“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
— Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the
Recently, I taught a class on how to use Microsoft PowerPoint. It was a
fun, if somewhat stressful, experience. The fun part was watching people get
into using PowerPoint. The stressful part was speaking in front of 15 people.
But having written a book on the program, I definitely know how to
use PowerPoint, so that reduced the fear quite a bit. (Yes, as the author of
a book on using a presentation program, I realize that it’s ironic that I
hate speaking in front of people…but I digress.)
Anyway, returning to the subject of fear. After seeing a lot of new
(and not-so-new) computer users over the years, I’ve noticed that a lot of fear
surrounds the use of computers. For many people, the whole idea of
learning how to use one can be just plain scary. The class I taught was a
“hands-on” class, so everyone got their own computer to use. On the first day,
everyone treated the machines like they were made of glass. But by the second or
third class, the students weren’t worried about “breaking” anything anymore,
and they just started playing. You can get pretty silly with PowerPoint because
of all the goofy sounds and horrendous colors you can generate.
Using PowerPoint is like digital finger-painting; you return to your childish roots.
What I realized from all this is that, like my class, I never started
learning much about computers until I just stopped worrying and started
doing. The more I did with my computer, the more I learned.
So, if you find your computer intimidating and are feeling depressed
that your 6-year old knows more about it than you do, take some time to
just “fiddle around” with the programs on your computer. Once you get more
of an idea of what’s going on and what you can do with all the stuff inside
that ugly beige box, you won’t be intimidated anymore. After all, that’s
probably exactly what your 6-year old did.