Since he was in high school, computer wiz Ben Sawyer has been helping people solve their technological problems. He has been operating his business during the pandemic but has had more time to play with new electronic toys, including a laser cutter and a drone camera.   ISLANDER PHOTO BY SARAH HINCKLEY

Computer wiz has run business since high school

SOUTHWEST HARBORHelping people with their technological problems is one part knowhow and two parts psychotherapy, according to Ben Sawyer.  

In high school around the turn of the century, Sawyer’s friends called him ‘Wiz’ as a reflection of his incredible ability to solve any technological problem put before him. A diagnosis at 12 years old of Asperger syndrome, a designation under the autism spectrum, explained Sawyer’s love of electronics and a lack of social skills he exhibited in childhood.  

“I never really kind of connected with the world for quite some time because emotions were something I thought would be better (dealt with by) putting them away,” he explained in a conversation with the Islander in March.  

For the last 15 years or so, and light years ahead as far as computer technology goes, Sawyer has made a living helping people resolve both complicated and simple computer problems, such as connecting their new vehicle’s Bluetooth device, getting their printer to talk with their computer or simply setting up a universal remote control for their electronic devices.  

“Computers have allowed the world to evolve so quickly people don’t know how to keep up with it,” he said. “I’m the savior. That’s the description I get, at least. I don’t like to call myself that.” 

Sawyer had just gotten off the phone with a client in Florida who was nearly in tears of joy because he was able to help with her cable connection. 

“It’s stuff like that that’s the reason I do this,” said the Southwest Harbor resident. “I have a lot of customers that come here in the summer and still consult with me in the winter… The business ends up being not just fixing the issue but sitting and listening. You almost end up being a therapist.”
Curiosity about electronics and mechanical things began at an early age for Sawyer. According to an article in the Bar Harbor Times from 20 years ago, “By the age of six, Ben memorized the patterns of the power lines and transformers between his home and Ellsworth. His favorite excursion was to Radio Shack where he would talk to the employees about the equipment he studied in the catalog.” 

“You had to keep an eye on me because I’d take things apart that I wasn’t supposed to,” said Sawyer recently. “At that time, I didn’t have the wherewithal to put it back together… I had a voltmeter when I was in single digits of age.” 

When he was a child, the post office in town collected broken Christmas lights and gave them to Sawyer to repair.  

“My mom didn’t have to buy Christmas lights for years,” he said. 
Sawyer’s hyper-focused interest in electronics was supported by his mother, who knew something was different about him. According to the Bar Harbor Times article, “Ms. Patterson accommodated for Ben’s interests, providing him with what he enjoyed. When he didn’t play with conventional toys, she bought him appliances.” 

“I had a laptop when I was in the third grade,” said Sawyer, highlighting that it was the 1990s. “Having your own computer at that time sets you apart from the other kids.” 

Over the last decade, readers of the Islander may have caught a small advertisement that reads, ‘Computer problems? There’s Ben!’ Sawyer first placed it in the paper when a mentor suggested he expand his business.  

“I’ve just been doing this the same way for a number of years,” he said, noting he got his start helping people in high school as the face of the IT department. “It ended up being a wordofmouth kind of thing. I generally wanted to help peopleespecially when they wanted to give me money for it.” 

Operating a business that focuses mainly on peoples’ personal computers during a pandemic has been a little tough. Most of the time, Sawyer is making house calls to look at his client’s malfunctioning equipment.  

 “I feel like I’m playing COVID police more than I’m actually working a lot of the time,” he said about insisting people wear masks when interacting with him.  

During the time he has run his own business, Sawyer’s rates have not changed a whole lot. What he has earned over the years has allowed him to buy 12 acres in Lamoine where he is working to build a house at some point. It is difficult not to think a bit like author Chris Van Dusen’s book, If I Built A House,” when it comes to what gadgets and toys Sawyer may include in his house design, but he insists it will be a respite from work.  

“The best retirement plan I can think outside of saving money is creating a living plan that is minimally expensive,” he said, explaining solar panels and other efficiencies will be part of the house design.  

Sawyer reads and researches constantly when it comes to staying up to date in his field. Technology is changing so quickly that it takes a concerted effort to be able to traverse the complicated terrain. Most recently, he has been playing with a K40 laser engraver/cutter, making signs and different designs on wood panels. Sawyer also has a drone that he flies on occasion when there is a good opportunity for photography.  

“I’m just trying to keep my knowledge fairly wide,” he said. “I don’t think my job is going to exist the way it does now 10 years from now. As time goes on, I think regular computers are going to disappear. The computers are going to start following us around instead of being a stationary device.”

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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