Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Technophobia 5


When computers arrived in offices, some staff tapped keyboards as if under duress: hunched, peering, grim expression. And companies didn’t think you needed an expert on the premises – help desks were manned by one ignorant youngster. The unemployed were sent on inappropriate programming courses because those in charge thought you had to programme a computer in order to use it.

Them: Why would I want to send a file from one computer to another?
Me: So that you don’t have to retype it.
Them: But we have people to do that.

They moaned that they couldn't turn off spell checker, and the mouse was terribly slow. If you showed them how to fix it, they’d snap “But I don’t want to do that!” If you showed them how to do something the quick way, they whinged. They couldn’t see why they should want to do things faster. The way they first learned it WAS the way.

Me: If you open the menus, they’ll show you the keyboard shortcuts.
Third Party: Shut up! Shut up! She doesn’t need to know that!!!!!

Now they're complaining about Linked-In’s endless emails – which you can turn off. If you tell them that, they say “I quite like it really!” Do they mean “But I have to have something to complain about”? Or perhaps it’s OK to use computers and the internet as long as we moan about them the whole time.

Since computers entered our lives, non-geeks have become much better at following instructions. Back then, they’d never read a knitting pattern, followed a recipe, sewed a dress, knocked together a rabbit-hutch. And they were officer class. THEY gave the orders, and the geeks showing them how to use one of these newfangled computer thingies were way down the pecking order. And they couldn’t, as usual, show off their superior education and creativity. They had to do it the computer’s way or it wouldn’t work. They were quite resentful that they had to clear their OWN cache, tidy their OWN desktops and find their OWN files. “Housekeeping”? They’d always had people to do such tasks for them. Society has become less hierarchical since then, fortunately.

At parties in the late 80s:
Fellow guest: And what do you do?
Me: I work at a computer magazine.
Fellow guest: [terrified look] I’m afraid I know nothing about computers!
Me: Oh, I just put in the jokes!
Fellow guest: [puzzled expression] How can you make jokes about computers?

He said “these are your cursor buttons” and I didn’t know what a cursor was! (Did she ask? No!)

No-one ever worried about the poor old manual typist getting RSI. What happened to all that fuss over glare from VDU screens? Employers were supposed to supply non-reflective desks, and free eye tests, and special computer glasses... They installed blinds for windows, and in some cases these got stuck in the "down" position and were never raised again, because nobody knew how to work them.

Newbies all put up the "legs" on their keyboards, and rested their wrists on the desk, risking carpal tunnel syndrome. If the legs were necessary, why don’t laptop keyboards slope? (Because then you couldn’t shut the lid. Doesn’t seem to bother anybody.)

Some bright spark invented protective wear for pregnant computer users (a light chain-mail tabard).

But the RSI flap did some good – it hastened the provision of comfortable working conditions. Adjustable chairs (the technology improved), wrist wrests, enough desk space. Employers had got away with providing terrible conditions for years. Laptops seem a step backwards. People use them awkwardly, sitting on the wrong kind of chair, at the wrong kind of table. And NONE of them can touch-type properly!

If you want to review a book on Goodreads, you have to rate it first. As they don't tell you.

You can type your shopping list into your phone! As a memo! (Bins post-its.)

And for the last time: Edit/Preferences/Spelling and Grammar.

More here, and links to the rest.

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