Fathers. Mothers. Grandparents. Administrative Assistants.

The above folks are recognized one day per year for the roles they play in everyday life. And, since 2000 System Administrators are too, the last Friday in July. But a greeting card company is not responsible for creating this special occasion — IT professional Ted Kekatos is.

Employees may often take for granted that when they arrive at work, all they need to do is turn on their workstations, click on some desktop icons and being checking e-mail and doing their work. But, somewhere at the company headquarters is a room with lots of machines, lots of wires, lots of blinking lights and a constant buzzing sound. This is the territory of the SysAdmin. This is where things happen.

System Administrators, in short, manage the computers systems, servers, network, data and all other tasks associated with making sure a company’s computer system is working properly. SysAdminDay.com provides this explanation: “…To take the staggering array of technologies, acronyms, protocols, networks, vendors, budgets, limited time, competing products, and threats to the computing network, assemble them all together in a working system. Their job is not only to be the geek in the corner who types all day. What they’re doing is bringing these diverse pieces of technology into order, and fitting them together to fill your needs at work and home; to translate the world of computing into human terms.”

The idea for System Administrators Day was inspired by a print ad for a Hewlett-Packard laser jet printer. The ad showed lines of employees bringing gifts for the IT guy who made the purchase. “Where’s my gift?” thought Kekatos. Later that night, the computer guru decided he and his colleagues deserved a special day, too. Kekatos recalls being met with laughter when he first mentioned his idea. “When I first came up with the idea of a System Administrator Appreciation Day, everyone laughed. But, soon after the Web site received 500,000 visitors. Who is laughing now?” he said. “Today, there are hundreds of others who are promoting the holiday. The holiday is listed on hundreds of blogs, and posted on hundreds of Web sites.”

System Administrator Appreciation Day has over the years garnered support from many organizations, such as the League of Professional System Administrators (LOPSA), Friends in Tech (FIT), Sunbelt Software, and In The Trenches (ITT), a podcast for SysAdmins. Many geek-inspired Web sites, such as ThinkGeek.com (also a sponsor) designed special gift guides devoted to the new day of appreciation. Kekatos says these relationships are key to the growth of System Administrator Appreciation Day.

“Like many other workers, System Administrators provide an invaluable service to businesses around the world. With help from organizations like LOPSA, we are working together to bring recognition for System Administrators,” he said. LOPSA’s mission is to advance the practice of system administration; to support, recognize, educate, and encourage its practitioners; and to serve the public through education and outreach on system administration issues. Kekatos says he hopes System Administrator Appreciation Day does the same.

Kekatos has always been somewhat of a techie. He originally considered a career in radio or television, and in fact he repaired televisions for a short time. His next job at an engineering firm, where they used an early engineering workstation computer. “They had a computer– a mini-computer with dumb terminals attached via serial ports,” he said, continuing that his first job working directly with computers was with VICTOR Business Machines. “The VICTOR 9000 was a business orientated computer which came to market before the IBM PC. I was hired to work on Modems and other bizarre interfaces. All the assignments also included software drivers, etc., so I was working with OS software too. I guess this was the beginning of my career path,” he explained.

Although Kekatos has been in the IT world professionally since 1985, he’s owned computers since the late 1970s. “My first ‘real’ computer was a Processor Technology SOL-20 computer (Intel 8080). I purchased it as a kit from ‘itty bitty machine company’ in Evanston, IL. This must have been about 1976. I remember considering the APPLE 1 computer, but I selected the SOL-20 instead. I also built an IMSAI 8080 computer and several SWTPC computers for friends,” he said.

So, how will Kekatos spend the day he created? “As I’ve said, it’s not about me, but System Administrators everywhere. Every year I invite all my coworkers to join me for lunch. I will likely have cake and ice cream for all my coworkers,” he said.

But what happens if a computer crashes during that celebration….

[Donna Talarico]

[tags]appreciation, thanks, thank you[/tags]