Wednesday, August 26, 2009


My daughter Lindsay, working for me while waiting for her real job to start, brought leftovers for her lunch. I tried a bite and asked for the recipe. It was a chicken casserole recipe one of her young married friends had passed along. My daughter is going to give me an abbreviated version. It seems her friend, who had never cooked before marriage, put COMPLETE instructions on the recipe. For example, instead of saying "add 1 cup diced green pepper," the friend's recipe included the directions for how to dice - "cut the pepper open, remove the stems and seeds, cut away the white edges, slice the remaining pepper into small pieces." Similar descriptions were written for other ingredients of the recipe.

That is exactly what I need for working with the computer. This chart shows what I do when the gremlins living in my computer(s) act up.
The mysterious box on the chart is the one in the bottom right corner that includes the words "FOLLOW ANY INSTRUCTIONS." Instructions, whether from Help menus or support sites or sympathetic message boards, always seem to assume that I know how to dice the pepper.

In my twenty-five year history of PC use, I've "cooked" a lot. Unfortunately, most of the "recipes" don't include COMPLETE instructions.

In the early 1980's, just after I was promoted to senior staff, my company decided to give individual personal computers and related training to new staff. A couple of years later, after my next promotion, the firm decided to provide personal computers and training to senior staff, too.

Left out again, I purchased my own IBM PC. It had a 20MB hard drive. Yes, I said megs. I probably still have the receipt somewhere, it cost around $2,000. I knew the only way I would ever learn how to use a computer was to just do it! I kept it at work so that I could do my own computer generated notes and schedules and feel less like an idiot when supervising staff.

A few years after that I left the big firm to have my own business, partnering with another woman. She was a few years behind me in age and experience, but she was ahead of the curve with technology, having been there at the right time for the best training. She was my computer crutch for several years.

To my chagrin, I'm now one person using three different computers. I have a fairly new PC with Windows Vista. I should have returned it and paid the 25% re-stocking fee. I have my six year old PC with Windows XP, which runs the software that won't work on Vista. And now, after the Vista disaster, I bought a Mac. I can use both the Apple and the Windows operating systems on the Mac.

My goal is to have the three computers consolidated on my Mac by the end of the year.

With my switch to a Mac, I'm having to start over with new terminology, different task bars and new keyboard shortcuts, just to name a few things. I'm making it up as I go, since I really have never known what I'm doing.

At least I'm generally fearless trying to figure things out. I will push buttons until I've either fixed my problem or created a bigger problem truly worthy of calling in support troops. My computer consultant (husband) and kids sigh and shake their heads.

What I need is for some publisher to come out with a whole series of books that provide basic instruction. Right now you can buy books "... FOR DUMMIES," but what is there for people like me who are dumber than the dummies those books are written for?

If only I knew what all the words meant and could have COMPLETE instructions!

That's what I'm hoping for, a publisher who will insist that its authors "Keep It Simple, Stupid" when writing basic technology cookbooks.

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