Saturday, September 15, 2007

TechnoFear Trounced

Even if I have to drag myself to it kicking and screaming, I refuse to give up on making new technology part of my life. I've learned that it's all too easy to end up looking pathetic. I saw this happen to someone ten years ago. It was at the height of the internet boom and the Author's Guild was conducting a panel on the impact of technology on literary endeavor. Something like that.

The technology-isn't-necessarily-evil position was taken by my husband, at the time a technology editor. Representing the “con” side was a prominent critic, a lovely and literate man, who spoke so eloquently that I was almost swayed. Until he revealed in answer to a question that he still wrote on a typewriter. Game over, I thought. It was like being told that sex is overrated by someone who's never experienced an orgasm.

So now my motto is to at least try. A while ago, when I figured I was ready for some further adventures in personal computing, I signed up for lessons from a pro. Unfortunately the computer tutor and I were incompatible. He had trouble masking his horror over my document-storage practices, and he believed that there could be no higher goal than an uncluttered desktop. I called the employment office of my local university and tried again.

This time I ended up hiring a charming film student from West Virgina. A freshman. He was perfectly happy to help me master personal-computing essentials that were exactly my speed, such as how to change the background color on your screen. (“Master” might be too strong a word, as I don't remember it now.) And in his gentle, understated way, he made a very important contribution to my technical education: he cured my phobia of consulting “help” screens.

It turns out that they are not, as I had feared, the computer equivalent of my utterly opaque, 320-page cell phone manual. They do not whisper to me, “you are stupid . . . you are stupid . . . you are stupid.” They help, exactly as advertised. Who knew?

Today's takeaways:

1. If you need to learn something, hire a kid.

2. Try the Help pages. They help.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

When the help pages don't help, Google probably will. Just enter the name of the application and the issue, e.g., excel "unhide all columns." (You wouldn’t enter the preceding period, though, in the search field.)

I once asked a friend who afraid of computers why she feared them. She said she was afraid that if she hit the wrong key she would delete the Internet. As long as you have backups, you're safe not only from this egregious (and impossible) act but also from most harm to self.