Daily photos by Jonathan Palmer|
Ron Stanley, left, and Randy Doss own a computer repair shop in Decatur. They say the camaraderie with their customers makes their jobs enjoyable.
They teach tech
Computer Zone owners help customers understand technology
By Danielle Komis Palmer
Some people get a kick out of skydiving.
Others find refuge in gardening.
And still others get a natural high from explaining the inner workings of computers to the public (who tend to be clueless on the topic). At least that’s how it is for Ron Stanley and Randy Doss — a dynamic tech-minded duo who have been in the computer business together for years.
“People are stuck with technology they don’t understand,” Stanley said. “There’s nothing out there to be afraid of...what we wanted to be able to do is educate the home user in getting the most out of their computer investment.”
The two men own Computer Zone, a small Decatur computer repair shop set in a nook behind Julia’s Pools in Funland Park.
Computers and tiny computer parts are scattered everywhere in the shop, surrounded by walls covered in yellowed striped wallpaper. A muted landscape print hangs on one of the walls to cover a hole in the plaster. Two coffeepots sit on a small table in the break room. The overall effect is reminiscent of a shoe repair shop circa 1980.
It’s nothing fancy, the men admit, but it keeps their overhead low so they can do what they love to do — take the time to teach their customers about computers and demystify computer repair.
“That’s the kind of stuff that we like to work toward,” Stanley said. “Not just to drop it off and pick it up and pay a bill that says ‘We fixed your computer’ but be someone who can sit down with you and take the time and say, ‘This is what is wrong with your computer.’”
B.C. — Before computing
Doss became interested computers while he was working as a dentist in the military. For years he was told to make spreadsheets on his patients but refused. The thought of using a computer made him sweat.
Eventually, with his job on the line, he was forced to learn.
“Once I learned it, I said, ‘This is so neat,’” he said. “Once I got the fever it never left. This is my going golfing.”
Stanley got into computers in college against the advice of everyone — except for a wise college professor who predicted that computers were to be the next big thing. Once he graduated in the 1970s, Stanley worked on mainframe computer systems, and later followed the trend to personal computers.
Computers and tiny computer parts are scattered throughout the Computer Zone repair shop.|
The two men met after Stanley hired Doss on the service team for Varsity Computers in Huntsville. After working together at several different places,
doing everything from setting up systems for elementary schools to creating topographical maps for the U.S. Navy, they eventually ended up at Computer Zone.
‘A barbershop environment’
Doss opened the shop three years ago. Once Stanley found out about it, he quickly became Doss’ partner.
“Every time I find something good, he sticks his nose in it,” Doss said, laughing. They both agree that it’s been their best job so far because of all the interesting people they get to meet and hang out with at their shop.
A signed photo of a local wrestler and Computer Zone customer hangs on their wall. A customer who is in a barbershop quartet once came by the shop and serenaded them with his group. Another customer who plays guitar plans to come by the shop and play guitar for Stanley and Doss to help pass the time.
“It’s almost a barbershop environment,” Stanley said.
Along with socializing, plenty of learning goes on at the shop too.
Between fixing computers at the shop and contract jobs on the side, Doss teaches people necessary skills for computer-related careers.
Doss and Stanley also teach interested customers how to build their own computers, which for many clients ends up being a great source of pride. Doss remembers one of the first people he taught to build a computer, an ex-football player who “wrapped up his computer like a new baby and started crying,” once he finally finished it at 3 a.m. at the shop.
“It was really touching. I guess that’s what showed me that people want to learn.”
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