Non-tech user reply to why computers are difficult to use
Can you remember when you started using computers?
? Around 1983. First used a borrowed Apple II
? Tandy TRS-80 dual floppy (as I recall, 180 kb capacity disks). Software PfsWrite, then WordPerfect (best ever). Very exciting when I got my first hard drive, I think 5 mb.
Would you say this was an easy process to get to grips with?
? Far from easy. Daunting, in fact. Unlike most of the people answering here, I was a female English major in a one-person office; so had to learn everything on my own, using the manuals. (You may not even remember when companies actually provided written manuals!)
Since then, has your journey been straightforward, and if not, can you remember what some of your challenges were?
? Virtually everything has been a challenge. Consider, first, that until then, the world was entirely physical, mechanical. I could sit at a typewriter and see how it worked, how the words got to the paper. I don't know if anyone younger than maybe 70 can imagine how incredible and unnerving it was to type at a computer keyboard and see the words appearing on a separate monitor without being able to see or comprehend how it was happening. A simply HUGE leap in conceptual evolution.
? The initial challenge was simply learning DOS and figuring out what to do when things went wrong, which was frequent. I didn't have admin backup for the first decade.
? The biggest personal challenge was a few years later when I was given a copy of PageMaker (as I recall, it came on 10 disks) on a Monday afternoon and told that I was to install and use it for a 12-page newsletter due on Thursday. Nightmare! But made the deadline.
Do you have any challenges even now?
? I gave up trying to keep up with the technical stuff when Windows .Net came on the scene, and SharePoint is conceptually beyond me. As a writer, I cannot fathom how anything gets done with all that collaboration.
? The biggest challenge, as almost everyone has noted, is software. Now retired, I'm once again on my own with every download. Major programs have bloated in an attempt to be all things to all people, making them bizarrely complicated and feature-obese. Microsoft's penchant for completely unnecessary "improvements" can bring work to a dead stop with each new version of software. The learning curves are just crazy for productivity software. I would love to be able to strip MS Word 10 of everything I will never use, but they don't let users do that.
? The second-biggest challenge is also Microsoft, in updates that shut down the system unexpectedly or that cause crashes and incompatibilities. The company proves that power corrupts.
Did you/do you have any coping strategies?
? Used to be manuals, then Help screens, now Google, forums, a couple of newsletters, and the fact that I am no longer the only one in the vicinity who knows anything about computers.
? It has taught me infinite patience.
Looking back, do you think the challenges you faced are any easier to tackle now?
? Hardware is now relatively a piece of cake, though-as with cars-I no longer tinker with what is going on under the hood, and I do not use any of the hand-held devices (other than the simplest possible cell phone).. I do not Kindle, do not SmartPhone, do not watch streaming movies on my laptop, and do not plan to get an iPad. I believe this makes me officially old.
On a typical day, how long will you be interacting with computer devices?
? 10+ hours on my laptop. Although retired, I am still a writer.
Do you appreciate the extended functionality/increasing pervasiveness of computing now?
? I profoundly appreciate the almost-unimaginable access to information on the Internet.
? I live on the East Coast of the US. I love the ease with which I can be in touch with people I love in distant places--a daughter and her family in London, a sister in Dallas, a friend in the Netherlands.
? I am apprehensive about the changes to brain function (e.g.,miniscule attention spans) and loss of ability to read body language and nuance in in-person contact (a niece's daughters in the back seat of the car, who texted each other rather than talking during a trip halfway across North America).
? I wonder deeply about the impact of permanent, pervasive joblessness and detachment throughout humanity as people are increasingly replaced by computers and their progeny. What's the fun of playing Jeopardy if you know a machine can do it better? And what's the satisfaction in, say, nursing if a bedside computer makes all the decisions? For the first time, I've recently felt some "Matrix-y" creepy feelings.
I don;t apologize for this length. You can mine it for a few quotes!
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