March 22, 2006
My name is Mike Cermak and I started Tech Support Guy in 1996. As we celebrate our 10 year anniversary, some have asked me about the history of Tech Support Guy and how it came to be the community it is today.
I was only 14 at the time, but already a computer nerd. As such, I was asked computer questions every day — whether it was from my father’s friends, my teachers, or strangers who heard that I spend my life in front of a keyboard. Eventually, I noticed that I was answering the same questions all of the time — “How do I defrag?” or “How do I dial-up to the Internet in Windows 95?” — and decided that it would be easier if I could say, “follow the directions on my web site!”
So, sometime in January of 1996, I started my first web site, even then known as Tech Support Guy. It started as a humble set of a dozen or so common solutions. I enjoyed helping people, and asked people to email me with their questions. I’d reply to every one of them, and would put the popular ones on my site for others to see. Eventually, I started receiving more messages than I could respond to personally, so I moved the site to a forum-style system where anyone could post their questions, and any volunteer could reply. I didn’t require people to register to use the site until a few years later, in an effort to better moderate the quality of responses and more easily block trouble-makers.
Ten years ago, the Internet was still relatively new to most people, and Tech Support Guy was one of the first sites to offer free computer support. I don’t know exactly when it was, but at some point in 1996, the Orange County Register (a newspaper in California) wrote an article about online support… and included my site! Suddenly, the site started to really grow. As luck would have it, I had my first retinal detachment around this time — at the age of 15. I was soon diagnosed with Stickler Syndrome, a genetic connective tissue disorder that causes problems in the bones, heart, eyes, and ears. While it kept me out of school for a few months, there wasn’t anything that could keep me away from my computer. I quickly became familiar with Windows Accessibility Options and evaluated several text to speech programs.
Things didn’t slow down any in 1997. Tech Support Guy was mentioned or reviewed in several magazines, including FamilyPC, NetGuide, and Yahoo! Internet Life. We really hit the big time when Money Magazine wrote an article about me in April of 1998. As a result, I was recognized in local newspapers and a TV station. Suddenly, we had an explosion of new members! Since then, we’ve been mentioned in a number of other publications. Interestingly, I’m rarely contacted when we’re mentioned in a publication — I rely on users to notify me so I can run out and buy a copy!
In the year 2000, we survived Y2K and started an IRC chat server, although we eventually switched to a more controlled Java environment. We also started publishing our monthly newsletter– for the second time. Now in 2006, we’re trying our hand at it again. It was also in 2000 that we started the Tech Support Guy Mailing List, a listserv that still runs today thanks to a faithful group of technicians who answer questions by email.
I continue to create new features and improve existing ones from suggestions and ideas of our members. Thanks to everyone who has provided helpful feedback in the Site Comments & Suggestions forum, and thanks also to you for your patience as we develop these new features and fix bugs as they appear.
Here are some stats (and screenshots!) that I hope you’ll find interesting:
February 1999: 630 members and 9 forums, including Site Comments/Opinions, Windows 9x, and even Apple Macintosh!
October 1999: over 4,000 members and 11 forums, including Linux and Reviews.
May 2001: over 18,000 members and 14 forums, including Windows NT/2000/XP, Announcements, and — of course — Random Discussion!
May 2002: over 37,000 members and 16 forums, including Tips & Tricks and Security.
June 2004: over 101,000 members and 22 forums!
March 2006: over 210,000 members and 27 forums! Is it too much?
Over the past decade, we’ve had a lot of great members come and go. The site has grown from a simple site of common solutions to a whole community of people trying to help others. We learn and share and see a lot more than tech support come out of the site every day. I like to think that we make some small difference in the world. Even in this day of complicated software, spyware and viruses, our great team of Moderators and volunteers help to make computing a little easier for everyone who visits. With more than 100 new users registering every day, Tech Support Guy shows no sign of stopping.
Looking forward to another 10 years,