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Just start using that computer

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Just start using that computer, whatever it is

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1992, The Syracuse Newspapers

A reader from Clifton Park, north of Albany, has what may be a common problem. He bought a personal computer a few years ago but was bewildered by it. Despite several attempts, he has never learned how to use it. Was it the wrong kind of computer? Would a different one make things easier for him?

My answer may be disappointing. I once thought the type of computer was very important. But I'm not sure any more.

I think there are basically two kind of potential computer users—those who enjoy learning how to use a PC of any kind, and those who have a hard time with even the simplest kind of electronic component. You'll find accomplished computer users in both categories, but you're more likely to find "power users" in the first group.

The letter writer puts himself in the second group and asks two specific questions:

What's the best way to get rid of the computer he has now without taking a huge loss?

How should he start out again on the road to computer literacy?

First, to me, there is no best way to get rid of that computer, because I wouldn't get rid of the computer at all. To the reader from Clifton Park, the computer he bought has been useless not because it's a hard-to-use brand (it is, in fact, one of the easiest-to-use models ever designed), but because it has never been used.

I know this sounds like circular logic, but it is true. I don't blame the computer; instead, I believe the problem lies in a natural tendency many of us have. We hold back when we are faced with something new and different.

And that means, of course, that if we keep doing that, the new computer we purchased with high hopes will always be daunting and different-and unused.

The learning curve, as many of you already know, can be so steep that it's a wall. But once you climb that wall—by trying this and trying that, going at it brick by brick until you reach the top—there are no more walls to worry about. From that point on, it will start to be easy, and it may even begin to be fun.

Second, there are a lot of ways to learn more about computers. Many colleges have evening courses, and user groups are extremely helpful. Books about computers are getting better all the time.

My main point is that none of this matters if your computer isn't put to use—for any purpose, whether it's for games, word processing, calling a bulletin board system, or just drawing crazy patterns on the screen.

So I'd say the first step is toward the closet. Take that unused home computer off the shelf and plug it in. Then do something with it. Give it a try. And when it all seems too hard, turn it off and come back again in a few days.

Before long, those bricks should come tumbling down.

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