Yes, this post in not about sex. It’s about the other important thing in my life – computers.
RANT: There was a sysadmin rant on CrunchGear, that concluded with: “I hate computers”. As a person who always ends up fixing other people’s computers, I don’t hate computers. I hate people.
While I used computers since DOS, and built them since 1995, I’m self-educated in this department. And you know what, *it’s not that hard*. C’mon! Stuff is color coded, and built in a way that it simply cannot fit in a wrong slot or upside down, unless you take a hammer to it. Instruction manuals come with the “Quick Start” guides in pretty pictures, all helpfully numbered and on a single piece of paper. Putting together a bicycle on Christmas morning is harder than that. If one won’t bother reading a paragraph of text, one *should* be paying for someone else to do it.
Software has its ups and downs, but an average user can get along just fine on a PC. Especially if he got someone who knows what they’re doing to set it up and simplify in the first place. Computers are endlessly flexible – what would probably solve a lot of problems would be having more computer “consultants” involved in the process of buying and setting up a computer, not coming in after things went south.
Wanna email & LOLcats? No problem. We’ll just put those icons on the desktop and hide everything else that can cause damage in a nice folder off desktop. Or even just name that folder “everything else” and leave it on the desktop. Turn off automatic updates, turn on the most hands-off security & antivirus solution you can find, and you’re good to go. Get someone who knows what they’re doing to run updates once in a while – you do take your car in for an oil change, don’t you?
I set up computers in this way for many, many “basic” users, including my 86 year old mother who has been happily Skyping, emailing, writing and surfing for the past 4 years – still on the same computer.
I put 5 year olds on computers. Bunches of senior citizens too. The only people I worked with who have consistent problems are the ones who expect computers to read their minds and fix themselves magically in response to their tantrums. Hey, tantrums work with people, right? People who refuse to read the half page of short sentences that I taped to their computer those first few times they’re doing a new task. People who expect their thinking to be done for them – you know, the ones for whom we have the freaking instructions on the box of toothpicks (that they don’t read).
Computers are a lot like sex. If you watch, listen and learn, it’ll be awesome, even with the same partner for a long, long time. If you don’t care to learn and insist on doing the same thing that’s not working very well over, and over again, it’ll be boring and stupid – and you’ll be tossing the old partners overboard for a new model all the time, looking for that perfect plugin that’ll fix all the problems you’re too lazy to overcome yourself.
Yes, everyone will have a problem with ‘puters from time to time – it *is* a complicated piece of machinery. But a well set up machine with reasonably reasonable owner will usually run a good long time. If not, 8 year olds would not be so good at them.
I love computers. They’re predictable, and you get from them exactly what you put in – unlike the real life. Something not working as it should usually simply means that I didn’t have enough data to make the right choice; easily solved (thank you, Google).
Computer is an amazing tool – nothing more, and nothing less. Most problems start when we expect them to do the human tasks *instead* of humans. You can’t replace a user’s common sense or the ability to think and discriminate by a computer, and I think we’re all making a mistake of trying to do so. Yes, make it simple. Yes, offer playpens for people who are satisfied doing a limited number of tasks in the way strictly proscribed by the OS manufacturer. But remember that “every time you make something idiot proof, they design a better idiot”. There is no other machine we expect to cope with every piece of creative stupidity out there. Why computers?
And I have to admit, I sit, watch and silently gloat at those people used to solving things by raising their voices, whining and throwing their weight around trying to solve their computer problems that way, while the ‘lil box just sits there. Ah, the revenge of the nerds is sweet!
In response to the article I hate computers: Confessions of the sysadmin on CRUNCHGEAR