Opinion

The woes of the computer illiterate in an online world

Sally Hopman20 October 2021
Old typewriter with computer mousei

One click and we’re back to the good old days. Or have a really heavy object to throw at the laptop. Photo: Sally Hopman.

I think I’ll start up a new little project. Something suitable for a middle-aged woman that won’t interfere with her knitting. I’m going to rid the world of computers.

While I’m at it, I might also round up and hide, temporarily of course, those four-year-old children who give you that look when you ask them a perfectly reasonable question like – how did you do that?

Working from home, I attend a couple of online meetings daily. They’re called stand-ups. Mistake No 1: I sit down.

They’re at the same time every day, we talk about what we’re working on and, for one of them a week, my favourite, we mostly talk about our animals and manoeuvre them subtly in front of the computer’s camera for others to admire.

For a week or so, this laptop’s microphone wouldn’t work. It told me I wasn’t connected. I was. It went on to allege that there were too many people on the one online meeting call so I couldn’t be heard.

It just continued to do its best to embarrass me in front of my online colleagues to the point where I abandoned all pretence of computer literacy, and wrote notes on the screen saying I couldn’t hear them, could they hear me and, it doesn’t matter because I’m going to blow myself up.


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On my day off, I went to the local IT shop, of which, up until then, I’d thought sold clothing for the IT crowd.

They told me my mic (computer talk for microphone) no longer existed and that I needed to buy a really expensive set of headphones to communicate with my colleagues. This information only forthcoming after I ended up stalking their shop when they didn’t answer the phone, email or even open up when they said they would. It’s like if you have computer skills, you can rule the world. In your own time.

To learn how to do this IT stuff you have to know what you’re looking for in the first place.

How do you ask them to fix it if you don’t know what’s broken in the first place? Or when it works one minute then crashes and burns the next. Yes, you’re supposed to ask a child or Google it but sometimes, you just want the answer without having to ALT-DEL yourself. Or worse still, Control Z yourself so everything comes back to haunt you.

It is such a me and them thing. And me has had enough.


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I want my typewriter back.

Not that I ever used this one for work – I may be old, but if I had used the old Remington for work, I would have died before I got old. No, it was a gift from a friend who knew my dream of living and working in Luddite Land. Where people talked to each other’s faces, computers were great big lumpy things featured in bad spy movies and the Internet was said by someone with an accent to mean, in the net.

The only time I feel confident with anything computer-al is when I visit my mother in her nursing home. Being the youngest person there by a hundred or so years, the residents rush at me, waving their mobiles around in the air, asking me to call the grandchildren, admire the long-dead cat, what this message means and can I order them a taxi so they can escape from the place. Or at least order a pizza.

For them, anything.

Original Article published by Sally Hopman on The RiotACT.

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One Response to The woes of the computer illiterate in an online world

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Janette Brennan Janette Brennan 10:45 am 22 Oct 21

Oh soo true!! Since I retired my laptop has died because of updated programs and nobody is interested in assistance. When I worked – which was all of my life, excluding childbirth, there was always an IT expert to fix ‘whatever. I never wanted to or had to know HOW the system worked I just wanted it TO WORK!! How unreasonable is that?? Programmers?? No! I don’t want to be one of them I just want to know how to connect my laptop to my printer??? How hard can this be?? My children all live long distances away and there’s no help at hand! We may be older but our knowledge is based on life experience NOT current technology!!

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