Opinion » Cybernaut


Computers are hard



Want to feel like an idiot, try to learn to use a new software program, or switch from Mac to PC or vice versa. Try setting up a new wireless hub in your home without calling tech support at least three times. Try to format a long, complicated document or presentation without having to constantly retrace your steps to change formatting and make it consistent – things change and move around, and you never have any idea why.

I have yet to see a set of instructions that made any logical sense. I had to go to the online tech support website for my digital video camera to find out how to transfer footage to my computer – half the 90 page guide explained how to transfer photos to your computer, when the photos suck anyway, but there was nothing about transferring video.

There’s a reason they make "___ for Dummies" books, and "A Complete Idiot’s Guide To___".

Take Microsoft Word, a program that millions of Canadians use every day of their lives. It’s great, and relatively simple to use providing you’re only doing something relatively simple with it. When you start to put together more complex documents, there are 11 menus tabs with over 135 commands. You can have up to 18 different toolbar menus on the screen at once.

I once tried to collate and organize a complex 120-word document for a former employer using pagination, cover pages, chapter headers, charts, images, indexes, footnotes, pullout text boxes, and more, and after two weeks of having formats spontaneously disappear on us we gave up and laid out the whole thing in Quark Xpress in under two days.

If you’re tech challenged, take comfort – you’re not alone. In fact, according to a survey of 500 workers and 300 managers by City and Guilds, the average worker spends a month out of every year, or over 10 per cent of every day, just trying to figure out how to do various things on their computers.

The lofty predictions that computers would save time, increase individual productivity and save paper have already been discredited in study after study. There are benefits, no question – the world runs on e-mail and Internet – but the idea that technology is user-friendly and makes life easier is still just an idea.

The lesson of the study is that employees need regular training to keep their skills up date, and whenever a program is new or upgraded. The cost of training should be more than compensated by gains in productivity.

There are a few websites you can go to for help.