By Léo Azambuja
Jeff Elkins is the kind of person who thinks outside the box, even though he works inside the box. A computer box, that is. He fixes computers.
“We are primarily a computer repair shop, but we do a lot of other things too,” said Elkins, owner of The Computer Shop in Old Kapa‘a Town.
Besides replacing broken hardware and getting rid of pesky viruses and annoying trial programs, the shop offers a variety of services. They do network management and consulting, sell new and refurbished desktops, and provide a physical space for real estate licensing tests, screening for airport employment, personal fitness training certification and others.
The Computer Hospital has been around since 1997. Elkins bought the company in 2010, when the former owner passed away. In 2011, it moved to its current location on Ulu Street, right behind the lot where the old Roxy Theater used to be. Today, the shop has four technicians in its staff, including Elkins.
“We’ve been the top computer shop (on Kaua‘i) five years running now,” he said, proudly.
Some of the shop’s success can be attributed to an untarnished reputation. Elkins said there are a lot of charlatans in the computer industry, so it’s really important to find someone you trust.
“We watch our reputation really carefully,” he said. “If you check us out on the Internet, you’ll find we have a sparkling reputation.”
Usually, the turnaround time for a computer repair is three to four days; and this time could be extended due to ordering new parts. As an advice, Elkins said if you’re running a business, and a computer is so important that a few days without it may be an apocalypse, you need to own another computer.
As far as the old dilemma on whether to buy a new machine or fix the old one, Elkins says most of the time, it is better to fix it.
“It is almost always not just cheaper, but way cheaper, to fix a machine than to replace it,” he said.
The repair fees at The Computer Hospital are affordable because the staff multi-tasks. They can work on several different machines at any given time, rather than, for example, waiting patiently for a computer to run a diagnostic. House calls, however, are more expensive, and though it’s usually preferable to bring a machine to the store, there are some jobs that have to be done on site, such as network setup or network troubleshooting.
Elkins said in the last five years, there has been a trend of switching to tablets, which are smaller and usually cheaper than laptops. But it’s important to know the purpose of the machine because tablets are not as versatile machines as laptops.
“So we talk to people, and make sure they get the appropriate piece of hardware,” said Elkins, adding a lot of people seek The Computer Hospital for consultation, which a lot of times ends up being free.
Elkins wasn’t always a computer technician. In fact, he got his start in radio, and he used to work at Kaua‘i’s KQNG, popularly known as Kong Radio.
“Believe it or not, back in my salad days, I was a radio top-4Os DJ. I was the original morning show host on Kong (Radio). I was Ron Wiley before Ron came to do the show. I was the original Ron Wiley,” he said.
Back in the 1980s, radio stations started to transition to automation, and many DJs feared losing their jobs to computers, Elkins thought if he could be the guy to tell computers what to do, hew would always have a job. So he embraced the technology.
In 2000, he was working as program director in a radio station in Pensacola, Florida. The computer technician quit, and Elkins took over his job, even though he didn’t have a clue of what he was doing. But he learned quickly on his own. Then a couple years later, he enrolled in college again, graduating at the ripe age of 44.
“I highly recommend college in your 40s. For me, what happened in the 25 years between schools is, I learned how to listen,” said Elkins, adding he graduated second in his class.
He said there a lot of computer scams out there, including identity theft. He advises to never click on a popup window offering a software update, even if it looks legit. It’s always safer to go to the company’s official website and do the update from there.
The Computer Hospital is at 1347 Ulu St. in Kapa‘a, and they can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 822-2667.