Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Computer Shopping and Learning Curves.

A friend asked me this weekend, "If you had never had a computer how would you start leaning how to use one?" I admit I was tired when this question breezed by me. I was also downloading photos and posting them on Facebook and checking my e-mail at the time. I think I stared at her. Dumbly I might add. So she asked when did I start learning computers and how?

I had the advantage I suppose to work for one of the construction management companies that led the field in using computer programs to manage multi billion dollar projects. We had Wangs and we programmed them ourselves. We were introduced to them by having them put in our cubicles with games the company had designed to get us familiar with the keyboards and functions. One of my early tasks was to enter line after line of Basic code into the DOS system. Line conditioners were just a thought at the time so I learned to save frequently. Almost killed a secretary that wanted to reset the Xerox machine by flipping the breaker. Did have a very nice and long talk with the Xerox tech on that one.

My first computer was a used Commodore 64. And I attended night classes to learn BASIC. I think that computer had 16K of memory. I just bought a small memory stick with 8GB. My brother worked for an insurance company on their mainframe. It took up almost an entire floor of the office complex.

There have been a lot of computers and a lot of changes since then. Frankly computers now seem almost to be their own life form. So my answer to Helene's question of how do you learn to use them would be, "They teach you how?" "They?", she asked. "The computers," I answered. I think what we had was a failure to communicate. And I don't know if I could communicate in my world without a computer. Some years back a friend of mine, now dead, and I said that there would be a time when the world could be divided between the connected and the non-connected. It is that time. Though, in all honesty, I must say there is a middle ground; the marginally connected.

I think I am in the elite connected group until I have to look for a new computer. Then I know I may only be in the marginally connected category, though I would like to believe at the top of that class. Charley V failed, as all my loyal readers know, and I began my period of mourning. Oh, yes, all the classic stages including anger and bargaining and denial. Yesterday I went shopping for Charley VI and realized how very much I missed out on since early 2007 when I purchased my now deceased desktop. My sister and others in the connected group kept giving me advice about requirements on RAM and processors. I definitely appreciate their help but I was going into sensory overload rapidly.

Charley VI will have six times the RAM of Charley V and an Intel Dual Core Processor several times faster. And, rather important for me, as I was able to opt out of those "free software programs" like Norton and Microsoft Office that I almost immediately take off (but with a great deal of pain and suffering involved). But will it be obsolete in three years? Yes, definitely. Given that I bought it on sale it is probably obsolete now. But in a few months I probably get to do this again with a new laptop. Traveler is after all six months older than the late Charley V.

So the question this morning is how did you get introduced to computers and learn to use them? What advice can I give my unconnected friend, Helene?


  1. As one who writes instructions for using computers, I've encountered all levels of competence. The thing I always tell people is not to worry about all the possible things there are to know, just learn one thing at a time, just what you need to know right now, and then build on that. Some people use a word processor like it's a typewriter. Others use its powerful features to create finished printable documents. Each one should simply use it in the way that suits their own needs.

    When buying new technology, or any big-ticket items, I take the time to get educated about the features, even if only temporarily - enough to be able to make a good decision. It's not possible to keep that all in your head permanently, so don't panic about that either. Temporary knowledge is fine for many things.

  2. I like that term "temporary knowledge." And yes you are so right about that.

    I also consider my computing life on a learning curve. In the beginning it was all about word processing and now it is about photo editing and website upkeep and networking. In three years that may change again.

    The last three years has been with laptop and desktop and I cannot see doing without either though that was a debate for a while before I bought the new desktop. And I think when it is time to get a new laptop what I want will change again. It has become my "blackberry" because I cannot get that on my cellphone service.

    But people that have never had a computer have no idea what it is they want or need. The first computer has to be an experiment.


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