A technician is person who fixes or maintains instruments, apparatus (plural) or other technical equipment.

MacMillan's definition of technician is somewhat typical:

someone with technical training whose job involves using special equipment or machines

[e.g] a laboratory/dental technician

A computer technician or computer repair technician fixes or maintains computers, but may also play the role of an advisor or consultant to clients having difficulty with their computers.

  • +1, in that it's strictly accurate. Though it doesn't capture the OP's (I presume) intentional derogatory tone. – abligh Oct 4 '15 at 19:52
  • @abligh Valid point about my response not capturing the derogatory tone of the OP. I will give it additional thought. – DavidC Oct 4 '15 at 19:57
  • I think "technician" carries exactly the connotation that the OP described: "the person is not able or not willing to do something better." Technicians are the bottom-tier unskilled jobs of any tech field. – Kevin Krumwiede Oct 4 '15 at 20:50
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    +1 for "technician. If the computer context is obvious, one may say "service technician". – Graffito Oct 4 '15 at 21:48
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    Perpahs "tech geek" adds the right touch of negative connotation? – shawnt00 Oct 5 '15 at 1:57
6

The PFY (Pimply-Faced Youth, the assistant to the BOFH. Real name of Stephen[5]) Possesses a similar temperament to the BOFH, and is often found either teaming up with and/or plotting against him

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastard_Operator_From_Hell

4

When, a long time ago, I held a similar position I was referred to as a "grunt", which is (AFAIK) actually an idiom for infantry man. Being compared to a soldier would not by itself be an insult, but it becomes a derogatory term when it's used by superiors to indicate your lack of status. Wiktionary describes grunt work as

"Work (especially that which is heavy, repetitive or mindless) that is considered undesirable and therefore delegated to underlings"

so that might be a good fit for your use case.

3

I think the environment is going to vary wildly when it comes to conveying a derogatory tone with your chosen terminology here. I suggest help desk or IT person. My perspective is a bit different, as a lifelong computer programmer. To say that someone works the help desk or IT support position is to declare that the person has a very baseline set of skills that can't be used for more complex computer work (such as programming). While most people not working in a computer-related industry probably think these are proper terms for the worker, people with "real" computer skills would consider those terms insulting. For example, the skills of a help desk or IT person include asking the person with computer problems if they've rebooted their machine, and putting the person on hold in order to escalate the issue to someone more qualified.

  • I'll second help desk as the not-necessarily-derogatory word for that sort of work or worker. You could call them hell desk to be derogatory (Thanks, @PeterScott). – Martin Carney Oct 5 '15 at 22:09
  • @MartinCarney the answer has to be buried in the BOFH tales somewhere. Though I doubt PFY would be widely recognised it's what the OP is looking for. – Chris H Oct 6 '15 at 12:35
  • Well what I'm saying is that "help desk" is derogatory, to people doing work in a computer or engineering industry. It needs no modification in order to piggyback an insult in its conveyance. – L0j1k Oct 6 '15 at 17:29
  • @L0j1k I'm a programmer (read: work in the computer/engineering industry), and "help desk" doesn't mean anything derogatory to me or my co-workers. It might also be country- or region-specific. Either way, "hell desk" would definitely be derogatory. – Martin Carney Oct 6 '15 at 19:12
  • So "I think the environment is going to vary wildly when it comes to conveying a derogatory tone......" And likewise, I have never heard the term you suggest, and I've been a programmer around the US for about two decades. – L0j1k Oct 6 '15 at 20:21
3

A computer technician whose job consists of basic maintenance tasks is usually referred to as a Junior PC technician.

  • An IT professional who usually provides baisc desktop, laptop, and mobile hardware and software support. The qualifications to become a JT require a specialized knowledge of computing and mechanical systems. Many have acquired this knowledge by attending trade schools or by taking college-level courses.

A computer technician who is fully specialized in IT is called a Senior PC Technician

  • An IT professional who performs a variety of difficult to complex support dealing with a broad range of equipment, diagnosis, troubleshooting and repair of hardware and software problems.
2

On mainframe computers, the job title for this role was Computer Operator. It's not so widely used for modern systems.

Tasks may include managing the backup systems, cycling tapes or other media, filling and maintaining printers. Overall the operator fills in as a lower level system administrator or operations analyst.

1

Though not a single word, Advanced User (just a computer user after all, not professional grade), or Service Desk (does maintenance but not development).

  • I'd say your first suggestion is the opposite -- The OP is asking about the "technician" that the advanced user depairs of having to deal with because they have the admin password but know next to nothing. Service desk is good though. – Chris H Oct 6 '15 at 12:38
1

Per the discussion above, I'm going to suggest a derogatory (and offensive) term. I suggest it as the example phrase was quite colloquial and the OP wanted something that was derogatory.

The term I'd tentatively suggest would be 'shitkicker'.

Used around the office it would mean someone who does very basic, menial tasks. Not restricted to IT.

WARNING: Some people would regard it as very offensive, so use with extreme caution. Also, it should be stated that it is far more forceful than 'any key person'.

PS If this post goes too far, I won’t be offended in the slightest if a moderator deletes it :)

******** EDIT ************

Thanks for pointing out that US regionalism. I wasn’t aware of this (being Australian myself)

In Australia the definition is:

In Australian slang, someone who is charged with menial tasks in a place of employment.

The US definition seems to include a few things: combat boots, cowboy boots, and an unsophisticated rural people.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shit_kicker

My altered advice would be to use this if the audience is purely Australian (obviously with the above caveats on offence), but avoid it totally for a general English-speaking audience.

  • Yeah, I've never been a fan of downvote without explanation. All of the other suggestions we've come up with are neutral, purely descriptive terms, which doesn't seem to fit into the sentence. – Graham Nicol Oct 4 '15 at 16:14
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    This suggestion makes me think of a a farming or landscaping job; in my high school we used to call work boots shitkickers. I just don't see it in IT, even for the network guys who get covered in drywall mud - but they are the expensive IT workers. – user662852 Oct 4 '15 at 21:28
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    The boot usage that @user662852 mentions exists in dictionaries. The other definition in dictionaries is an oafish person, especially one from a rural area. So if you call a person this word, people might think he's from the country and that he's unsophisticated, which is not what you want to convey. – user77220 Oct 5 '15 at 0:08
0

There is the term sneaker admin, i.e. a computer administrator whose primary job it is to fix problems that cannot be addressed remotely, i.e. hardware failures and operating system reinstalls, spends the entire day doing that and thus needs comfortable footwear.

This is slightly derogatory, as it implies a limited skill set, obviously.

  • This looks promising and close to what I'm after, but could you please point me to a usage example? I can't find any on Google. – Quassnoi Oct 5 '15 at 13:51
0

In the UK, people who are not programmers but do IT-related work (such as sorting out the cabling or unlocking someone's account) are simply known as IT. A popular usage of this definition can be found in the British sitcom The IT Crowd. You'll find that throughout the show they resolve some fairly trivial and simple problems despite their obvious technological prowess.

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    When you think of a "programmer", what do you picture they do? As a programmer (aka software developer, software engineer, code monkey), The work I do is very different from the work the IT department in my company does. – Martin Carney Oct 5 '15 at 22:04
  • Yes, and as one myself, I wanted to emphasise the difference between programmer/software developer and IT-support. – Nobilis Oct 6 '15 at 7:31
-1

Such a person may be called a Computer Support Specialist according to http://www.about.com/careers/ ...

A computer support specialist assists users who are having problems with software, computers or peripherals such as printers or scanners. Some—called computer user support specialists—assist companies' customers, while others—known as computer network support specialists—provide in-house support to an organizations' information technology (IT) staff. Computer support specialists are also known as technical support specialists.

  • The question asks specifically about tasks that do not require a specialist. – Ben Voigt Oct 5 '15 at 15:52
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    I have in fact seen IT generalist used in this context, but that was in a place where the up-to-date term for an office junior was "generalist" – Chris H Oct 6 '15 at 12:39

protected by Centaurus Oct 5 '15 at 23:15

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