Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for my weekly newsletter, "Confident Computing", for more solutions you can use to make your life easier. Click here.

Never Stop Learning

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

Transcript

5 tips for getting the most out of your technology

Tip No. 2: Never stop learning!

Hi everyone, I’m Leo Notenboom for askleo.com. I’ve been doing a five-video series on things to help you get the most out of your technology.

Basically, I want you to think about learning and keep it at the forefront of your mind.

I want to go back in time just a little bit – back to 1977. That was a really good year for me. I met the woman who would become my wife, but I also encountered computers for the first time. As a requirement of the courses that I was taking at the university, I was required to take Engineering 141 – Introduction to Fortran programming.

I had no idea what programming was all about. I had no idea what Fortran was. As it turns out, Fortran, a programming language, at that time we were using it on mainframe computers, and I was learning how to program them using punch cards and all sorts of … oh, it would, be very old technology to you today.

It was one of those interesting moments, though, because it was pivotal in my life. Yes, this was an environment where you were expected to learn, but I did more than that. This was one of those things where I encountered computers, I encountered computer programming, and it was a watershed moment for me. This was the moment where I knew what I would be doing for the rest of my life.

The fact that people paid me to do this kind of stuff, that was just gravy. This was my passion; this was what I wanted to do. What was interesting, if I take a look back at the grades at that time is that there’s a very strong pattern in what happened through the rest of my college career.

My grades relating to technology, my grades relating to programming and computers, were all great. My grades related to just about everything else? Well, not so much.

Fast-forward now a few years to my time at Microsoft. I often considered, I often tell people that I had what I considered a two-year corporate attention span.

I was there for a little over 18 years, and I held several different positions in several different groups over that time. What I would do every time I ended up looking for a new position within the company, which was wonderful. They were very flexible about allowing you lots of opportunities company-wide, but one of the questions that I would always ask myself is what can I learn?

What would I learn from the various opportunities that I was being presented with? One of the things that I really, it took me about 10 years there to really figure this out, but one of the things that really made a difference not only to just my success within the company but my personal enjoyment of what it was I was doing was learning new things, learning new technologies, learning new concepts and so forth.

Microsoft was a wonderful place to do that.

Fast-forward a few more years to today – Ask Leo! The thing that I’ve come to the conclusion on over the last, I’ll say year or so, even though it has been true for the entire thirteen years now that I’ve been doing Ask Leo! is that everything is an experiment – literally everything that I do with Ask Leo! is an experiment of some sort.

Even these videos that you see here. What you may or may not realize is that since I started doing these roughly, weekly videos a few months ago is that each time there’s usually been something that’s just a little bit different. I’m experimenting with each video. A few weeks ago I introduced the green screen. You probably can’t see it now because I’m using it to provide a white background but there’s a green piece of cloth behind me.

That was new; that was something that allowed me to experiment with, “How would it look?” How do I do it? How do I do it in the software? How do I do it in the camera? What kind of adjustments do I need to make and so forth? Learning. It’s all about learning and learning new things.

Hopefully, hopefully, each video that I do is just a little bit better than the one preceding it. If nothing else, it’s a little bit different as I try new things each time. Learning. That’s why I’m in this industry. That’s one of the reasons that I love this industry, because as you know, there is always something new.

Again, to talk about the videos that I’m doing here today, the fact that I can do this by myself in a reasonable amount of time with a reasonable amount of equipment is something unheard of as short as ten years ago, maybe fifteen, but the fact that I can do this, that anyone can do this is an amazing amount of opportunity for people.

Yep, it requires that we learn some new tools and new techniques to make it happen but the possibilities are incredible. What I’m hoping for you to take away from all this is that I would really like you to embrace learning. I think that you will have a better time with technology; it will serve you better the more willing you are to learn new things.

I didn’t ask you in the previous video to just embrace change. If anything, I asked you simply to make change a decision as opposed to a frustrated reaction. Today I am asking you to embrace learning, because it really does improve your experience, especially in the face of this seemingly constant change that we’re faced with, and learning actually improves your memory and your faculties.

It’s one of those things that we keep coming back to, especially as we age. that says, you know, the more things you do, the more you exercise your mind, the longer it lasts. Given what I do, and what I expect out of this industry for the next 50 years, I expect to be around and hopefully have an agile mind for a really long time because lord knows I exercise everyday in one fashion or another.

There is plenty of opportunity for learning. There just is. Some of it is in fact, by choice. You don’t have to learn how to do videos. You don’t have to learn how to do Word. You don’t have to learn how to do pictures or communicate with email. These things are just opportunities for you and you can choose to learn how to do them, and I encourage you to pick the ones that are interesting and actually embrace learning about them and how to do them well.

Some, on the other hand, are kind of inevitable. You can delay some change as I talked about in the previous video, but ultimately things do change. Sometimes things just will change. Those are opportunities for you to continue this embracing of learning; this ability to willingly go forth and try and learn what’s new, how things work, how things have changed and what’s going on.

Embracing the learning mindset is really what I’ll say one of the nuggets, the real core of this tip about making technology work better for you, because if you can do that, if you can know that every time you may end up having to learn something new and you look forward to that, you’ll have a much, much better time.

So, some examples. I mean everybody’s at a different place when it comes to technology, so I’m going to start at the beginning. One of the things that I encourage people to do and that I wish more people did is to invest in what I’ll call the basics. These are things that a lot of people simply fly by.

They don’t bother looking at the stuff out there; they’re just so focused on getting what it is they need to get done, done, that they’re not willing to, or they don’t take the time, to invest in really learning about the bigger picture.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, and in fact, some concepts like some I’m going to list here in a minute, they’re platform independent. It doesn’t matter what computer you use; it doesn’t matter what operating system you use; it doesn’t matter actually in some case, what technology you use.

But concepts like disks and files and folders, every platform has them. Even the camera that I’m staring at right now. It has files and folders on it. It’s recording this video to a file in a folder on a disk.

Cut, copy, paste, the clipboard, every operating system has it. Windows, Linux, Mac, the concepts are all there. The concepts are actually all the same.

Window operations. When we talk about how you open and close windows, the fact that windows can contain things. The fact that windows are on top of each other and can cover each other up and you can move them around and so forth. These too are concepts that are common to all of the operating systems that you might encounter. These are things that are worth investing in, that are worth learning about to make your experience a little bit smoother, a little bit easier and a little bit more fun.

If we dig down just a little bit deeper, we go that next level down, then yeah, the devil, as they say, is in the details. The things, the way you might use some of those concepts (cut, copy, paste is the one that I’ll use here) for example, might be different on those different platforms and yes, especially for someone like me who is constantly going between platforms, I’m constantly using Mac, I’m using Windows, I’m using Linux, it gets to be challenging to realize that say, copy, just edit copy on a menu, which in fact, maybe on the edit menu on each of those platforms is actually a different keystroke on each of those platforms.

What is Ctrl C in Windows for copy is a Command C on a Macintosh and I’m constantly getting the two confused. And it’s a Control Insert on Linux so there are definitely differences, but obviously not everybody’s going to be platform hopping like I do. This is where it really pays to understand your platform, learn about it and get familiar with it.

Understanding Ctrl C, Ctrl V for copy/paste – that can really speed up and really make your experience editing documents, typing in emails, significantly easier, significantly less tedious and significantly more productive. It’s worth investing the time in understanding the concepts behind the things you use everyday even after it changes, and in fact, especially after it changes. Now, I’m not saying copy/paste is going to change.

Copy/paste for example, has been this way for decades – literally decades in Windows, but there are other things that you may use everyday. And at some point, some of those things may change. This learning that you have, this understanding of the concepts behind what’s going on actually make transition into a new representation of those concepts easier.

It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. One of the best pieces of advice, and in fact, it’s a piece of advice that led directly to my doing videos here for Ask Leo! is to take baby steps. You don’t have to do the whole thing all at once. Learn a little bit. Pick one thing at a time. Get comfortable with it; get familiar with it.

There are resources that you can use (obviously, I hope that you use Ask Leo! but obviously I can’t cover everything). There are lots of resources out there to help you understand and learn about the various concepts and various things that you might want to use everyday.

Take your own time! Set your own pace. This isn’t’ a race. There’s no pressure. You’re not getting graded on this stuff. The ultimate success or failure is really whether or not it works for you; whether or not you feel comfortable doing something. Take your time. You don’t have to feel this inordinate amount of pressure to make things happen quickly. Take your time; figure it out; it will be okay.

One of the things that I find, I don’t know, kind of funny, kind of ironic and maybe just a touch sad is how little some people are willing to invest in the learning that I’m talking about. What that means for you, though, is that just a little bit of learning, a little bit of understanding about the underlying technologies and tools that you’re using could make you the go-to person for a lot of other people.

It could make you the resident expert. Remember what’s the definition of an expert: An expert is just somebody that knows more than you do. Well, if you know more than the person next to you, then to them, you’re the expert. You may not want to be the expert, and that’s okay but that then becomes a choice you can make whether or not you want to serve as that expert to people around you, but the good news is that you’ll have this basis of understanding so that you are that much more productive, that much more able to do things on your own.

It’s funny; one of the terms I keep coming back to is amazement and wonder because really, a lot of technology, a lot of what I’ve talked about, the changes that I’ve seen over the last 30 years since I did, 40 years now, since I encountered the computer for the first time, it has been amazing.

It has been wonderful, and I think that one of the reasons that I have so much fun with it and one of the reasons that I really want you to also experience that amazement and wonder; I want you to be less frustrated, like I said in the last video. I want you to have fun with technology and use it in ways that you find productive and useful.

Ultimately, the more you learn about technology, the better you’ll be at it. You’ll be less frustrated with the technology that’s in front of you. There’s just so much opportunity and potential. It doesn’t really take a lot of learning, but it does take a willingness to never stop learning. That’s what I really hope you take away from today’s tip.

As always, I’m always interested in hearing your feedback on these videos, on the concepts that I’m talking about. Here’s the URL. If you are anywhere but on Ask Leo! visit that page. That’s where you’ll find the comments and the discussion relating to today’s video.

I had an interesting comment on the last video where someone was basically saying you know, you’re starting to talk about more conceptual issues than just “how to” kinds of stuff. My response is twofold to that: One is that these topics, I picked these five tips because in doing this for thirteen years, these are things that I really see getting in people’s way. These are the things that I really think that I aside from, you know, forget about tweaking this driver or fixing that particular problem with Windows, these are the concepts that I think really make fundamental differences to the way people approach technology and as a result the success that they end up having with technology.

So, yeah, I focused on a couple of, like I said, I call them “cerebral thought exercises” change, and learning are things that are more about attitude and how you approach technology. It’s not to say that I’m stopping “how to’s”; don’t worry about that. There’s plenty of that still in the queue. There are plenty of questions that are coming up.

But what I want to stress is that like I said, these are some of the things that I have seen over the course of the last 13 years that I think make the biggest difference, the single biggest difference at the highest possible level for people approaching technology, so that’s why I say, I hope you can cope with change as we talked about in the previous video and embrace learning as we’re talking about today.

The third tip coming up in the next video, there is something specific I want you do. It will be tip number three, and to be honest, it will be something that won’t surprise you and if anything it will surprise you that I haven’t talked about it yet.

So, with that in mind, again, leave a comment down below on askleo.com and I will see you next week. Thanks for watching.

24 comments on “Never Stop Learning”

  1. “It’s funny; one of the terms I keep coming back to is amazement and wonder because really, a lot of technology, a lot of what I’ve talked about, the changes that I’ve seen over the last 30 years since I did, 40 years now since I encountered the computer for the first time, it has been amazing.” – Amazing indeed. And, because the advances in technology have been incremental, it’s sometimes easy to take them for granted. But when you actually stop and think about it….wow! I’m still slightly mind-blown every time I use my smartphone to navigate around an unfamiliar city. In the past, you’d spend ages looking at maps, and bus and tube schedules to try and work out how to get somewhere – and, more often than not, you’d still get lost! But armed with a smartphone, it couldn’t be easier. Need to find somewhere to eat? Your phone can tell you what’s nearby. Menu not in English? Just point your phone’s camera at it and you can get a translation. It’s all quite incredible. And it’s also incredible to think about what the future may hold.

  2. Hi Leo,
    I have been following you for a long time now, since I first came across Ask Leo about 5 years ago.
    I have relished all of your How to’s and Dont’s and your advice has gone a long way to helping me (a virtual self learning advocate,) become a very efficient operator. I am 71 years old, a trades person as an Automotive Electrician a long time ago come farmer for a number of years, but now well and truly retired from most things except gardening and Computer. I fully acknowledge your thrust on trying to get people to learn more for themselves especially after I answered a Survey from Microsoft on my satisfaction of Windows 10 last week. While I was there at the Blog, I happened to skip through a few of the comments others had submitted and was truly shocked at the lack knowledge of most of the people who had submitted.
    There seems to be a vast majority out there that really don’t their way at all, how to work through something new and set it up to run the programs they were used to using, to be more efficient and easier access.
    I am really pleased with Windows 10 and find it has only improved everything I do on the computer and still able to find everything I had on Windows 7 which it managed to give me much more memory again without detriment by compressing the old files.
    I look forward to all your future advice and words of wisdom.
    Yours truly,
    Lindsay Evans

  3. This spirit of enjoying discovery I know well. Through the years I’ve learned and used Fortran, Algol, APL (one of my favorites), Cobol, Pascal, PL/1, Cics, DL/1, DB/2, SQL, MS Access, Perl, Basic and more, and always found it fun to get it working. Last year I wanted to automate a little recurring job in Windows 7, so I bought the big Shell Script volume (“read the fine manual”); it took me a day and a half to figure it out and it was a pleasant little job. But when I use a linux machine and have to pay attention all the time that I cannot use ctrl-c, ctrl-v, ctrl-x the way I’m used to, it distracts me from my work. That’s not what I call learning, that’s a pain in the neck.
    I live in a country where traffic keeps to the right. When I go to the UK, I must keep in mind that people there consider the left side of the road to be the right side. This requires constant attention to prevent accidents, and this effort is not productive in a real way, it’s a burden. I remember driving a narrow Scottish country lane, taking a sharp curve, and suddenly seeing a car coming from the other direction. I pulled the wheel to the left, and so did the other driver; as we dashed past one another I caught a glimpse of his license plate–it was Italian. We both made the correct move, contrary to our ingrained continental driving habits. (Things would have worked out equally well had we both instinctively pulled to the right!)
    Now this can be tricky enough. But imagine what the various OS platforms do. They all keep the same side of the road, but one has the gas pedal to the right, the clutch to the left, the brake in the middle; the next platform mirrors the two outer pedals; another switches brake and gas; and so on. If car manufacturers would do likewise, I guarantee the price of car insurance would quadruple overnight.
    I prefer to use Windows, because it’s the PC platform I’ve used most. Not that I particularly like Windows, but my fingers automatically do ctrl-v etc. For the same reason I don’t use the new version of MS Office (though I’ve paid for it) as I get lost in the ribbon menu while in the older suite I know all the menu entries by heart. I don’t mind they introduced the ribbon; but I hate them for not making a simple button to toggle between classic menu and ribbon menu. This is the kind of change that I thoroughly hate and don’t find adventurous at all.
    Remember: in the UK they drive on the left, but the gas is at the right, the brake in the middle, the clutch at the left. With good reason!

    • I didn’t like the ribbon either when it was first forced upon me. However, as using Office 2010 was my only option at work, I worked with it. Now I wonder how I ever got along with menus before. The ribbon is just faster. Just like you learned where everything was in the menus, you’ll soon learn where everything is in the ribbon. And you can even make your own Quick Access Toolbar with your most commonly used options.

  4. I’m 81 years old. I retired from Public Service (Administration) back in 1986 when punch cards delivered all the data to computers. I “inherited” my youngest daughter’s old Commodore 64 computer with it’s little “Frogger” game and the ability to make music by hitting different keys that produced different “peep” tones. I played with software called “Bulletin Boards” where you could call somebody across country and share “Bulletin Board” information. I even learned to create scenes (pages) with html language and created a couple of websites. All this was before anybody in this area knew the first thing about “computers”. In short, I was the “expert” and constantly called upon to “fix” the computers of individuals whose kids had messed up their their “business computers”.

    And then came Windows. It was great to have a screen with something other than a c:/ looking at you and a “mouse” to navigate around on the page. You simply navigated around and clicked on an image that automatically sent the MSDOS code to the computer you had always been required to type in. I had no problem with that because I knew exactly what MSDOS command that mouse click sent to the computer.

    However Windows 95 was different. It sent something other than familar MSDOS commands and fellows like me had no idea what command the computer had been given by the operator. To make matters worse a whole new vocabulary was introduced almost overnight that was extremely complex in terms of meaning but expressed as simple “letters” such as WWW, html, http, ASCII, link, hyperlink, ISP, URL, etc. At the same time all these terms came into being “bulletin boards” were becoming obsolete something called the “Internet” was appearing on the scene.

    Just as my mental faculties began to deteriorate the world of Leo Notenboom arrived. Heh.

    I do well to remember what I was master of yesterday and the constant changes in the computer world are extremely frustrating to old folks like me. It’s Leo’s simple basic articles that make it possible for me to continue to use my computer to explore information available on the Internet.

    Thanks Leo.

  5. 1969. “Introduction to Engineering” – one credit, half of which was FORTRAN 4. Of the 200 Mechanical Engineering Freshmen starting that course, only 100 finished it. (grin) (And 23 graduated, but that’s another story. )
    But that class taught me a very valuable lesson: When I couldn’t get 1/3 + 2/3 to equal 1.0, just 0.9999, and complained about it to the instructor, he said, “Do you expect me to teach you everything? Did you read the manual?” (p.s. the manual wasn’t the text book, that was the 4 foot of documentation in the computer room on the SDS 9000 – my first computer.)
    Or in other words, one *has* to take an active part in one’s own education, those that do learn; those that don’t, regurgitate.

  6. Hi Leo

    Suggestion, could you make it easier to link back to earlier articles. I first found this series in this article. I EVENTUALLY found the link to article 1. But it was harder to find than necessary.

    It would be nice if as you publish the next article you update the previous one to include a link forward to it.

    It would be nice if you create a specific tag explicitly for the series. When I used the “change” tag, it was not obvious that the 2 articles were linked. As you add more items to the change tag it will be even harder to find the link between the 5 articles. I think I tried the “learning” tag as you were in the point of implementing it because it was not present when I first looked at the article, and when I did try the tag on second look, it only linked to this article.

    Keep up the good work. I look forward to the rest of the series.

    • Previous articles are in the related links section, but I’ll do something when the entire series is done to make navigating the entire set easier.

  7. Great article. Great advice. I vividly remember taking Fortran IV at my university. Like you, it totally turned me on to computers. I remember using the IBM 029 keypunch machine. Then they got an IBM 129 machine, which worked much better. The computer we used was the CDC6600. It took up an entire air-conditioned cold room!

    I agree it’s great to learn new stuff. But, you know, I still use WORD 97 and MS WORKS 4.5 for my documents and spreadsheets, respectively. For some reason, the powers to be (namely Microsoft) keeps improving their products, even when the need does not exist. It’s called marketing.

    I’ve upgraded when needed. I remember when my DOS version of Turbo Tax just ran way too slow. That’s when I upgraded to Windows. I am totally pleased
    with W7. Why bother with W10. I moved up from XP and indeed there was an improvement. I guess when I see the need, I’ll do the W10 stuff.

    I do agree it is good to learn new stuff. As an old guy (turned 69 years old recently) I am also aware of studies that show constant brain exercise, especially learning NEW stuff, helps ward off Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. But it doesn’t even have to be computer-related. My wife and I recently took dancing lessons, and we loved it.

    My wife also started doing Facebook and she spends quite a bit of time on her computer. That’s great as it gives me more time to play online poker!

    Mel

    • “keeps improving their products, even when the need does not exist. It’s called marketing.”

      Just because you don’t use the improvements, doesn’t mean that a need for them does not exist.
      There is some marketing involved but I would bet that most of the changes come from user requests and other research.
      Remember, letting a product stagnate will kill its sales really quickly.

  8. I really enjoyed your “keep on learning” video. So often I focus on Malware or backups or… but foget about learning more about what I am doing. Keep up the good communications, you’re great!

  9. Having used computers from an early age, I am quite pleased how far things have come. And then, lol, I have to teach someone how to copy paste. I’m glad there are people such as yourself interested in guiding the computer illiterate, and I commend you for your patience. I am currently teaching a relative how to use her computer, and it is amazing how much resistance she puts up in learning basic tasks. I believe that the parable of teaching people how to fish is wise, it just seems to be an upward climb with the older generations. Good luck with your site and videos, I will be directing people here in the future, no doubt.

    • Don’t be too hard on your older relative who seems to be resistant to learning about her computer. My mother wanted a computer when she was 95, so even though my brother thought I was nuts, I fixed her up with a used 386 (this was 2000) and tried to teach her how to do email, which she really wanted to learn. I did everything from drawing diagrams to color coding the keyboard, but she could never learn to do anything more than look at the pictures I set up for her to look at. After many months, I finally decided that at 95, she was probably unable to learn anything anymore. Maybe it was her age, maybe she had some dementia, I don’t know, but now I find that the older I get the longer it is taking for me to learn new things, too. Be patient. By the way, she lived to be 103.

  10. Hi Leo,
    Keep up the good work. The video’s and answers you give are great. I too started playing with computers back in 1977-78, only I was playing with Z80’s and commodore’s. Did start trying to learn programming languages but realized that I was not very good at that. Give me a schematic for a radio, stereo or Electrical wiring; old or new, and I can be your man. Started that part in 1965 and retired from regular electrical job 2010. I have close to 300 of your “Ask Leo” articles on my computer and go to them often for answers. Lost a bunch of them a few years ago because I had not backed them up yet when MSN had a big problem and I had gotten lax in the back-up department. Thank you again for such informative answers and your motto “never stop learning” as that is what I have lived by for over 45 years and try to instill that with everybody each time I help them out with a problem and thanks to you Leo I have been able to help a lot more.

  11. As an elder senior, and having a desk top that I purchased in April of this year, I really needed to hear this video. I have not as yet learned 8.1, and am fearful of downloading 10. So I got a refurbished Think Pad and also have an old Windows Vista. I have used computers at work, but never really learned anything but what I needed. I wanted to go back to 7.1 and learn it all. Not any experts in my senior complex. Where is all that knowledge I need to learn found? I think I need to start at the beginning so I build a firm foundation.

    Thanks

  12. I do so agree with you Leo! Keeping the old gray matter excercised is so important and the best way is to keep on learning! Your advice to take it easy and slowly and practice is also very important to ‘get it’. However the older I get the feeling of not having enough time left to grasp everything aggravates me and makes me want to skip over stuff. I have to stop myself from doing that(getting better at it, tho’ it does take work 😉 . Thanks for the reminder. Love your videos and all the help. Carry on!

  13. The “never stop learning” has been at the top of my to-do list for many years – actually since I was very young. If you consider I’m a WW II veteran, you can imagine how many.

    When I was in school, they had the 3 R’s Reading, (W)riting, and (A)rithmetic. They took some spelling liberty there.

    I’ve coined the 3 L’s for seniors. You have to continue to Laugh, Love, and LEARN. But too many just don’t want to bother with the third item. But that’s still at the top of my list, and any day which passes, and I haven’t learned something, I consider a lost day.

  14. Thanks Leo: I very much enjoy your philosophical/conceptual thoughts. For decades I’ve believed that ‘the way of thinking’ is the key to learning anything. You’re providing that for us: thankyou!

  15. Not all seniors are behind the learning curve! Depends on your path to get so old. I was an electronics technician, leading petty officer of the electronics division on a radar picket ship. On my discharge in 1958 I went to work for IBM as a field engineer on the continental air defense computer ( SAGE ) system. The computers had about 60,000 vacuum tubes and filled a 4 story building. Each system had about 60 field engineers working 24/7 just to keep it operating. In those days symbolic assembler was the high level language. I transferred to the IBM development labs in Poughkeepsie, NY to work on transistor development for the IBM S/360. Later work was on the first integrated circuits. I personally fabricated the first memory chip to be used in a computer, the IBM S/360 Model 95. I took the first experimental course in Fortran. I was not primarily a programmer but used it frequently in support of my work.
    I authored several interactive graphic computer aided design programs for the design of integrated circuit chips. I retired from IBM in 1991 and then spent several years as a consultant for such companies as AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, Mutual of Omaha. I am now fully retired but still spend most of my time playing with computers.

  16. Leo, we are maybe of a privileged generation. Actually, I still remember Carl Sagan saying in his “Cosmos” series of programs, that we were a privileged generation: the generation before us would have a lot of questions, and the generation after us would only learn the answers, and we would have seen the questions getting answered, a once-in-history phenomenon.

    People who were, say, older than 10 years in the beginning of the 1980-ies have seen the emergence of large public computing technology. They saw the very first Commodores and Apple II computers. Some of us even took the effort of understanding more or less how they worked. These people have seen computing technology evolve from the “toy” level to the all pervading daily life. If they followed it a bit, they even understood more or less how these things came to exist and more or less how they worked.

    However, newer generations mostly don’t wonder how these, today very complex, things work. Especially since software and equipment does everything to hide how it works. It is just “magic that works”. I see that with my children. Of course, when they are confronted with a thing like a smartphone, there’s no way they can know how it works, what drives it and what are its principles. It is just too complicated, and too well hidden. So they just take for granted that “it works” and they know how to operate it, without the slightest knowledge of its internal machinery, and, what’s worse, without any wonder or desire to find out. It is just the magic want that works.

    We are probably the last generation that wondered how things worked. Newer generations can’t permit themselves to ask those questions, because the answers have become too complicated, and everything has been done to hide it. The user is not a thinking, wondering human being any more, but a chimp that knows that when he pushes this button, a banana comes out of that hole in the wall.

    Computer technology is the first technology to my knowledge that goes to great length to “hide the machinery”. If you take any other technology, like, say, cars, you can still open it up, and show your son or daughter what’s the engine, what’s the battery, where the radiator is, and how cooling water flows. However, the “user interface” has done everything to hide what’s going on in a computing device. It should create an illusion of an imaginary space, disconnected totally from what’s actually going on.

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Typically that's off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.