Bill Gates and aliens: scapegoats for rage

U.K. office workers are so frustrated with their computers that they suffer from “techno rage” and blame God, their IS departments, hardware makers, software makers and even Microsoft Corp.’s chairman and CEO Bill Gates for their computer failures.

More than one-third of the 250 surveyed become so angry that they would like to throw their PCs out of the window, said Joe Michael, director of NOP Research Group, the London-based company that conducted the survey. To become angry enough to actually damage a computer is rare, however, he said. “To get to that level, they would have to be pretty psychotic to begin with,” he said.

Many people do, however, hit screens and keyboards out of frustration, but without enough force to cause damage, said Michael.

The techno rage the poll identified is harming workers’ relationships with their companies and co-workers in some cases, said Michael. More than one-quarter of respondents said that technology failures made them very angry, resulting in their being grumpy or snappy with co-workers. Likewise, about half of those surveyed felt that technology failures were an ongoing irritant that they are powerless to do anything about. Nearly a third said technology failures made them question their employers’ priorities, with 10 percent blaming their boss, manager or “systems people” as culpable.

The majority of people blame hardware manufacturers and/or software manufacturers for crashes, the study found. Almost seven out of 10 people say their computers crash, but of those, two-thirds say it happens only about once each month. Of those who suffer crashes, two-thirds of them say it happens once a month or less. Only 5 percent say it happens each day.

When the crashes occur, 52 percent blame hardware makers and 65 percent blame software manufacturers. More than half blame their own systems managers, while 48 percent blame computer viruses for crashes. About 10 percent of all respondents named Gates as being personally responsible for crashed systems. “He’s such a well known industry figure. His name is synonymous with Microsoft,” said NOP’s Michael.

Some of the respondents, felt Michael, were perhaps reacting in a “tongue-in-cheek” manner when they placed the blame for failures. Almost 20 percent of the respondents said failures were caused by “gremlins” and nearly 10 percent said either God or aliens are to blame.

The research was carried out by NOP Research Group for intY Ltd., a Bristol, U.K.-based company that provides Internet management systems.