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Nerds of steel for a binary fix
Nerds of steel for a binary fix

Perth teenager Cameron Fitzgerald scored a TER of 99.95, he wants to work on unmanned aerial vehicles similar to the high-tech predator drones used by the US Defence Force, and the last time he went on a summer holiday he rigged up the family pool so he could top it up from overseas via the internet.

But the ambitious 18-year-old is not above solving the everyday problems of the more technologically challenged among us who might have trouble tuning the new set top box, creating a website or speaking lower school Japanese.

And if he can't fix your problem, there's no charge.

Mr Fitzgerald is one of more than 70 "nerds" living in WA who have registered on national website www.nearbynerd.com.au this year.

The members charge between $5 and $80 an hour depending on their level of expertise.

Some are professionals, but most are students undergoing electrical engineering, telecommunications or computer science degrees and chasing a bit of extra cash.

Skills on offer include websites, programming, graphic design, hardware and software installation and troubleshooting, social networking and tutoring.

Customers find a suitable nerd using an integrated postcode and Google Maps search and can leave feedback and a star rating on his or her profile so future users can pick the best nerds in their region.

Israeli immigrant Gilad Bakas, an IT security consultant, launched the website earlier this year from his home in Queensland and has so far amassed an army of more than 700 nerds from around Australia.

The premise was that homes were becoming more reliant on increasingly complex technology which often failed to work according to plan, ending "in tears of frustration and the desire to throw the offending appliance at the wall".

"I had a few friends who were thinking of starting an online computer support business which they told me about and I just thought people didn't want assistance over the internet or on the phone, they want someone to physically come and fix it," Mr Bakas said.

"I've always been a nerd myself, so I get friends and family contacting me to fix things all the time.

"I work from home and I had a bit of a quiet period with work at the end of last year with the economic slowdown, so I had some free time and I was thinking it would be nice to start something."

While it doesn't make money yet, the business model is to start charging subscription from the nerds once it becomes popular.

Mr Fitzgerald said he started tinkering with websites when he was in Year 9 and quickly developed an understanding of computer coding languages.

"I looked at (NearbyNerd) and thought it was something I could do, if someone asked me to fix something I probably could … any kind of money when you are at uni is good money," he said.