62 votes

Kids can't use computers

62 comments

  1. [12]
    JuniperMonkeys
    Link
    What a marvelous manifesto; the author's possessed of such narrow vision, but paints with such a broad brush! With that said, I understand his feelings regarding both the cause ("computers are too...
    • Exemplary

    What a marvelous manifesto; the author's possessed of such narrow vision, but paints with such a broad brush!

    With that said, I understand his feelings regarding both the cause ("computers are too easy now, so users are dumb") and the effect ("these dumb users will be tomorrow's legislators"); I've felt the same way on occasion.

    I've found the effect easy to dismiss, however: legislators will always be idiots, and smart, good, and worthy people will not form the greater part of a legislative body in the UK or the US. Being able to locate their 127.0.0.1s with both hands and a bright flashlight would not make Michael Gove or Mitch McConnell worthy of drinking our sweet, sweet mercury-laden water, and it's deluded to think that even a modicum of knowledge would impact the policies of these vampires in power. It's absolutely immaterial whether Cameron or Hague could have passed the author's Internet/WWW/browser/search engine test. I'm sure Ajit Pai knows more about ALGOL than I would imagine. He's still a fucker. Conversely, I don't think one needs deep domain knowledge to be good -- a hypothetical good legislator would need only enough wisdom to find good advisors.

    When it comes to the cause, it's certainly easy to get wrapped up in one's own knowledge. To think "my field is the most important; why doesn't everyone gain roughly as much experience with it as I have?" is extremely human, and dunking on "the kids with their phones and whatnot" is just so easy. But there are a lot of kids using computers now. "Dumb" knows no age, and there's just more of us all -- more smart kids, more dumb kids, and a lot in between. To the author's point, my contention is that there are a lot of teens who are interested in programming and network infrastructure, and a lot of people who grew up with Fortran that are now addicted to Facebook.

    And no, those teens will not know about degaussing a monitor or swapping RAM chips or other gone-by-the-wayside shit from my youth, but their interest in technology has been spurred by the world in which they've grown up, and I refuse to argue the specifics with them. Hell, I work at a school same as the author does; the coolest kids on campus are the fucking coders. That sure as shit wasn't true when I was little. Why install roadblocks because they're not using computers the way we want them to? His idea of encouraging the youth is to force them to "discover Python or Bash" to use the fucking Internet. And he's a teacher! Christ.

    On a larger scale, I think the reality -- which a lot of us techier people have trouble accepting -- is that it's just not the most important domain. It's important in the way plumbing or dentistry is important. Society as we know it would collapse without a baseline number of people in the profession, but it doesn't guarantee happiness, worldliness, or the moral high ground. If a teen's not interested in learning how to punch down Cat 6, I don't blame them. Moreover, I'm weary of the user-hostile small-minded bullshit of which the author's full. If he really thinks that being able to figure out the campus's stupid proxy server would make that teacher in his useless anecdote a more worthy person, worthy to teach, vote, be voted for, and legislate, all I can feel for him is pity. The notion that, amidst all the world's injustices, that's the one that motivated him to action? Come on.

    Wall of text aside, intergenerational pedagogical gatekeeping really gets my goat.

    24 votes
    1. [10]
      unknown user
      Link Parent
      I can absolutely appreciate this viewpoint, but I still think there's something to be said for the apparent lack of even the slightest bit of knowledge of how computers work in the vast majority...

      [Technology is] important in the way plumbing or dentistry is important. Society as we know it would collapse without a baseline number of people in the profession, but it doesn't guarantee happiness, worldliness, or the moral high ground.

      I can absolutely appreciate this viewpoint, but I still think there's something to be said for the apparent lack of even the slightest bit of knowledge of how computers work in the vast majority of users.

      Most people know enough about the human body to know how to fix small problems themselves, or know to go and see a doctor or dentist if the problem is more serious; when they go for help, they're (usually) willing to help themselves be helped by cooperating. Why is the equivalent behaviour with computers not commonplace?

      14 votes
      1. [2]
        JuniperMonkeys
        Link Parent
        I guess my quibble on that point (i.e. putting the author's intergenerational stuff aside) is that "we", the tech people, have built up hierarchies which are often obtuse in ways that seem almost...

        I guess my quibble on that point (i.e. putting the author's intergenerational stuff aside) is that "we", the tech people, have built up hierarchies which are often obtuse in ways that seem almost intentional, once you get past the surface level. That's not to say that doing so is or isn't necessary, but at a certain point of complexity you can't expect the public at large to adhere to a vernacular anymore.

        To return to the dentistry analogy, everyone knows that they should brush, and should probably floss (maybe tomorrow). Maybe take an Advil and call the dentist if your tooth hurts. But when we (and I've absolutely been guilty of this) start lecturing people about proxy servers, 2.4 vs. 5 GHz, why this OS can't see this USB stick's file system, and so on, it's like going to the dentist and hearing "You floss bottom-top? Floss top-bottom, and you should be saving the floss. You don't deserve teeth if you don't check the PH of everything you eat. Also, have you considered using the other kind of mouth?" ...then you go back a year later and the dentist lectures you because you've been flossing top-bottom like he told you to. There's common-sense advice, and then there's reasonably specific domain knowledge (which can often change), so I worry that we have a tendency to treat the latter as the former.

        I absolutely empathize with how the author feels -- when I look over the shoulder of a coworker using their computer, the pain from how "wrong" they're doing it is almost physical. And there are certainly people who are willfully ignorant. But if the average person's technical knowledge is actively atrophying despite the fact that almost everyone these days is a user, I'm not sure that's entirely on them.

        (and I'm not sure it is atrophying -- I still think there are more people of all ages who could successfully set up a wifi router than there were ten years ago -- but just to go with the author's notion...)

        5 votes
        1. Zeerph
          Link Parent
          According to OECD research published in 2016 26% of Adults are unable to use a computer, 14% of Adults can just do a simple well-defined task e.g. delete an e-mail, while 29% of Adults are only...

          According to OECD research published in 2016 26% of Adults are unable to use a computer, 14% of Adults can just do a simple well-defined task e.g. delete an e-mail, while 29% of Adults are only capable of tasks that require limited steps, which is labeled as poor computer skills. So, around 69% of the Adult population in rich countries have poor or less technological capability.

          And to top it off:

          Overall, people with strong technology skills make up a 5–8% sliver of their country’s population.

          I would be hard pressed to argue that we'd see that vast of a difference between Adults and non-Adults. We should expect a vast majority of non-Adults to be technologically incompetent, I don't see that changing; no matter how much technology becomes a part of our lives, people will likely still view everything as a magic box.

          2 votes
      2. [7]
        aethicglass
        Link Parent
        The effect isn't unique to IT. Just about anyone who's worked in a field long enough can tell you plenty of analogous stories of people outside their field who think they know better. It happens...

        The effect isn't unique to IT. Just about anyone who's worked in a field long enough can tell you plenty of analogous stories of people outside their field who think they know better. It happens because for the people who aren't well acquainted with the common issues that arise in a given field, solutions seem much easier and more straightforward than the solution probably is in reality. "Armchair" enthusiasts emulate authority, but do not have the same scope of experience as formally educated, seasoned professionals. Even the existence of the phrase "armchair"-whatever denotes the commonality of the effect.

        I could write a similar rant about glass. Everybody uses glass. I could make the argument that we live in the age of glass, and yet very few people understand it. I've had clients request the impossible, for impossibly cheap. And I've had many infuriating interactions with self-righteous know-it-alls who know precisely nothing when it comes to my area of expertise.

        How could they claim that this has such importance to them, and not take the time to educate themselves on the topic?
        How could they rely so heavily on something without understanding the first thing about how it works?

        The fact is, most people don't need to understand the mechanical principles of glass in order to use it. They just use it until it breaks, and then they try to find a solution. When the solution isn't what they were hoping, they tend to lash out at the nearest person, who most often is the person who's telling them with authority that their concept of a solution is a no-go.

        The same goes for auto mechanics, construction workers, artists, teachers, accountants, lawyers, and yes even doctors have to deal with people who think they know better.

        The problem isn't unique to IT, it's inherent to human behavior.

        4 votes
        1. [6]
          tesseractcat
          Link Parent
          I think the difference here is that while glass provides one function for people, and typically doesn't require any interaction, computers manage nearly all aspects of our lives, require daily...

          I think the difference here is that while glass provides one function for people, and typically doesn't require any interaction, computers manage nearly all aspects of our lives, require daily interaction, and are used by nearly everyone.

          5 votes
          1. [5]
            aethicglass
            Link Parent
            I was using that as an example to point out that the issue isn't limited to a single field. But to expand on the example a bit, I would argue that glass permeates our lives to a greater extent...

            I was using that as an example to point out that the issue isn't limited to a single field.

            But to expand on the example a bit, I would argue that glass permeates our lives to a greater extent than technology, as I see technology as an extension of glass. It's a material with diverse qualities and uses. Our current level of technology would not be possible without its vitreous virtues. When we look into space, we do so through a lens of ground and polished glass. When we mix acids, we use vessels of silicate. We correct our vision, tap our screens, drink our wine, give ourselves views through a wall, then fill the wall with insulation to maintain stable temperatures. We see ourselves preening in metallic reflections, and send vast amounts of data over wires made of monofilament.

            Glass is able to hold it's form without corrosion for extremely long periods of time (stained glass slumping is a myth), yet it's our very interaction with it that necessitates our maintenance of it. Screens break, mirrors crack, windshields chip, lenses scratch. It all wears out because we use it.

            But that's really all a bunch of unnecessary glorification (honestly, I was just kinda having fun writing that). The fact of the matter is, when something breaks, whether it's a glass cup, an operating system, an alternator, a concrete slab, or the telephone line that's been acting up a lot recently, someone is there to fix it. Or at the very least, create a new one. And when you combine someone uninformed in desperate need of a solution with someone who is able to provide a solution, it doesn't always work out as a picturesque exchange of needs.

            The point is this: People take interest in things and pursue them. Some people pursue the understanding of technology. Others might not be as interested. But that doesn't mean they won't need to use it from time to time. We live in a society of highly specialized fields, and no one, no one should expect everyone else to have the same level of interest and understanding in the things they care about just because they think it's important. Because how is everybody supposed to understand everything? Hell, even just one person understanding everything is patently unbelievable.

            The author might be a wiz when it comes to tech, but are they a wiz at building houses? Or working on their car? Or maintaining the water purification plant that provides them with drinkable tap? Or legislating? Keeping their garden healthy, researching cancer treatments, teaching languages, binding books, welding steel, mining precious metals?

            They might be somewhat skilled at any of those things. But knowledgeable and proficient in all of them? Nobody should expect to be able to understand those things on a specialist's level within a single lifetime.

            Sorry if this comes off as ranty. This article just really rubbed me the wrong way.

            8 votes
            1. [4]
              tesseractcat
              Link Parent
              That's fair, but I will say that people's interactions with computers are typically much more nuanced and important then glass. I could take any random thing that people use a lot and say "well...

              That's fair, but I will say that people's interactions with computers are typically much more nuanced and important then glass. I could take any random thing that people use a lot and say "well why aren't you an expert in it then", but the truth is taking time out of your life to understand something you use as often as a computer should be a much higher priority then something that is just "there" like glass. Besides, for someone to use the intended function of glass, or a house, or books they typically don't need any in depth knowledge. However to use a computer in any complex way requires some knowledge of how they work.

              On a side note, I don't believe the car analogy is accurate, as most people who drive cars have to get certified to use them, going through dozens of hours of training.

              6 votes
              1. [3]
                Gaywallet
                Link Parent
                Just curious, what are you thoughts on basic knowledge of health/fitness?

                Just curious, what are you thoughts on basic knowledge of health/fitness?

                2 votes
                1. [2]
                  tesseractcat
                  Link Parent
                  They should be a mandatory part of schooling, specifically teaching about both subjects, not necessarily PE. Typically PE is just doing physical activities, but I believe it's a lot more important...

                  They should be a mandatory part of schooling, specifically teaching about both subjects, not necessarily PE. Typically PE is just doing physical activities, but I believe it's a lot more important to know how different things affect your body, how to maintain your body, and stuff like that, which isn't typically covered in modern schooling (or to the extent it should).

                  7 votes
                  1. Gaywallet
                    Link Parent
                    I just wanted to point it out because most people are not versed in it, at all, and rely almost entirely on the health system or what they've heard their friends say is "healthy" to do. If...

                    I just wanted to point it out because most people are not versed in it, at all, and rely almost entirely on the health system or what they've heard their friends say is "healthy" to do. If anything should be universally understood at a higher level, nothing could really be more important than health.

                    4 votes
    2. Exalt
      Link Parent
      I already know how to use Python and I'd still need the internet to figure out how to brute force a network key. I can't imagine figuring it out if I had never written code before or even just...

      His idea of encouraging the youth is to force them to "discover Python or Bash" to use the fucking Internet.

      I already know how to use Python and I'd still need the internet to figure out how to brute force a network key. I can't imagine figuring it out if I had never written code before or even just never learned Python.

      5 votes
  2. [5]
    hungariantoast
    (edited )
    Link
    EDIT: I've seen some pretty wild comments in this thread, so I'm just going to throw it out there that I think the author and myself are more complaining about the resistance younger users have...

    EDIT: I've seen some pretty wild comments in this thread, so I'm just going to throw it out there that I think the author and myself are more complaining about the resistance younger users have towards solving their own technical problems due to a widely adopted, and in my opinion, entitled idea that technology should "just work." It's more than just that though, in my experience and in the author's examples, younger users seem to be actively forgoing the novel idea of trying thorough solutions and diving into problems, in favor of immediately seeking help. I definitely think I had this attitude at one point, because even though I've always loved working with computers, I used to get easily frustrated when things didn't work like I thought they should. Now, I get curious more than anything, but I definitely think the marketing idea that things should "just work" has really been more of a detriment than anything else, but it's profitable, so I guess it's here to stay.

    Also, I think this post is more about how common it is that users cannot and will not solve simple problems that only require logic and effort rather than deep technical knowledge, versus the author actually advocating that everyone should learn Python. Fundamentally it seems it's an issue with entitlement and problem solving, born out of marketing and consumption that lead people down a path of ease-of-use and simplicity because it's more desirable and profitable than actually thinking and solving common problems.

    In short, younger people (a generalized group I count myself and my peers in) have become handicapped by years of market trends and products that discourage or wall off problem solving, tinkering, and user access. /EDIT

    Admittedly, I found this blog post thanks to a Reddit comment, so shout out to /u/MairusuPawa for that.

    Anyways, this post talks about something that I actually am dealing with in my life. My grandmother doesn't know how to use a computer, so I find myself rescuing her every time there's a slight bump in the road, but that's a stereotype, and she actually listens to me and learns from my help, so there's progress.

    My two cousins on the other hand, girls, ten and thirteen, both got smartphones for the first time a few months ago, because obviously, when the oldest sister gets something, the younger one must as well right?

    I don't think I've seen them without phone-in-hand since they got them. They live, quite literally, next door to my grandmother, but visit her almost as much as I do, and I live on the other side of Houston. Their daily routine seems to consist of, you guessed it, social media, YouTube, and other apps. I never bought into social media, so it's already alien to me, but seeing younger generations run with it to such extremes is insane. They're on these devices from the moment they get home, using and operating their apps and services flawlessly, until something messes up, then their world practically ends. Being the "bearded programmer" cousin, I also get stuck helping them, and their parents, with any and all issues they have encountered since the last time I saw them. I've tried actually explaining the issues and solutions to them, but now, I'm just happy to be able to go on a rant or lecture while fixing something for them, pretending that they actually listen or care. That's the difference between my cousins and my grandmother.

    My grandmother just wants to play Solitaire online, message her sisters, and print things. She has a Chromebook, but she knows how to powerwash it, search for new extensions, and get things done using tools from online suites. She learns when I help her, and since her Chromebook no longer receives updates (which is bullshit, but that's another topic), we'll be diving into the wonderful world of *buntu in the future. I have no doubt she will handle it just fine.

    My cousins on the other hand, want to use an app, watch a video, and generally just consume. Me fixing something for them is a necessary step to get back into the maws of the Internet. That's a problem.

    35 votes
    1. [4]
      Atvelonis
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      There's a tendency among young people to view computers as means to an end (that end being content consumption, like you said) rather than as being a part of the consumption process...

      There's a tendency among young people to view computers as means to an end (that end being content consumption, like you said) rather than as being a part of the consumption process themselves—which computers most certainly are. In my experience, older users are actually more open to learning how to use their machines in the way you described because they group together "computer" with "internet." You need to know one to know the other. So, in a certain sense, it is young people's tendency to distinguish between computers and digital content that is the issue here. They understand computers well enough to know the difference between an operating system, a web browser, and a website, but not well enough to pick up on the connections between any of those things. As the author of the article rightly points out, a modern OS is so easy to install and use that most people can get by without diving below the surface in any meaningful way. Thus, they adopt a mindset of "I just want it to work" without ever aiming to understand why it works.

      I'm a big fan of PC building and am somewhat active in the video gaming community. One of the biggest consumer-focused splits in the industry right now is between PCs and consoles. On the one hand, you have the people who love to tinker with their machines and want to be able to fiddle with however many settings in all the games they play—to them, a good experience is not just playing the game, but customizing the entire experience. On the other hand, you have folks who just want to press the power button and get started. I recognize that a lot of people will always play video games casually, and might not have the time or energy to get worked up over things like the best anti-aliasing technique to use. However, when this mentality discourages game developers from including a full array of options for the people who do care, I can't help but become frustrated over this sort of apathy.

      19 votes
      1. Pilgrim
        Link Parent
        Just so you know that's been going on since consoles first started. Should i use my 386 for the flight sim or my atari? :)

        One of the biggest consumer-focused splits in the industry right now

        Just so you know that's been going on since consoles first started. Should i use my 386 for the flight sim or my atari? :)

        3 votes
      2. [2]
        Fdashstop
        Link Parent
        I'm even seeing this internal split in the PC gamer community. Some people say pre-builts are the best option to get started, others say to build it from the ground up, and still others focus on...

        I'm even seeing this internal split in the PC gamer community. Some people say pre-builts are the best option to get started, others say to build it from the ground up, and still others focus on RGB customization and leave all the defaults on for everything else.

        2 votes
        1. cfabbro
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          To be fair... for quite a while the crypto-mining market drove graphics card prices to absurd levels, making prebuilts absolutely the best way to go for buying new computers. I even had a few...

          To be fair... for quite a while the crypto-mining market drove graphics card prices to absurd levels, making prebuilts absolutely the best way to go for buying new computers. I even had a few friends snapping up dozens of iBuyPower PCs from BestBuy and elsewhere just to strip them of the GPUs and sell them on ebay/craigslist for more than they paid for the entire system. Thankfully that craze is finally starting to die down and GPU prices are leveling off again though.

          7 votes
  3. [5]
    BlackLedger
    Link
    This is strictly my own opinion, but I think the current paradigm pushing ease of use and consumer-grade technology results in younger people being less proficient with technology. The period from...

    This is strictly my own opinion, but I think the current paradigm pushing ease of use and consumer-grade technology results in younger people being less proficient with technology. The period from the 1980s up until the early part of the 21st century had technology where the constraints and requirements on the user were such that a certain degree of expertise was necessary just to be an effective user. Now that this requirement has gone away, people are no more "inherently" proficient than are those who didn't grow up with it.

    29 votes
    1. spctrvl
      Link Parent
      I think that's exactly what it is. For example, my mom isn't exactly what you'd call a power user, but she's had a computer since the 80's and seems to be on a lot firmer ground than many of my...

      I think that's exactly what it is. For example, my mom isn't exactly what you'd call a power user, but she's had a computer since the 80's and seems to be on a lot firmer ground than many of my younger relatives. Like, you're not going to see most teenagers fire up the task manager to kill a locked up program or see what's eating up all the resources.

      19 votes
    2. [3]
      precise
      Link Parent
      I completely agree! I'm an IT ex-pat and I've supported hundreds if not thousands of people during my time in help desk and managed service. The older people I supported when they had trouble...

      I completely agree! I'm an IT ex-pat and I've supported hundreds if not thousands of people during my time in help desk and managed service. The older people I supported when they had trouble wanted to learn what happened, how to fix it etc. They also seemed to try and do more research ahead of time, but knew when to stop and call IT. They would actually Google something. Younger people on the other hand, oh man. If it doesn't "just work" hell will be raised. They are completely thrown off, often times just stop working, blame IT or some other outside fault and email people with C's in their titles excessively. This is my anecdotal experience, but this also correlates with people who also happen to personally use Apple devices. You can't blame Apple for younger people's technical illiteracy, but they have pioneered the "It just works" mentality with their products.

      12 votes
      1. [2]
        munche
        Link Parent
        Wow, this is the exact opposite of my experience. Older folks tended to give me a lot more "Oh, I'm just not good with computers" and refusing to expend any brain power outside of deciding that...

        Wow, this is the exact opposite of my experience. Older folks tended to give me a lot more "Oh, I'm just not good with computers" and refusing to expend any brain power outside of deciding that computers aren't for them. In fact, when I was public facing, it was really common for people calling me to put a confused teenager on the line to do things for them because they're "good with computers" and they aren't.

        5 votes
        1. precise
          Link Parent
          I've run into people like that as well, perhaps it was the type of clientèle I was working with? That's just my experience as well, I can't speak for entire demographics. :P

          I've run into people like that as well, perhaps it was the type of clientèle I was working with? That's just my experience as well, I can't speak for entire demographics. :P

          2 votes
  4. Grendel
    Link
    I am 24 years old and my younger brother is 17. We couldn't be further apart when It comes to computer knowledge. Even if you compare what he knows now against what I knew at 17 it is a startling...

    I am 24 years old and my younger brother is 17. We couldn't be further apart when It comes to computer knowledge. Even if you compare what he knows now against what I knew at 17 it is a startling divide. That seven years is like a line in the sand or something.

    People need to understand the difference between "good with computers" and "good at consuming digital media".

    28 votes
  5. [3]
    Akir
    Link
    It's not just kids that don't know how to use computers, it's everyone. If you show a layman a desktop computer setup and ask him to name the components, probably 75% of them will get at least one...

    It's not just kids that don't know how to use computers, it's everyone. If you show a layman a desktop computer setup and ask him to name the components, probably 75% of them will get at least one of them wrong. 50% of them will likely call the display the computer, and the computer will be called a CPU, Hard Drive, or some other "tech-sounding" word.

    Frankly, this is not a 'computer' problem; it's a human problem. This kind of thing doesn't just apply to computers, it applies to any sort of technology. Like the author says, you just need to teach people how to be self-sufficient.

    26 votes
    1. StellarV
      Link Parent
      Yeah nothing has changed other than more people use computers and smart phones. The kinds of people that solve their own problems are also not as intimidated of technology and had used computers...

      Yeah nothing has changed other than more people use computers and smart phones. The kinds of people that solve their own problems are also not as intimidated of technology and had used computers before the general population. All these people that 20 years ago would have called someone a geek and a weird person for spending all day on the computer are now on smart phones and social media at least as often.

      8 votes
    2. nothis
      Link Parent
      It's not people's job to know the quirks of every single interface on a computer. The real solution is making interfaces better.

      It's not people's job to know the quirks of every single interface on a computer. The real solution is making interfaces better.

      3 votes
  6. [14]
    nothis
    Link
    “If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you're the asshole.” Dude should meditate on that sentence. He comes across as a bit of a...

    “If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you're the asshole.”

    Dude should meditate on that sentence. He comes across as a bit of a jerk.

    I give you the teacher teaching "Computers" should know how to set up a proxy but he leaves out the part where she was told she needed one (did she?). I would also click on my powerpoint, try it out and find the video not loading and conclude that the internet is down (it's not my job to know the school's blacklists).

    But then he goes into the other examples. WiFi not working because a goddamn 3mm black-on-black button somewhere on the side of the laptop not being switched on is not people "not knowing computers", it's a hardware design failure (why does that button even exist?!?). Not knowing the iPhone backup software is not "not knowing computers", it's not knowing the iPhone backup software. I thought big companies just teaching their own shit was bad? Where would this be covered in school? Not having an anti-virus in 2018 is common sense as most of them are borderline malware. Seeding 200 torrents and getting a virus probably puts that kid at exactly the "precious" learning-the-hard-way position he claims was so important in 1999. Thinking a fake virus warning is real is called "experiencing something for the first time" (and not being dismissive about it, which is also a sin, according to him), not "not knowing computers"... it's being the victim of malware.

    He talks about "computer science", which teaches algorithms and data structures but he means "knowing every interface on earth and all the tricks to it", which most people don't have time to learn (there's a reason IT technician is a real job) and which is borderline impossible to put into a curriculum. It's information that's tied to one program, one piece of hardware at a time, most of which is outdated within 5 or 10 years. It's tedious and horrible because "computer people" (like him) have no patience and expect people to spend thousands of hours to "figure their shit out on their own" instead of blaming the bad interfaces and fragile setups that actually could be changed for the better, which would positively affect millions of people on a daily basis.

    In other words, instead of blaming the "stupidity" of people not understanding bad interfaces, how about blaming whoever put an obviously invisible "turn off internet" switch at the side of the laptop or maybe the prevalence of the desktop metaphor, which encourages you to put every document you use on the same screen. If all of humanity can't figure that shit out, you probably can't change human nature, you can only change the technology because that's way fewer people to work with.

    20 votes
    1. hungariantoast
      Link Parent
      Just a heads up, this was written in 2013, although that doesn't make your statement any less true. It's called a hardware kill switch, and they're amazing. These days you cannot physically turn...

      Not having an anti-virus in 2018 is common sense as most of them are borderline malware.

      Just a heads up, this was written in 2013, although that doesn't make your statement any less true.

      why does that button even exist?!?

      It's called a hardware kill switch, and they're amazing. These days you cannot physically turn off Bluetooth, WiFi, microphones, or webcams. You have to trust the software on your machine to do that for you, which is a huge security risk and often times the software you now rely on to disable components is just plain bad.

      A hardware switch is easy, fast, and in no way a problem if you know it's there.

      Think about iPhones. I don't know if the newer models still have it, but my old iPhone 5 had a physical switch to toggle between ringing and vibrating for notifications. I've never owned an Android phone that does that, so on my Nexus 5X I have to unlock the phone and press the volume down button to lower ringer volume. The volume will not go down if I press the button without unlocking the phone, which is ridiculous. If I want to lower alarm volume or media volume I have to actually drag the slider on the screen all the way to the left to disable those sounds. That's a hassle.

      So aside from security, hardware switches are also a very easy and intuitive design feature to quickly toggle settings of a device. Sadly, in a device market that pushes thinness and aesthetics over battery life, cooling, and function, hardware switches apparently don't have a place anymore.

      11 votes
    2. [6]
      Akir
      Link Parent
      You didn't read the article very thoroughly. The problem with the wifi wasn't that it was disabled, it was that it wasn't configured. There is a wifi symbol permanently placed on the top right of...

      You didn't read the article very thoroughly. The problem with the wifi wasn't that it was disabled, it was that it wasn't configured. There is a wifi symbol permanently placed on the top right of every Macintosh which allows you to select your WiFi network. And it can't be covered by a window: it is guaranteed to be visible unless you are running a full screen application.

      The problem wasn't that it's a bad interface - a similar setup is on essentially every consumer operating system right now - the issue is that the teacher didn't bother to try to look for it or apply logic in any way.

      He talks about "computer science", which teaches algorithms and data structures but he means "knowing every interface on earth and all the tricks to it", which most people don't have time to learn (there's a reason IT technician is a real job) and which is borderline impossible to put into a curriculum.

      Now you are just making a strawman. You will never find a student learning objective anywhere near that broad. Computer science is a very broad subject and interface design actually isn't a part of it. He merely expects people to understand how computers work in an extremely broad sense. You have to know how to do things like turning the monitor on. Behavior like he was describing when a student was clicking through an alert without reading goes beyond not undersranding how a computer works, it indicates an active effort to avoid thinking. You can't blame interfaces on that.

      Not having an anti-virus in 2018 is common sense as most of them are borderline malware.

      NO. You still need antivirus on any Windows system.

      Note this article was written in 2013, before Windows Defender was set up by default on Windows.

      5 votes
      1. [5]
        nothis
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I just have a hard time believing anyone with a mac book not knowing how to enter a wifi password. He casually mentions "proxies" later and I believe that's the real issue and they're a bitch to...

        The problem with the wifi wasn't that it was disabled, it was that it wasn't configured. There is a wifi symbol permanently placed on the top right of every Macintosh which allows you to select your WiFi network.

        I just have a hard time believing anyone with a mac book not knowing how to enter a wifi password. He casually mentions "proxies" later and I believe that's the real issue and they're a bitch to set up and you need the right information to do so, which she probably didn't expect.

        "I decided that the young woman would probably not appreciate the sarcasm, and took the MacBook off her so I could add in the county's proxy server settings."

        How on earth should she have known that?

        He merely expects people to understand how computers work in an extremely broad sense.

        He expects users to: Know how to use iPhone backup software, having completed a course on "ordering desktop icons" and being experts at distinguishing the XP theme from the Windows 7 theme to quickly identify fake virus popups. None of that is covered in a general "computer knowledge course" and neither should it be. It's information that is buried inside thousand-page user manuals, if even that, and most people learn that shit by walking into the IT office and having a smug person point at the correct solution while smirking and gently shaking his head.

        Behavior like he was describing when a student was clicking through an alert without reading goes beyond not undersranding how a computer works, it indicates an active effort to avoid thinking. You can't blame interfaces on that.

        It's frustrating but this is the job of interface design. If you see a billion pop-ups a day, of course you're clicking through them. They never help. Did the "Windows encountered a problem. Would you like to see a Windows Knowledge Base article on the general topic of your error?" popup ever help you? Did you ever read all the TOS when installing new software or registering on a site? If they display "Error 84923: OSI layer 2 connection error encountered, please check connectivity", it's the interfaces' fault and most error messages are that way. He doesn't mention the error text but I bet it didn't mention the possibility of a cable not being plugged in (could be, though, the problem ultimately would be the same). It's like pointing to Clippy when someone doesn't know how to do something in Word.

        3 votes
        1. [3]
          Akir
          Link Parent
          Microsoft has a system to automatically configure computers on a network for a proxy. I wouldn't be surprised if it only worked on Windows. That isn't an area I have experience in. I don't know if...

          Microsoft has a system to automatically configure computers on a network for a proxy. I wouldn't be surprised if it only worked on Windows. That isn't an area I have experience in.

          I don't know if I can take you seriously anymore. There is no course on ordering desktop items because it's a basic part of using a desktop operating systems. The essay doesn't mention fake antivirus popups, merely that the person had a virus and no antivirus program. And of course you read the pop-up warnings because they give you the information you need in order to solve your problems! Reading what is in front of you isn't computer science, it's common sense!

          Frankly I don't understand your obsession with interface because it seems that you complain about every system. Interfaces only go so far, because there is a learning curve to every interface. There is no interface that you will instantly understand everything about, works with everything, and does everything you want it to do.

          3 votes
          1. nothis
            Link Parent
            It's a passion of mine and I genuinely believe it has a very big impact on the world these days. There's accidents that happened because of bad interface design. There's little annoying quirks in...

            Frankly I don't understand your obsession with interface

            It's a passion of mine and I genuinely believe it has a very big impact on the world these days. There's accidents that happened because of bad interface design. There's little annoying quirks in GUIs used by millions of people that must have eaten up billions of work-hours. My interests lie in the intersection of graphic design and computer science and how little overlap there is in terms of these two disciplines working together. You have a program with a button everybody needs and it's hidden. Now you can blame everyone for "not reading the manual" or... you move the button up to where people can see it. A simple solution that I see frequently ignored because of the stubbornness of programmers. It's about acknowledging the role and the benefits of intuition and the cost of breaking it where unnecessary.

            4 votes
          2. TheJorro
            Link Parent
            This is exactly the issue considering the user had a MacBook. It has to be either installed via certificate manually (which is also something you don't want a tech-illiterate user learning how to...

            Microsoft has a system to automatically configure computers on a network for a proxy. I wouldn't be surprised if it only worked on Windows. That isn't an area I have experience in.

            This is exactly the issue considering the user had a MacBook. It has to be either installed via certificate manually (which is also something you don't want a tech-illiterate user learning how to simply accept), or you need to have a Mac-configured proxy somewhere in your tech stack, which most enterprise IT setups simply do not have.

            This is exactly the sort of thing why they should provide detailed instructions for all users and make them easily accessible. Even Microsoft's own management can be problematic, I've seen it fail to add or even remove the proxy server address often enough.

            2 votes
        2. fifthecho
          Link Parent
          ...and while I don't even work in helpdesk support anymore (though I still work in IT and systems administration and support) I help professional software developers do this on a regular basis....

          I just have a hard time believing anyone with a mac book not knowing how to enter a wifi password.

          ...and while I don't even work in helpdesk support anymore (though I still work in IT and systems administration and support) I help professional software developers do this on a regular basis. Nevermind when I help our in-house helpdesk out from time to time and do get this question at least once a day.

          ...that being said, I agree with the rest of your comment.

          2 votes
    3. [6]
      floppy
      Link Parent
      would you really? You would conclude that, because your powerpoint video isn't working, the internet is "down"? Because your powerpoint doesn't work, you can confidently conclude that Wall street...

      I would also click on my powerpoint, try it out and find the video not loading and conclude that the internet is down

      would you really? You would conclude that, because your powerpoint video isn't working, the internet is "down"? Because your powerpoint doesn't work, you can confidently conclude that Wall street has shut down, businesses are at a standstill, computers around the world are suddenly disconnected, every single website that exists is down, and no online communication is possible?

      But then he goes into the other examples. WiFi not working because a goddamn 3mm black-on-black button somewhere on the side of the laptop not being switched on is not people "not knowing computers", it's a hardware design failure (why does that button even exist?!?)

      that button exists so that you can turn your wireless off or on, as many people do, or the switch wouldn't be there. It's not a design failure, just like a turn signal stalk in a car isn't a design failure. It's something you can use to perform a function.

      the author isn't expecting everyone to know everything. it sounds like he's exasperated that people can fail to even try to solve problems logically. I'm not a computer scientist but I can try out a few things when I have a problem and usually fix it before taking it to someone to fix. All it requires is clicking on some obvious icons, and even if that's not obvious, just looking up your problem online is usually enough.

      2 votes
      1. [5]
        nothis
        Link Parent
        This is exactly what I mean. Context and casual speech is a thing. When I say "the internet is down", I assume we're both using the context of the situation and conclude that "the internet" is "my...

        You would conclude that, because your powerpoint video isn't working, the internet is "down"? Because your powerpoint doesn't work, you can confidently conclude that Wall street has shut down, businesses are at a standstill, computers around the world are suddenly disconnected, every single website that exists is down, and no online communication is possible?

        This is exactly what I mean. Context and casual speech is a thing. When I say "the internet is down", I assume we're both using the context of the situation and conclude that "the internet" is "my connection to the internet".

        the author isn't expecting everyone to know everything. it sounds like he's exasperated that people can fail to even try to solve problems logically. I'm not a computer scientist but I can try out a few things when I have a problem and usually fix it before taking it to someone to fix. All it requires is clicking on some obvious icons, and even if that's not obvious, just looking up your problem online is usually enough.

        I'd argue that a) people can't be expected to always act "logically" (as in emotionless and never being stumped by counter-intuitive solutions) and b) it's not helpful to say how "you" would be able to solve that problem as that is little more than a personal anecdote. I'm not defending the people he blames here because I identify with their problems (I probably could solve every single one of them on my own), but because I know that the reason I can solve them are my thousands of extra hours spent dealing with that shit because I have an interest in computers. Maybe that's a useful skill, nowadays, but I understand that not everybody wants to or should have to know the under-the-hood details of how a computer works. Like, every single object around me has probably thousands of hours of knowledge put into it that I am not aware off. I don't know how a mechanical lock works, I don't really understand how my speakers produce sound or how to sew a sweatshirt. There's thousands of items nearly every person on earth uses on a daily basis most of us know nothing about. And that's okay. I don't see a good reason why a computer should demand any kind of extra attention.

        2 votes
        1. [4]
          floppy
          Link Parent
          I was just nitpicking semantics there, honestly. I think the problem is that just because we don't need to know how things work doesn't mean we shouldn't have a general idea anyway. A lot of the...

          When I say "the internet is down", I assume we're both using the context of the situation and conclude that "the internet" is "my connection to the internet".

          I was just nitpicking semantics there, honestly.

          I think the problem is that just because we don't need to know how things work doesn't mean we shouldn't have a general idea anyway. A lot of the problems in the world (in my opinion) could be helped if people were more generally knowledgeable and less ignorant. It's often said that democracy depends on a well informed population, and when we vote for laws and elect legislators, we should know how things work when we try to create laws for them, be it physical objects or greater concepts like economics as a whole.

          I don't know how a mechanical lock works, I don't really understand how my speakers produce sound or how to sew a sweatshirt.

          I know the first two and I could probably explain it decently to someone who doesn't know, granted I'm not very good at sewing. I should practice. But I'm not a locksmith, and I'm not an audio engineer. Ignorance of things leads to bad consequences. While it's true that specialization increases productivity in, say, a work environment, it also is against what makes us human. We have complex minds, and we are general purpose beings. We aren't assembly line robots, and thinking that it's okay to not know about your world is a pretty bad idea in my opinion.

          3 votes
          1. [3]
            nothis
            Link Parent
            Yea, I mean, I can definitely see the idealism in that and I believe in understanding the things around you to make more informed decisions. On some level, it is depressing to me to see certain...

            Yea, I mean, I can definitely see the idealism in that and I believe in understanding the things around you to make more informed decisions. On some level, it is depressing to me to see certain companies make a living out of hiding simple things from us to sell us their solutions when there would be better solutions out there that people will no longer be aware off. I guess my problem with the op's article lies more in that he describes clearly broken things and suggests that it's people's jobs to learn the work-arounds, which is IMO not solving the problem but complicating it for people. There's no natural knowledge there, as in, for example, learning about woodworking basics or how an algorithm works. It's about knowing Apples' shit. Or Microsoft's shit. Or Lenovo's shit. It's flawed, temporal bubbles of knowledge that have a half-life of usefulness of maybe 2 or 3 years. At one point he rants about kids being taught Microsoft Office instead of, say, C++ or network basics. But nearly all his examples are solved by teaching kids workarounds for specific companies. There are exceptions, though, like the one about plugging in the cable, I admit.

            I'm sorry if I come off as a bit stubborn here, but this is something I'm passionate about. It's really about these nuances, I think it's a good general topic to bring up, I just slightly disagree about the conclusions! I believe the people making these devices are as much (or more) to blame than the people using them.

            1. [2]
              floppy
              Link Parent
              Yeah I guess really I get heated because I'm tired of people being complacent and comfortable in their ignorance, but it's more of an ideal that I have rather than someone needs to know how to do...

              Yea, I mean, I can definitely see the idealism in that and I believe in understanding the things around you to make more informed decisions. On some level, it is depressing to me to see certain companies make a living out of hiding simple things from us to sell us their solutions when there would be better solutions out there that people will no longer be aware off.

              Yeah I guess really I get heated because I'm tired of people being complacent and comfortable in their ignorance, but it's more of an ideal that I have rather than someone needs to know how to do something on some OS.

              There's no natural knowledge there, as in, for example, learning about woodworking basics or how an algorithm works. It's about knowing Apples' shit. Or Microsoft's shit. Or Lenovo's shit. It's flawed, temporal bubbles of knowledge that have a half-life of usefulness of maybe 2 or 3 years.

              yeah, this is a pretty good argument to be honest, you're right that there is a marked difference between knowledge of things around you and knowledge of how a company implements a feature. Although still I think people need to make more of an effort in general. I read you're a designer or something along those lines so I can see where your arguments are coming from.

              I'm sorry if I come off as a bit stubborn here, but this is something I'm passionate about. It's really about these nuances, I think it's a good general topic to bring up, I just slightly disagree about the conclusions! I believe the people making these devices are as much (or more) to blame than the people using them.

              I get it, and I apologize for being a dick too, although to be honest I won't stop since 1) it's fun; and 2) A lot of the time it provokes a discussion and I end up understanding the other person better. Thanks for explaining.

              What sorts of solutions do you think would not only make things easier for people, but also maybe help people gain an understanding of how things work? are solutions like this even possible?

              1 vote
              1. nothis
                Link Parent
                If you just teach people how to fix specific software, that's way too specific and if you just teach them raw computer science basics, that's way too abstract. Anywhere in the middle, you have a...

                If you just teach people how to fix specific software, that's way too specific and if you just teach them raw computer science basics, that's way too abstract. Anywhere in the middle, you have a compromise between these two options. There's just way too much to teach and it's continuously changing. It doesn't fit in a general education curriculum. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try, but we can't rely on it to become a universal solution to people having "IT problems". So my argument comes out of accepting this as a problem without a good solution.

                What can be changed is the software and the hardware. There's commonly accepted standards of how to make a good interface, let's use those. If there's a button people constantly press on accident that breaks the device, maybe move that button. If the network error is an unplugged cable, 99% of the time, show a picture of the cable as an error or just lock the cable into place for the office computers.

                I see more technically versed people getting offended about being "babied" in these situations but you have to accept that you're in a minority and it's no use looking down at people for not being interested in computers. The solutions are human ones, not technical ones. The result is less frustrated, more productive people. Everybody wins.

                And if someone genuinely wants to learn more about computers beyond what high school education can possibly provide, that's great and there should be resources for that. I just believe that's a very specific interest and skill set and a different topic entirely.

                2 votes
  7. [5]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    Sorry, but there is a difference between using a computer and maintaining a computer. Would this writer complain that kids can't drive cars if they don't know how to change a spark plug or how to...

    I suppose before I go on I should really define what I believe 'can't use a computer' means.

    Sorry, but there is a difference between using a computer and maintaining a computer. Would this writer complain that kids can't drive cars if they don't know how to change a spark plug or how to jump-start a car with a flat battery?

    While most of these problems he lists could probably be fixed by someone of average intelligence with just a smidgen of initiative (because many computers are designed to be easily fixed by users), that's not the same as using a computer.

    17 votes
    1. [3]
      vegetablesupercargo
      Link Parent
      Following your car analogy, I'd argue that what most kids are capable of doing these days in terms of using a computer is opening their door, sitting down, buckling their seatbelt, and punching an...

      Following your car analogy, I'd argue that what most kids are capable of doing these days in terms of using a computer is opening their door, sitting down, buckling their seatbelt, and punching an address into a GPS. They have no idea how to turn a key, adjust their mirrors, use a steering wheel, what a gas pedal is, etc.

      In any case, I think using an analogy to argue about semantics is missing the point a little bit. Whether we use the word "use" or "maintain" or "operate" is not the point. The point, from my perspective, is that computers and technology are greatly important, more important now than they were in years past, but kids are ironically less capable now than they were in years before. (And, as a computer science educator of kids, I 100% believe in that statement. Kids now are less capable with computers than kids 20 or even 25 years ago were). To me, that suggests that kids understand the world around them less now than they did years ago, which is a problem.

      8 votes
      1. [2]
        Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        An alternative interpretation is that computers are merely tools. We use computers to perform tasks and to entertain ourselves and to access information. Computers are not an end in and of...

        To me, that suggests that kids understand the world around them less now than they did years ago, which is a problem.

        An alternative interpretation is that computers are merely tools. We use computers to perform tasks and to entertain ourselves and to access information. Computers are not an end in and of themselves. Their only importance is in what they can do for us: just like a blender is important because it produces smoothies, and a car is important because it takes us places. Kids and people like me don't care how the magic is done; we care about the end product.

        One doesn't need to learn all the details about how a tool works in order to use it to produce something.

        7 votes
        1. vegetablesupercargo
          Link Parent
          Personally I don't think it's a defensible position when we're talking about childhood education. Children have to be taught how the world works, even if the information isn't always tangibly...

          Personally I don't think it's a defensible position when we're talking about childhood education. Children have to be taught how the world works, even if the information isn't always tangibly useful.

          I mean think about what would happen if we applied that attitude to other subjects. I just want to eat food and not care about how it's grown, so children shouldn't have to learn plant biology. I just want to wake up and get to work on time and not care about how the Earth moves around the Sun, so children shouldn't have to learn astronomy. I just want to get married and have children and not care about what a sperm or egg is, so children shouldn't have to learn sex ed. I just want lower taxes and not care about how governments work, so children shouldn't have to learn social studies or history. I just want to fill out my taxes and post on reddit and not care about language in detail, so children shouldn't have to learn about literature or grammar or writing.

          I mean you can argue about prioritizing some things over other things, but these days I don't think you can go on saying it's totally fine for children to have no idea how a computer works, how the Internet works, how social media works, what security is, etc.

          These days, a computer is more than just a blender. (Not that we shouldn't teach electronics in schools, either, but I'd agree that's a lower priority). People don't spend the majority of their waking hours, including their professional and social lives, using a blender.

          8 votes
    2. Akir
      Link Parent
      There is a difference between knowing the basics and knowing how to use something the right way. If someone grinds the transmission, drives between lanes, and doesn't use their turn signals, you...

      There is a difference between knowing the basics and knowing how to use something the right way. If someone grinds the transmission, drives between lanes, and doesn't use their turn signals, you would say that person doesn't know how to drive even though driving is the activity he is doing at that moment. You would never hire that person for a job that requires them to drive.

      Yet when it comes to computers, we give these "bad drivers" an exception. We hire people who do not know how to email in spite of email being an integral part of their job, and spend extra money on them in the form of IT support.

      There is actually a flaw with your metaphor; there are actually a number of maintenance tasks a driver are expected to do themselves. You need to know how to change a windshield wiper, how to pump up the tires, how to add gas to the tank, to add motor oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, windshield wiper fluid; to check the levels of these fluids. These are all things you don't typically hire a mechanic to fix.

      5 votes
  8. a_wild_swarm_appears
    Link
    yep that's definitely a thing. Non techie types will see kids consuming media through whatever medium and think that to mean their kids are whizzkids. When in fact they have no clue. I hear that a...

    yep that's definitely a thing. Non techie types will see kids consuming media through whatever medium and think that to mean their kids are whizzkids. When in fact they have no clue. I hear that a lot from tech people I know who work in universities, most students have no clue how to use their laptops.

    12 votes
  9. teaearlgraycold
    Link
    On one hand, this means that children are more easily taken advantage of by companies as software gets more and more scummy. On the other hand, this can only increase my value as a software...

    On one hand, this means that children are more easily taken advantage of by companies as software gets more and more scummy. On the other hand, this can only increase my value as a software developer, right?

    12 votes
  10. [6]
    Askme_about_penguins
    (edited )
    Link
    For the sake of being a bit pedantic: Ehhh... Not sure if true. At the time the article was written (2013) iOS (which seems to be the mobile system the author is most acquainted with) didn't allow...

    For the sake of being a bit pedantic:

    Mobile has killed technical competence. It's a device to get quick and easy access to Google. It's a device that allows us to take photos and post them to Facebook. It's a device that allows us to play games and post our scores to Twitter. It's a device that locks away the file system (or hides it from us).

    Ehhh... Not sure if true. At the time the article was written (2013) iOS (which seems to be the mobile system the author is most acquainted with) didn't allow users to take a peek at the file system. But Android did (and has ever since). And as of last year iOS now lets the user see the file system, too.

    Though both systems have restrictions that don't natively allow you to see the files that are important for the correct functioning of the device. Maybe this is what he meant?

    It's a device that only allows installation of sanitised apps through a regulated app store.

    Again, that's iOS. Android (for better or worse, according to whom you ask) easily lets you install apps from outside the Play Store.

    It's a device whose hardware can't be upgraded or replaced and will be obsolete in a year or two.

    Not sure about this either. You can replace parts (e.g. JerryRigEverything on YouTube) and phones can easily last years. Though with iPhones of course it's harder (but I'm not sure how much harder so I don't really know).

    Judging by 2013 standards where phones still used to have replaceable batteries and the back of the phone was easily popped off, this was even less true when he wrote it. And my old Galaxy s4 (in the possession of my father for the last 3 years) is still working. Of course is not as comfortable as a modern phone, but it's far from obsolete.

    It's a device that's as much a general purpose computer as the Fisher Price toy I had when I was three.

    You can do a lot with your phone if you really want to. (Maybe not so much with iPhones, but I'd wager still plenty).


    This has happened before. It is not a new phenomenon. A hundred years ago, if you were lucky enough to own a car then you probably knew how to fix it. People could at least change the oil, change the tyres, or even give the engine a tune-up. I've owned a car for most of my adult life and they're a mystery to me. As such I am dependent on salesmen to tell me which one to buy, mechanics to tell me what's wrong and then fix it for me and as technology progresses I am becoming dependent on satellite navigation as well.

    And that's the thing, though. We live in an extremely specialized society. Sure, he argues we should know more about computers and phones, but we're just as much dependent on cars. So we should know about repairing cars too. And refrigerators. And vacuum cleaners. And headphones, and toilets. And buildings...

    Everything that surrounds us is so complex, we cannot be realistically expected to know everything about everything we should know about. That's how and why we live in a society (please, no memes). Now, of course, I, as a somewhat technically literate person, think that, indeed, the average user doesn't know jack sht about computers and smartphones and I think they should take the time to learn about it. But then, people who are into food and cooking will think that I don't know jack sht about food and cooking and that I should learn more about it, and so will mechanics, and doctors, etc.

    Being completely self-reliant is just not possible in today's world unless you live in the woods and make all the tools you need out of stuff you can find in the woods (like that YouTube channel reddit likes so much).

    I don't think I agree with his definition of technically literate.

    I'd say that you don't need to know how to code or your way around web protocols or have really niche knowledge about network settings, how to add more RAM or even the difference between CPU and GPU. (Again, because there's no way everyone can know everything about everything.) You basically just need to know how to search for information online.

    I don't know most of the examples I used above. But I'd say I manage pretty well. I don't know how to install a new OS. But I can just “Google” (Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo...) it and follow a tutorial.

    And with regards to this:

    As such I am dependent on salesmen to tell me which one to buy, mechanics to tell me what's wrong and then fix it for me and as technology progresses I am becoming dependent on satellite navigation as well.

    The fantastic thing about the internet is you can generally self-teach yourself a lot about most stuff so you don't end up completely defenseless to the salesman or the mechanic.


    Overall, though I tend to strongly agree with him. Specially on his views on society and politicians.

    8 votes
    1. [4]
      Akir
      Link Parent
      Phones (as well as tablets and some laptops) are really not serviceable anymore. It's extremely common for them to be held together with glue. And if something does break down on them, it's rare...

      Phones (as well as tablets and some laptops) are really not serviceable anymore. It's extremely common for them to be held together with glue. And if something does break down on them, it's rare that they are replaceable. The screen and battery are big enough to be replaced by your average technician, but individual components on the circuit board are too finely pitched to be replaced by hand. And to make matters worse, many phones have batteries and screens designed for that particular model; once they sell out, they are gone for good.

      Even if those weren't problems, the hardware inside contains parts that are not only proprietary, but trade secrets. Once the phone stops getting support, the utility of the device is compromised. Unlike computers, you can't always install a more lightweight operating system because of the black box hardware.

      ...We really need to restart that Ubuntu Edge kickstarter campaign.

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        Askme_about_penguins
        Link Parent
        I see. Do you think the current situation is that way because phone manufacturers don't want people repairing their phones? Could they make them serviceable if they wanted to?

        I see.

        Do you think the current situation is that way because phone manufacturers don't want people repairing their phones? Could they make them serviceable if they wanted to?

        1. Akir
          Link Parent
          Yes and no. Part of it is because of the current obsession with thinness - they are too thin to use screws and they use a custom spun battery to fit in what little space they have. The screens are...

          Yes and no. Part of it is because of the current obsession with thinness - they are too thin to use screws and they use a custom spun battery to fit in what little space they have. The screens are made as a selling point (see Samsung's "edge" phones). But I honestly think most of this is just being used as an excuse so they can increase their sales numbers.

          The black box nature really comes from the component manufacturers, though. Qualcomm, MediaTek, etc. keep everything proprietary as a misguided attempt to protect their IP. When they come up with an SoC, they also provide a BSP - a board support package. This is basically your Android base system that comes with the binary blobs needed to run the hardware. That means that you can't realistically upgrade the kernel from the version that comes with the BSP.

          4 votes
    2. tan
      Link Parent
      I agree with your points about it being impossible to know enough (or as much as the nerds would want us to know) in every field, but everyone definitely needs to know a certain baseline about...

      I agree with your points about it being impossible to know enough (or as much as the nerds would want us to know) in every field, but everyone definitely needs to know a certain baseline about important subjects, such as food, human biology, construction, geography, etc.
      I charitably take from his (in my opinion, extremely condescending) article the idea that this baseline of knowledge is currently set far too low in the new field of computers. This is something I can empathise with, and definitely feel the pain of sometimes as a tech nerd, but for the same reason, I'm not sure if I'm in a good place to judge how much a "normal" person should know.

      Tangentially, I believe the working of your own body is probably the most important thing on the list of baseline knowledge to have. It is you after all.

      2 votes
  11. stromm
    Link
    A long-time ago (ok, 30 years), Bill Gates (Not Steve Jobs), said that he wants computers to become appliances. And that everyone will have one like they do toasters. And that they will be...

    A long-time ago (ok, 30 years), Bill Gates (Not Steve Jobs), said that he wants computers to become appliances. And that everyone will have one like they do toasters. And that they will be inexpensive enough and advanced enough like a toaster, that if it breaks, we just throw it away and buy a new one.

    He knew that in the future most people wouldn't understand the basics of computers. He wanted that.

    We're almost there.

    6 votes
  12. [2]
    smoontjes
    Link
    Kinda off-topic: I don't care enough about this subject to spend time reading such a long article, so I was happy that they'd put a TL;DR at the top. After reading it though... It's understandable...

    Kinda off-topic:

    I don't care enough about this subject to spend time reading such a long article, so I was happy that they'd put a TL;DR at the top. After reading it though... It's understandable that the writer wants people to read something they probably spent a day or two writing. But damn... That is a rather annoying and frustrating way to go about making that point. Not that I blame them.

    5 votes
    1. nothis
      Link Parent
      Yea, it set the tone perfectly. This is your average "smug IT guy" article about people being stupid for not being able to distinguish the Windows XP theme from the Windows 7 one to identify a...

      Yea, it set the tone perfectly. This is your average "smug IT guy" article about people being stupid for not being able to distinguish the Windows XP theme from the Windows 7 one to identify a fake virus popup. What's a shame is that there's some generally good or at least well-intentioned content in there about the importance of teaching people the basics of dealing with computer errors. But the tone very much reminds me why people don't want anything to do with the kind of people that actually could teach them.

      5 votes
  13. [3]
    super_james
    Link
    I wonder if this person fixes their own car and does their own plumbing....

    I wonder if this person fixes their own car and does their own plumbing....

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      Whom
      Link Parent
      From a couple separate portions of the post: You can think that something is unfortunate without being a perfect being yourself. For both cars and computers, it's amazing how much easier it is to...

      From a couple separate portions of the post:

      Windows 7 (I hate 8, but that's another story) and Mac OS X are great operating systems. They're easy to use, require almost no configuration, include or provide easy access to all needed drivers, and generally 'just work'. It's fantastic that everyone from the smallest child to the eldest grandparent can now use a computer with absolute minimal technical literacy, but it's also a disaster. It didn't used to be like this. Using an OS used to be hard work. When things went wrong you had to dive in and get dirty to fix things. You learned about file systems and registry settings and drivers for your hardware. Not any more.

      I should think the same thing will one day be said about the ability to drive. There will still be the auto-mobile geeks out there that'll build kit cars and spend days down the track honing their driving skills, while the rest of us sit back and relax as Google ferries us to and from work in closeted little bubbles.

      This has happened before. It is not a new phenomenon. A hundred years ago, if you were lucky enough to own a car then you probably knew how to fix it. People could at least change the oil, change the tyres, or even give the engine a tune-up. I've owned a car for most of my adult life and they're a mystery to me. As such I am dependent on salesmen to tell me which one to buy, mechanics to tell me what's wrong and then fix it for me and as technology progresses I am becoming dependent on satellite navigation as well. I doubt my five year-old son will even need to learn to drive. It'll be done for him by his car. When he needs to get it fixed he'll be directed to the mechanic that pays the most for on-line advertising. When he wants to stop for a bite to eat he'll be directed to the fast-food outlet that pays the most for on-line advertising. When he needs to recharge his dilithium crystals he'll be directed to the filing station that pays the most for on-line advertising.

      You can think that something is unfortunate without being a perfect being yourself. For both cars and computers, it's amazing how much easier it is to just be a user, but there's also something sad about people not understanding even the most basic things about the tools that they use every day. You're expected to buy, consume, and if anything outside of that range comes up: make someone else do it. It's a bit unfair to be like "oh, well I bet you're not knowledgable in some other domain" when that wouldn't diminish their point anyway (since their claim is that the world is tending toward making that the default way to be for non-nerds and that there's no longer a path toward "learning by necessity") and they bring it up themselves as a personal flaw.

      ...and this is all assuming that the tasks described here are equivalent to fixing your car. Most of them seem to moreso resemble things in the range of like starting the car, refueling it, changing oil, etc. There's definitely a lot of smug IT dude aura stinking up this article, but I don't think they're expecting that much of users.

      3 votes
      1. super_james
        Link Parent
        I did skim the article but clearly missed the bit where they explained how they're a raging hypocrite as well as a jerk. They're there mocking the "young woman" for not knowing the proxy settings...

        I did skim the article but clearly missed the bit where they explained how they're a raging hypocrite as well as a jerk.

        They're there mocking the "young woman" for not knowing the proxy settings but "I've owned a car for most of my adult life and they're a mystery to me". In a society who's logistics are defined by the ICE! The horror! How do they expect to survive?!?

        There's a difference between being a perfect individual and writing & publishing four thousand words explaining how smart you are and how important your subject (what even is his subject? basic operating system literacy??) is for everyone to learn.

        I do have a passing understanding of my car, I fix my own plumbing, use linux & understand how to change the proxy settings. I don't think the world would be a better place if everyone was forced to do all of these things though. I don't mock other people who aren't as mechanically curious as myself. Society thrives on specialization, it's good if lots of people know a little about lots of things but society should be structured to work fine without this.

        Legislators need to understand technology to a deep enough level to regulate it and I do think we're failing in that. But legislators also need to understand chemistry well enough to stop Monsanto killing off all our bees and the solution to that isn't making all kids formulate their own shampoo.

        6 votes
  14. nsz
    (edited )
    Link
    I would really like to see desktop version of all the common young kids apps. It's just not an option to have a family PC all the younger family members can use for their social and entertainment...

    I would really like to see desktop version of all the common young kids apps. It's just not an option to have a family PC all the younger family members can use for their social and entertainment needs, so their is just no opportunity to learn anything about how a pc functions.

    Edit: Man just reading through this article and the author is really snarky, makes it kind of had to take what he says seriously - even though I mostly agree with the it.

    2 votes
  15. [2]
    michicachan999
    Link
    This person is obviously very superior to anyone who doesn't know "how to reticulate splines using a hexagonal decode system so that I can build a GUI in Visual Basic and track an IP Address", and...

    This person is obviously very superior to anyone who doesn't know "how to reticulate splines using a hexagonal decode system so that I can build a GUI in Visual Basic and track an IP Address", and will definitely continue to make fast friends with whomever picks up on their annoyance when doing their job.

    1 vote
    1. zaluzianskya
      Link Parent
      That was a very obvious joke and not something that he actually said he knows how to do. If you read to the bottom of the article you'll see that he actually offers suggestions on how to fix this...

      That was a very obvious joke and not something that he actually said he knows how to do. If you read to the bottom of the article you'll see that he actually offers suggestions on how to fix this problem.

      9 votes