Skip to comments.Computerized Confusion
Posted on 12/25/2007 5:28:49 AM PST by Kaslin
When I bought one of these small, cheap, old-fashioned cathode-ray TV sets on sale to watch while on my exercise machine, I had no idea how high-tech and computerized even these obsolete sets had become.
Nor was this a blessing. I could not even turn the set on and get a channel without reading a 60-page instruction book. If the truth be known, I could not do it even after trying to make some sense out of the instructions.
The next time my computer guru came over to help me with my computer problems, I asked him to set up the TV set so that I could turn it on.
After he went through the instruction book and waded through all the high-tech options -- none of which interested me in the slightest -- he set up the TV so that I could do something as elementary as turn on the set and choose a channel to watch.
Unfortunately, this was not an unusual experience. All kinds of computerized products -- cameras, cell phones, even car radios -- have had the same problem.
There must be some blind spot that computer engineers have which prevents them from seeing that (1) most people are not computer engineers, (2) there is no point making simple things complicated, and (3) not everyone is looking for a zillion features to have to wade through to do simple things.
Let's start at square one. What is the first thing you want to do with any computerized product? Turn it on.
Why should that be a problem when people were turning things off and on for generations before there were personal computers?Yet computer engineers seem determined to avoid the very words "off" and "on."
Apparently they feel a need to coin new terms for everything, no matter how simple or well-known those things may be. For computers, the word is "start," which you have to go to for either turning the computer off or on.
With our microwave oven, the word is "power." For my car radio and cell phone, there is no word at all.
For other things, there is the same coining of new words for things people already understand by old words. Printers can be set for "landscape" or "portrait," as if people had never heard of horizontal and vertical.
When I had to have a new radio put into my old car, I told the man who installed it, "I didn't go to M.I.T" and wanted the simplest radio to use that he had.
Yet even the simplest radio he had in stock came with over 100 pages of instructions -- and nothing on the radio that said "on" or "off." In fact, none of the buttons on the front of the radio had anything to indicate what they were for.
The man who installed the radio turned it on for me. But this was an old car that I did not use very often, and I did not always want the radio on when I was driving.
Since he had not told me how to turn it off, I just turned the volume down as low as possible, rather than go into the 100 pages of instructions.
I would probably never have learned how to turn that radio off and on if the car's battery had not gone dead one day. While I was waiting on the roof of a parking garage for the Triple-A truck to get there, I had nothing to read except the radio instruction book.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I read the instruction book. You might think that telling you how to turn the radio off and on would be on page 1. But you would be wrong.
That would be too obvious, and computer engineers avoid the obvious like the plague.
Eventually, I came to the place where the instruction book said to turn the radio on by pressing the "source" button.
There was of course nothing on the radio itself that said "source." By leafing through the instructions, however, I eventually found a diagram where one of the buttons was identified as the "source" button. Eureka!
My new cell phone also has nothing to give you a clue as to how to turn it off or on, much less do anything so complicated as phone somebody. The next time the car battery goes dead, I will read the thick instruction book, so that I can call Triple A.
I’m like you adjusting the volume is easier than turning it off and on.
ok, I’m a little woozy from trying out my new shiatsu heated back massager for too long, I see that you didn’t write this. I still agree with it totally.
Our TV stereo system’s on/off button says “Standby”.
The first thing I do when I get a thick instruction manual is grab a razor knife and slice out all the sections that aren’t in English. Turns a 1” thick manual into a 1/4” (or less) pamphlet.
I had a hi tech watch I liked, but it had an hourly beep that could not be disabled, and an alarm that defied all efforts to disarm.
Cruelly, its piezo transducer was at exactly the pitch where there is a 6 dB notch in my hearing. (Firearms).
So, it would disrupt meetings, and annoy everyone and cause embarassment. When my wife and I went on vacation, I had to wrap it in a sock and lock it in the safe, or it would wake her up every hour.
One day we were out for a walk, and she told me, "Your watch is beeping". There was a heavy line of traffic coming quickly down the road. A perfect time for the watch to be flung under the wheels- Very satisfying.
I bought a Russian-Made CRUDE thing with GEARS and SPRINGS (Paketa) that served me well for years. Ugly as a used tractor, but quiet and accurate. Twenty bucks.
I am relieved to know that I was not a xenophobic crank for doing the same thing.
I call it "Speed Reading".
There is a solution. If you want one with all the bells and whistles you have to learn how to ring the bells and blow the whistles. Otherwise you are wasting your money.
Make sure to have a kid available at all times.
Mr. Sowell has discovered the great divide: The Generation Gap.
"When I bought one of these small, cheap, old-fashioned cathode-ray TV sets on sale to watch while on my exercise machine, I had no idea how high-tech and computerized even these obsolete sets had become. "
I thought the best line in the article was this:
"Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I read the instruction book."
While I am very comfortable with computer technology and teach online classes, I am baffled by my cellphone. I do not want to use my phone as a mediocre camera. I have no need for idiotic ring tones and do not see my phone as an entertainment device. I do not want to use microscopic keys to send moronic text messages. I simply want a phone to take and make telephone calls. However, trying to find a cellphone that is just a phone is very near impossible.
I know, I'm being too picky. So, how about I apologize and wish everybody a Merry Christmas.
Besides, there are so many time-keeping devices in sight all day long, that a watch on my wrist would just be another thing that is one minute off from the others.
Another pet peeve is when one instruction book is for several different models and it is up to you to decide if the instructions are for the one you own or not. It is not always clear.
A big part of this is simply ego. I work in IT, and have done so since 1987. I started in software, and eventually moved into hardware, and have done mostly support since then. At this point, I'm in network administration. Anyway, I see my #1 job as a person who allows other people to do their jobs. They're NOT IT experts. In a lot of cases, they're lucky if they are able to turn on the computer. So when they call me, I attempt to figure out and fix the problem using THEIR language when possible. On the other hand, some of the guys I work with are a lot like SNL's "Nick Burns," who have an attitude.
Now I have to admit that I'm amazed at the poor quality of first line tech support the guys who are on the "help desk." At my last job, if a problem was escalated to me, I knew that the problem was serious, and the front line techs had eliminated all the simple problems. At this job, I have to start over from the beginning, since I can't trust these help desk script monkeys to have checked little things like indicator lights on the routers (even to the point that a router was powered off!), or even checking to see if a cable's been kicked loose. But I don't make an issue of it... However my coworkers insist on making a big deal of it... For instance, when someone who needs an account password changed, but only uses that account for email, sends a request for an "email password change," I respond with "password changed and tested." On the other hand, my coworker responds with "email enabled active directory user account password changed." Is his description more accurate than mine? In a technical sense, yes. Does it matter? No. The effect is the same. I know that I changed the AD user account password, since I did it through the ADUC utility. Does the user need to know this? No. It's just my coworker's need to show superiority over the "great unwashed."
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.