DSG, owner of the Dixons, Currys and PC World retail brands, has had a bright idea. TechGuys — a nationwide network of technology support personnel, able and willing to troubleshoot any digital domestic disaster, on call 24/7.
It's an excellent idea, and one which should have been done before. As well as giving outsourcing-proof employment to thousands of the UK's finest geeks, it will relieve the rest of us of some of the burden of keeping friends and family on the straight and narrow. Most people are no more competent maintaining their own IT than they are their own electrics or plumbing, and nor should they be. While computing remains a complicated, error-prone adventure cobbled together from least-cost hardware and half-baked software, the need for professional support available to all has never been greater.
There are just one or two small problems. The name is naff, sexist and twee. The original American technology support outfit, the Geek Squad, gets it just right, playing off the negative connotations of nerdery to create a brand that breathes eccentric, effective dedication to the cause. Not that DSG should adopt the quasi-FBI uniforms, badges and command structure of the Squad: something closer to the AA would be an easier fit with our culture.
Yet the biggest downside — there's no kind way of saying this — is DSG's reputation for technical haplessness. It's like McDonald's starting up a chain of nutritional advisors: no matter how excellent the staff, training and service, the initial reaction is one of incredulity followed by amusement. Would you trust your computer to a company currently advertising Intel Core Duos on the grounds that "they let you do two things at once"?
The idea deserves to thrive, and to that end DSG should reconsider its tactics and its branding. A name redolent of the UK's finest traditions of inventiveness and insight — Faraday, Cavendish, Turing, Sinclair — could be deployed. Research labs should be started up, investigating effective ways to head off problems before they start. Professional standards, measured and maintained by independent qualifications, should be at the heart of the squad — and belonging to the organisation should be an aspiration, if not a vocation.
It's not often you get to start a new tradition, and DSG could redeem many of its past misdemeanours by handling the chance with sensitivity and imagination. We need this service: let's make it a thing of pride for all.