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Computer users get teched off

Greg Risling

Computers. Can’t live with them, can’t live without the notion they make our world simple sometimes.

In the last decade, computers have become nearly mandatory, much like the automobile and the television. The illuminant square monitors have the same respect as a family member in homes and workplaces: scolded when they don’t do the job and heralded for their quick results.

Technology is moving rapidly with the inundation of software and the exponential growth of the Internet, and computer users could end up as roadkill on the information superhighway.

Users obviously take their frustration out on computers. Common sightings are bouts of swearing and yelling, pacing while waiting for a printout and the deep, hypnotic gaze into the colored screen.

Whether it’s been an unexpected delay or scanning the ‘Net for a particular subject, computers can either be a slice of heaven or put you in the nether regions of hell. Have some gripes? They can probably be found in this short list:

10) Compatibility – Newer models are twice what its predecessors were. But integrating different programs on a computer made as recent as two years ago is nearly impossible.

“The nature of the problem is some of the hardware won’t accept constantly updated software,” said Bill Rowlette, an information tech programmer at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. “There are some situations it turns out the computer makes something happen that was never intended.”

9) Reliability – One word sums it up: crash. Nobody likes a sudden fit by an automated machine that decides it has had enough for the day. Companies have sunk millions of dollars into computers but when the system shuts down, business comes to a grinding halt. It brings up an interesting question. Do people control computers or do they control us? 8) Internet – The mother of all information. Common complaints include waiting too long for a web page and delays in accessing the ‘Net because the phone lines are clogged.

The ‘Net has opened many doors, but its future may have a negative impact on human relations. Trend analyst Faith Popcorn has labeled indoor habitation “cocooning,” in which computers play a major role. Because so many people have everything at the tips of their fingers in their homes, they may never have to leave the house. Insulated in their world, human interaction may be a thing of the past.

“There are too many people trying to get on the Internet,” said Brad Prouhet, a tech analyst for mega-corporation Oracle and a former Tahoe resident. “I want the info quicker, but you can’t make that demand right now.”

7) Health Risks – Staring at the screen too much or typing for countless hours can throw you into the growing pool of disabled computer users.

Carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition where a compressed nerve causes pain in the hand and wrist, can be directly attributed to pecking on the keyboard.

Computer addiction has also been classified medically as a clinical disorder. Some companies place their employees in front of a computer more than six hours a day. Others hooked on the Internet log on for as long as four hours, searching for information or talking to someone miles away. The consequences of overuse include depression, impaired vision and insomnia. Experts suggest taking 10-minute breaks every hour to break the monotony.

6) Fast Pace of Technology – Can’t keep up, can ya?

5) Year 2000 – Who knew four digits could stump the most intelligent minds in the world? Millions of dollars are being spent to fix the computers’ internal clocks before the year 2000. If the computers don’t roll over when the millennium hits, all business activities that depend on the flow of information may cease. Since a computer stores the last two digits, it may assume 1900 instead of the start of the 21st century. Computer functions that depend on dates may produce incorrect data.

4) Infinite Choices – The competitive market of software products has poured into stores worldwide. While Windows ’95 swept the industry by storm, there are a variety of games, graphic design and word processing programs. The best advice given by computer store owners is know what you want before you go shopping.

3) Terminology – “boot,” “byte,” “interface,” “download,” “ghosting.” An entire dictionary could be devoted to all of the technical slang. Put “cyber” in front of almost any word and you’ve been instantly transported to another realm.

“The percentage of people that don’t know something about computers is dwindling,” said Dave Henderson, owner of Computers Tahoe. “But you have to be careful what you say to customers, because some of the terminology is over their head.”

2) Learning Curve – Otherwise known as computer illiteracy, an overused buzzword. Plenty of equipment comes in a $2,000-plus package, but buyers think a computer is as easy to install as a VCR, according to Phil Blancett, owner of Black Oak Computers.

Blancett said people don’t want to spend the time learning how a computer works, which hampers his job because he can spend hours troubleshooting when a problem doesn’t exist.

“It’s effective consumerism, to be informed about the products you buy,” Blancett said. “We’re more like psychologists today, trying to calm consumers and explaining to them why their computer is ‘broken.’ People have a brick wall when it comes to educating new users.”

1) _______________ – Fill in your own blank. I’ve been staring at the screen too long.


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