In for repair
When your computer's
gone belly-up, you want service in a language you understand. Kristen
McQuillin monitors the options in Tokyo.
Stepping on your computer is a sure way to take a trip to the repair shop: a cracked LCD
renders a laptop utterly useless. When that laptop is an old Mac with more miles than
memory and runs an English OS, disqualifying it from the capable hands of many
Japanese-only service shops, where do you turn? Your options are limited, but not
Hardware the hard way
While most repair shops don't want to deal with language barriers imposed by
English-speaking customers with English (or other language) operating systems, there is
hope. GCS in Roppongi, for instance, performs repairs on PCs, charged on a per-project
basis, and if repair isn't possible, sells English language computers, peripherals and
other devices. "We can replace hard drives, but not broken displays
are fully repairable, as all the parts are standard and can be replaced easily," says
GCS technician Harvinder Johar.
Another shop with some willingness to work in English is NCR's Quick Garage, with several
locations around Tokyo. Gordon Jolley, commenting on the Tokyo PC Users Group newsgroup,
is optimistic about Quick Garage's service: "The one I have used (too often) has had
guys who loved to struggle in English. Located at the southeast corner of [route] 246 and
Kyu Yamate Dori near Shibuya, they have given good service at reasonable prices and on
English OS machines." Beware, however, since not all Quick Garage outlets are eigo-friendly
- a phone call to Quick Garage in Akihabara, for instance, made to enquire about repairs
for a laptop monitor, yielded a resounding "No English OS."
In fact, most of the major electronics department stores in Akihabara do not repair
computers, and those that do service only the ones that were purchased at their store. To
find a repair shop in Akihabara, you'll need to tour the labyrinth of tiny shops and side
streets. Sigi Rindler, "Mr. Akihabara" for the Tokyo PC Users Group, warns:
"I doubt that most of these shops are honest with people who don't know about
computers. Many take advantage and overcharge you for everything. They can easily exchange
parts which are still OK."
Don't despair. There are other ways to get your computer fixed. You probably already know
someone who can help you. Every office has a "super user" who spends his or her
free time upgrading and tweaking their computer system. But if you don't have a super user
at hand, your Internet service provider may have a suggestion for you. In Tokyo, Hunter
Point Online recommends Malcolm Richards. "Malcolm works out of his apartment near
Uguisudani. He can explain in simple language what your PC problem is. He also loves
talking about electronics, and he's happy to talk shop with anyone - even newbies like
me," says Berenice Chong, who recently used Richards' service.
Another source of referrals is a local computer club. Tokyo PC Users Group, Ringo Mac
Users Group, or the Tokyo Linux Users Group might know someone who can assist you.
"The TPC has a couple of members and visitors who are involved in troubleshooting,
building new computers, upgrading, etc.," Sigi Rindler notes. Keith Wilkinson, a
super user and member of Tokyo PC Users Group, describes a typical situation. "I help
people with PC and Mac problems, though I do have a full-time job, so the help has to be
on a 'time-available' basis."
Milo Parsons of Milo's Dream Machine takes another approach. "While I do, with some
frequency, system repairs, OS and application software installs and updates, my primary
orientation is the human side of the equation, consulting, packaging and teaching."
Go your own way
Learning to patch up your own computer may not be as difficult as you think. Many computer
repairs involve a straightforward replacement of the broken part for a new one. Armed with
the exact specifications for the part you need, shop for it in Akihabara or even on the
Internet. After several trips to some of the more esoteric Mac parts stores, the Internet
offered up, via eBay, a functional display for our laptop.
Installing the new part can be as simple as opening up your computer case, exchanging
parts, saving all the screws, and keeping track of which wire goes where. Sometimes
repairs can be a bit trickier. Replacing the laptop's display, for instance, takes a few
hours of delicate work. But while the DIY approach will demand time and patience, in Tokyo
it might be faster than trying to find an English-friendly repair shop.