Friday, September 16, 2005

Looking in through the candy-store window: A technology-challenged person speaks out

This is how it feels:

[From an e-mail]
“The phone-book file is a story in itself. When we first got a computer, [our son] was around 6 and I was at home with him, so, while he was in school, I took some time every day to enter my handwritten phone book into the computer. After about a month and a half, I had the whole thing entered, and was feeling quite proud of myself. Unfortunately, when I mentioned my accomplishment to a more tech-savvy friend of ours, he looked at me as if I had two heads. Apparently, there was this thing called a database application . . . *Now* you tell me?! I didn't even know how to set up a table--I'd alphabetized the whole phone book manually, the old-fashioned way! To this day, I've never had the koach to re-do the thing. So my phone book went from Multimate to WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS to Word for Windows, and there it sits, to this day.”

[From an e-mail]
“ I've always said of computers that my generation is like a generation of immigrant parents--just as immigrant children teach their parents the language of their new country, so my generation's children are way ahead of many of us older parents in figuring out how to use computers and other modern technological marvels (digital cameras, DVRs, etc.)."

True, that’s what I’ve always said, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that “it ain’t necessarily so.” Half of my friends—people of roughly my age—are more adept at using computers and modern technology than I am. It’s not my age group—it’s me.

This is how it feels:

“You don’t have to hold down the button while you’re taking videos. Just push it once to start, then push it once to stop. . . . “ “Of course the camera isn’t taking pictures—you still have it on the video setting. Watch your settings. Make sure it’s on the “photo” setting. . . .”Why don’t you use the portrait setting when you’re taking pictures of people?” . . . If you’re going to take a landscape shot, use the landscape setting. Look at the icons—they’re self-explanatory.” (Oh, of course—the icon is a frame around two black arrows standing side by side. They’re supposed to suggest mountains. I knew that. Not.)

Sorry, son, I’m illiterate in icon. We never learned to read icon in elementary school. (Of course, that’s because most icons didn’t exist yet.)

[From an e-mail:]
"[Our son] says the icons on our camera are easy to figure out. Maybe that's because he's studying Japanese. :) "

This is how it feels:

One of my best friends is a computer wiz. She wrote a proposal to the New York State Education Department seeking authorization for the college for which she works to start a new degree-granting program in instructional technology (the use of computers and other technology in education). Her proposal won the state’s approval, and the program is now up and running. She also gets her jollies designing databases with another friend.

I took a full-day crash course in Access. I didn’t understand a thing. So I took a teach-yourself-Access instruction book, went through every exercise and read the entire guide cover to cover. I still don’t understand a thing.

This is how it feels:

I was trying to carry my share of the weight, for once, by installing my own anti-virus software update. The software didn’t work—I couldn’t get the new GoBack installed, despite having uninstalled the old one. So the Punster called Symantec to see what the problem was. It turned out that, by dint of sheer talent, I’d managed not to complete the installation. How, exactly, does one manage to stop an automatic upload??!!

This is how it feels:

"I'm not your tech support anymore. Read the manual, or look it up on the Internet. You have to figure out how to do these things yourself."

I already tried that, remember? I tried to learn Access by reading the book and following the instructions. It didn't help. I tried to install some software from a CD that should have done the whole installation automatically. That didn't work either.

Technology and I just don't get along. Attention Deficit Disorder + instruction manual = inability to focus + information overload = confusion.

This is how it feels:

At 40, I had just gotten my first computer, and was busy figuring out the perfect way—or not—to enter data (see above).

At 39, this other individual has a very nice blog. It’s loaded with photos. It has colored text, and text in italics. It has those wonderful one-word hyperlinks instead of the clunky full URLs that I’m always using. And not only does it have a sidebar, but, to make things even nicer, the blogs listed therein get these neat little “Updated” notations displayed next to their names, probably automatically, whenever they’ve been updated. Cool. :)

It gets better, folks—click on the one-word hyperlink that says here and you’ll go there. His website has more hyperlinks than Wikipedia. And “oh, the places you’ll go”—the links take you to “Bootlegs of live performances!” And “Reviews.” You can even “Watch Movies Here.” After all of which, you can “Click HERE to purchase the album.” But, wait, I haven’t finished yet. You can download mp3’s. (Roughly translated, “mp3” means “music.” :) ) And check out that whatever-it-is called a “radio blog:” Click on a song and it’ll play music for about an hour, on autopilot. Even cooler. :)

[From e-mails]
Yours truly: “Speaking of camcorders, I have to ask you this, because you're the only person I know who's done it! How do you upload videos to the Internet? I have a few that we took in Israel that I would love to send around, but I couldn't even figure out how to send those dance videos, which were probably shorter. What's the method? Do I need a website? Is this going to be a major national project? (And are you gonna shoot me for bein' such a pest? :) "

The Party in Question: “You need to have the capability of transferring video from the camera to the computer. That means either a relatively new camera and a relatively new computer, or a video capture card or box that you can connect to your computer and VCR. Your son will need to help you with this because I don’t think there’s any way I can do this through email.

What I have is a new cannon DVR recorder which has a DVR output. I put a firewire card into the computer I bought in January. Then I bought a special cable to connect the two. Now the video can be uploaded directly into the computer via either native windows xp software or special software that came with the camera. Then you have to compress it to web quality (usually an option when you save the clip) and up load it somewhere. Like a podcast.

Where did I lose you?”

Yours truly: “Er, as long as you asked, you lost me here: "Then you have to compress it to web quality (usually an option when you save the clip) and up load it somewhere. Like a podcast."

I'm afraid I'm still at the "Internet for Dummies" level. Sigh. Between this and Homestar, there are times when I'm not sure we speak the same language. "

The Party in Question: "You gotta get on the stick with the Homestar ;) "

It’s said that almost every word in Hebrew has a shoresh, a three-letter root. Lamed, mem, dalet—L, M, D. Lilmod (to study). L’lamed (to teach). Melamed (a teacher of young students, pupils). Talmid (student).

So is “pod” an English shoresh? Podcast? iPod? What’s a pod? Everybody else knows what a pod is. I don’t.

That’s how it feels.

Friday, Sept. 23, 2005 update:

PsychoToddler said...
Why aren't you using the button bars in the blogger compose post window to do the hyperlinks?
Thu Sep 22, 04:52:12 PM 2005

Experiments with buttons in "compose post" window follow:

"The wonderful world of color"



Unquote (tricky—gotta write the part after the quote first—can't figure out how to turn the "blockquote" feature off.)

And now for the great hyperlink experiment:


Hey, check out that "Preview" function—I can finally check my posts before I publish them. (Maybe I can catch more mistakes before they get posted worldwide.) You mean that one-word hyperlink that I just attempted to create actually works?! Holy Moses! Thanks, Mark!



Blogger PsychoToddler said...

The problem is, if you didn't understand the jargon, ie 'podcast', the odds are that the explanations will be meaningless too.

Here's my perspective (as a 39 year old geek):

When I was 12 we bought our first VCR. My dad handed me the manual and told me to 'figure it out.' I read the manual and figured out how to connect the antenna to the VCR, and the VCR to the TV (using a philips head screwdriver, I believe. This was before coaxial cables). Then I studied each step in the manual until I could figure out how to set the clock, tune the channels (you had to turn little dials until the picture stopped being fuzzy) and eventually set the timer to record on Shabbos. It was very cumbersome, but also very accessible. There wasn't one aspect of it that wasn't unter my total control. If something went wrong, it wasn't that hard to figure out what it was (like I programmed it to tape at 7:30am instead of 7:30pm). It wasn't long before he was sending me out to peoples homes to connect their VCRs.

Things have gotten exponentially more difficult since then. Many people got on the technology bandwagon when it had already picked up speed. It's hard to catch up if you're not that quick on your feet.

Computers. I tinkered together my first computer when I was 14, and my friend brought home an IBM PC. 1980. It didn't do anything but load dos and blink at you. I coulndn't figure out what it was for. We loaded on Microsoft flight simulator and watched a blue line and a brownline slowly turn across the screen. "What's that?" I would ask. "I think it's the sears tower." "Looks like a jagged staircase." "That's because we're cockeyed and about to crash into it."

Again, computers have gotten successively more complex since then, and much more goes on under the hood than before. So when something goes wrong, who can tell where it is? I was right there with you with Multimate. That was my first word processor. I think it is one of the most complicated programs ever written. There are no pull down menues. You have to memorize dozens of unintuitive key commands. You have to guess at what the final printed page will look like.

I was glad to leave dos-based word processors behind. I worked my way through dos, windows 2, 3, 3.1, 3.11, windows 95, 98, ME, 2000 and now XP. For me it has been evolutionary. But for many people jumping in, it can be incredibly confusing.

Back to video. When I was 9, my dad handed me the Super8 video and told me, "Here, you're in charge of this now." I taught myself how to load the film, take the movies, and splice them using a razor blade and tape. Then I loaded, ran, and unjammed the projector at our house. Videotape cameras were a snap compared to that.

I realize there are things coming out that are or will be beyond me. That's just normal. I have no idea how to set up a podcast. I pay for a private server for my own music.

But hey, I think you've figured out the hyperlink thing!

Mon Sep 19, 09:53:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Would that I could ever say "I tinkered together" *anything.* But you are right that "computers have gotten successively more complex since then, and much more goes on under the hood than before. So when something goes wrong, who can tell where it is?" Even my son, who can take apart our desktop's CPU, install a new piece of hardware, and put it back together in his sleep, doesn't dare try to crack open a laptop. He insists that the space to work in is so much smaller that there's literally no room for error.

"But hey, I think you've figured out the hyperlink thing!" That's where the years of keyboard commands from Multimate and WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS come in handy. Just highlight the URL in the address bar, press Ctrl-C, go into the Create or Edit Post window, press Ctrl-V, and the hyperlink is pasted in and good to go. Granted, it's not nearly as nice as a one-word hyperlink--and I finally realized that it was the long hyperlinks that were forcing my sidebar to become more of a "bottombar" :)--but still, the copied hyperlinks *work,* at least.

It's a matter of priorities--I've decided that I'd rather enroll in an Ulpan next semester and try to bring my Hebrew up to snuff than use the time to learn HTML.

Mon Sep 19, 11:37:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"I have no idea how to set up a podcast. I pay for a private server for my own music."

Thanks, Doc. I feel better already. :)

Mon Sep 19, 11:40:00 PM 2005  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Why aren't you using the button bars in the blogger compose post window to do the hyperlinks?

Thu Sep 22, 04:52:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Mark, I just updated the post with a few experiments, including my first one-word hyperlink!!! I'm so low-tech, it never occurred to me to try the buttons in the "compose post" window--I never really paid any attention to them before. Thanks for the suggestion. Sometimes it helps when I just open my eyes. :)

Fri Sep 23, 12:36:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Sheyna said...

Jumping in very, very late, here but the ultimate source of the problem is that the Pod People have arrived, and are rather quickly taking over the world. We must guard ourselves against them. You never know who might be a Pod Person.

I got the strangest look the other day when I mentioned that I "taped" a TV show to watch later. Tape? TAPE? I must be some sort of living paradox - I can create MP3s from old vinyl record albums, write HTML code in my sleep, yet I insist on using TAPE to record TV shows and home movies.

It's my last grasp on reality, for when I go completely digital, when the other eight numbers disappear from between 01 and 10, then the Pod People will have come for me, too.

Thu Jan 19, 11:16:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Oy. I'm *hiding* from the Pod People. And since my son is one of them, that gets very complicated, indeed. :)

Eventually, I'm going to have to break down and at least *try* to figure out how to set the DVR, if for no other reason that to keep my son from nagging me to death. :)

Fri Jan 20, 01:49:00 AM 2006  

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