A varied and sometimes erratic record of what I'm learning inside and outside of the classroom

Saturday, September 11, 2010

An Adventure in Digital Illiteracy

My Headache in a Cardboard Box
Today I realized just how computer ignorant I really am.

Answer: Very. EXTREMELY, even.

What follows is the story of my quest to solve an essential computer problem and the insights and knowledge gained thereby, which may be of use to any as computer illiterate as myself. Please--enjoy. 

So last weekend the AirPort card on my trusty 3-year-old MacBook went kaput. My AirPort (the mechanism that enables connection to wireless networks) would turn off by itself 10 seconds after I turned it on, which obviously means I couldn't connect to the Internet.


So I haul my Mac over to the Apple store on campus, and the guy tells me that my AirPort card is bad and I need a USB wireless adapter. However, they don't have any in the store that would be Mac compatible, so he recommends I go to Best Buy.

Since I don't have a car, I arrange for my aunt to take me over. We jaunt over to the store this morning, and a nice guy who works there helps me find an adapter that should be compatible. And since it's just "plug and go," they tell me I shouldn't need to have them install it for me. In theory.

So I get back to my apartment, and, like a good little girl, I open the box and read and follow the instructions.
1. Insert installation CD.
2. Click on Autorun.exe to install the software.

I click. Gibberish.
Apparently this little device (which, I soon realize, could be renamed "Headache in a Cardboard Box") is not immediately Mac compatible. You have to install a Mac driver first, which you download from the Internet. PROBLEM! Because being able to GET ON THE INTERNET is the WHOLE REASON I BOUGHT THIS DARN THING IN THE FIRST PLACE!!

Fortunately, I have a lovely roommate who is more computer literate than I am, and with her Internet enabled computer and handy-dandy flash drive, it takes us three hours of wrestling/blundering before (miracle of miracles!) we (meaning mostly she) finally get it to work. As we're doing this, a lot of our dialogue goes like this:

Computer: "Configure the correct device [or some other computer jargon phrase]."
Me: "What does 'configure' mean??"
My roommate: "I don't really know..."

I don't have a working knowledge of even the most basic computer terminology, and therefore, I don't even know how to effectively find help for a problem because I don't know how to describe what is going on. Problem. So what can I (or anyone else in my position) do to remedy my woeful computer inadequacies?

I did some research, and it turns out that there is help and hope for computer dummies.

  • For BYU students, the Office of Information Technology has a site (http://train.byu.edu/) where you can register for computer classes (I personally will need the Computer Basics Foundations class) and view video tutorials on a variety of programs. 
  • For more beginning Mac users, I found this lovely online help book through the BYU library database called Easy Mac (isn't that an awesome name?) with lots of pictures and step-by-step instructions.   
  • Techterms is a helpful online technical glossary that has a variety of search factors so you can find out what all that puzzling computer jargon means.
  • If you want to spend some money, www.worthgodwin.com offers a series of video computer tutorials on CD that are explained in "normal, plain English." Or you can subscribe to the free email newsletter--just scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and enter your  email address.
Knowledge is power, my friends. If you know how something works, you become much more resourceful when problems arise. As we talked about in Digital Civilization, if you know the language/communication system of the day, it gives you a huge societal advantage. And computer knowledge, in particular, can save you a lot of headaches. 

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading about your experience haha. Sounds like a lot of my own :D

    The thing is, while I agree that "computer knowledge... can save you a lot of headaches," I think digital illiteracy is only about 10% of the problem. The other 90% (yes, I know I'm simplifying ratios here) is the fault of the manufacturer, the software developer, the distributor, and so on. If Apple's Airport card fails after three years of constant use, so be it—products can't work forever. But whatever company made your adaptor failed to put the correct drivers on it, and Apple failed to foresee such a problem happening. Windows also fell through because it failed to make the problem understandable to the average user (i.e., you).

    There's likely many other failings I'm not even aware of, but my point is that companies generally don't care about user experience so much as selling a product and letting you waste hours of your time worrying about its proper function. Is it the reader's fault that she can't read a book full of misspellings and grammatical errors, on top of a dull, convoluted plot? No. It's the author's, even if he does insist that you lack the attention span and the proper vocabulary to read his book.