I used to play with my mom’s typewriter as a kid, even teaching myself how to type at a rudimentary level. (I’ve forgotten the proper techniques.) Yeah, I was that kind of kid. What was a bike?
I never got into computers except for what I needed to know, but I’ve used some form of word processing since at least high school. I understand that not everyone had the same experience, and I’m the first to admit that any tool more complicated than a hammer or screwdriver makes me nervous.
Yet I’m still astounded when people can’t figure out the most basic things on the computer. I saw this ignorance par excellence when an acquaintance at the library kept interrupting me to ask stupid questions. How stupid? “Hey B., how do I make a space?” This was when I was in Harrisburg, where you only get two hours of online time at the libraries. I was transferring my (first) book from a notebook to the computer, and I had to work feverishly fast to accomplish that.
In a couple weeks, similar events will again eat into my online time. To be sure, the computer lab where I get online before the libraries open is geared toward helping people find jobs. So it makes sense to preempt my and others’ discretionary work for classes for those who are computer illiterate. Then they can fill out applications online, and there are people there who will help them with resumes if needed.
But I asked my friend who attended some of them the last time they were offered–not that he really needed them–what he learned. He said that for the first class, they spent an hour and a half learning how to use the mouse and click on icons, how to open and close windows.
I seriously think that you could take someone from the 1800s and tell them, “When you move this thingy in that direction, that arrow on the screen moves accordingly,” and they would understand in two minutes tops. “Now point it at thing and press this button to open what’s there, and then click the same button on that thing to close it,” I imagine, would also be readily comprehensible to our hypothetical time traveler.
When I taught philosophy, I saw some students get into their heads the idea “I can’t do this,” and it becomes self-fulfilling. A lot of that is happening with these people and their notions of computers. Yet I said to my friend that while there’s a job suitable for any nondisabled person, anyone who needs an hour and a half to master that tutorial should not get any job that requires use of a computer for its acquisition. They need mindless work, work where a mistake would be inconsequential.
And I am quite familiar with mindless work, having done much of it myself. Why would I, with a Master’s degree, have so much experience in that area? Because I’m about as good at managing my life as these people would be with advanced computer programming.