2009-08-13 / Features

Pa. Man's Tech Web Site A Hit, And Then Some

By DENISE BONURA THE (WAYNESBORO) RECORD HERALD

WAYNESBORO, Pa. (AP) - Mike Cermak Jr.'s passion for fixing computers and helping others began in his teens when he started a free technical support Web site, TechGuy.org.

The site has grown to 474,000 members in the past 13 years and is considered one of the largest free technical support sites on the World Wide Web.

Cermak also owns Cermak Technologies Inc. in Waynesboro, about 50 miles southwest of Harrisburg and a few miles north of the Maryland border. He officially opened its doors in 2002 after fixing computers on the side for several years.

The site has now landed in one of the country's most popular magazines, Reader's Digest. Cermak, 28, said an editor of the publication, which reaches more than 8 million Americans each month, e-mailed him in May and asked to verify information about his site.

"They didn't actually interview me,'' he said. "I e-mailed them and asked when they thought it might be published, but they never got back to me. I usually don't know I'm mentioned in a magazine until someone tells me about it!''

One of the site's subscribers alerted him via an online forum.

Cermak started the site in 1996 during the transition from the Microsoft Windows 3.1 operating system to Windows 95.

"That was a huge change,'' he said. "I was really just lucky enough to start this up at the right time.''

The site picked up speed when it was mentioned in the Orange County Register newspaper in Santa Ana, Calif., and then in magazines such as FamilyPC, NetGuide and Yahoo! Internet Life in 1997. It also was noted in Money Magazine in 1998.

Since then, the site has appeared in PC World and Women's Health. It also has been referred to on the British Broadcasting Corp.

Cermak's Web site is mentioned on page 45 of the August issue of Reader's Digest. The article is entitled "You Can Fix it Free: Problems with your computer, car or appliances? There's someone online who can help.''

It outlines specific sites one can visit for computer, vehicle and appliance support.

"I just love it,'' Cermak said. "Hopefully this will bring more people to the site so we can help more people. It's very exciting to see, even if it's a small mention.''

Cermak can be heard monthly on "Computer America,'' the longest running nationally syndicated radio talk show about computers.

The site reached a point where Cermak couldn't answer all of the questions by himself. Visitors now post questions and volunteers try to answer them. The volunteers span the globe and many of them have had similar computer problems.

To make sure no bad advice is given, 20 moderators keep an eye on the content.

Frequently asked questions have changed drastically over the years. When the site was started, the questions focused around the Windows transition and how to set up printers with the new operating system. Today's questions revolve around security and virus concerns.

"Security and viruses weren't a big problem five years ago,'' he explained. "But spyware and viruses have gotten a lot smarter and they are a lot more difficult to remove.''

Cermak's father, Mike Cermak Sr., said his son has been fixing computers since he was in the eighth grade.

"When he made appointments, he had to make sure I was available to drive him!'' he quipped. "He is a tremendous success and we're very proud of him.''

Cermak's mother, Sandie Cermak, said her son has always been "wise beyond his years.''

"I mean, he started playing games on the computer when he was 2 years old!'' she said.

His wife, Heather Cermak, said she is extremely proud of her husband's hard work. "It's nice to see him getting recognized for his achievements,'' she said.

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