Teen making a name for himself on Internet

March 23, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

by Richard T. Meagher / staff photographer

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Michael Cermak Jr.

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - National newspapers, trade magazines and even Money magazine have written about computer-savvy Michael J. Cermak Jr., known to thousands of users as the Tech Support Guy.

Cermak, 16, a Waynesboro Area Senior High School student, is making a name for himself on the Internet by offering free technical advice to computer users.

His home page went online in January 1996. Before the current issue of Money magazine came out this month, Cermak got two to three dozen requests a day for help. Now he gets nearly 100.


"It's a great feeling to be able to make a difference, to see all these people get help off my page because I put up the site and wrote the program," Cermak said.

Cermak is a friendly young man whose instinct is to help those who may know less. His Web site's slogan: "There's no such thing as a stupid question."

He spends much of his free time in "the pit," the renovated attic of his family's home at 135 E. Second St. in Waynesboro, which doubles as his bedroom and computer room.

A bookcase next to his bed is packed with computer information. When he gets stuck on a user's problem, he looks it up.

Cermak seems to know a lot about IBM-compatible software. He knew right away how to help two users picked at random from among the dozens who sent e-mail requests for help to his Web site Monday afternoon.

Cermak's expertise with computers doesn't stop at offering free advice to strangers.

He has formed his own company, Cermak Technologies, through which he assembles computers and sells them from his home. His customers have included small businesses, individuals and area industries, including the Frick Co. in Waynesboro, which has three of Cermak's computers.

He sold his first computer about four years ago to a company in Hagerstown. Today Cermak's computers, marketed under the Cermak Technologies label, start at around $1,600 for a basic model, according to his advertising brochure.

Using components that he buys, Cermak can assemble a computer in two to three days, and averages around two sales a month.

He said he's sold dozens of computers in the last three or four years. He said he doesn't know how much money he's making.

"My dad handles the money stuff," he said.

Cermak also writes and sells programs. His most popular is "ClickDown" which shuts down Windows 95 with a single command.

His mother, Sandy Cermak, said her son is "pretty amazing, but what's really scary is that he's self-taught." Cermak said he's been fooling with computers since he was a toddler on his father's lap.

"I played Sesame Street games on his computer. I got hooked on them early on. I fooled around and read a lot of books."

Cermak suffers from a rare degenerative disease that attacks the body's tissues. Last year he was almost blinded when his retinas were detached, but his sight returned.

"I don't know what's going to happen to me next. I can only hold my breath. I was lucky that we caught it early on," he said.

Cermak said he gets a lot of support from fellow sufferers he finds on the Web.

No matter what the future holds, Cermak said he'll continue to be a computer enthusiast.

"It changes and moves so quickly. That's the challenge, the fun part, learning how to keep up," he said.

He will finish his senior year of high school simultaneously with his first year of college at Penn State Mont Alto. After that, it's off to college somewhere where, naturally, he will study "something in computer science," he said.

Cermak's Web address is

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