Silver Surfing: When I ceased to be afraid of computers

Posted on by Mike Evans

Computers used to be very scary. Way back in the days of MS Dos they were a total mystery to the uninitiated. Those of us who didn’t know our software from our hardware felt very disadvantaged. One of those superior beings who actually had some knowledge of this mysterious and secretive world “set up” my first computer, bombarded me with far more information than I could possibly take in during one session and left me to it.

Everything went wrong straight away. I recall lengthy sessions on the telephone, only for everything to go haywire again shortly afterwards.  Trying to install software from CDs invariably led to disaster.

Sometimes vital symbols would disappear from the screen for no apparent reason, causing a torrent of angry frustration. No wonder so many people of my generation lost patience and opted out. Yet things did get better. The advent of the internet helped a lot because surfing the net was one of the more accessible aspects of the computer world.

But I never had enough confidence to delve into the complexities of “settings” and other such technical sounding terms.  Even when I purchased my first laptop, I entrusted someone else to sort it out for me before I dared to begin using it.

I can’t quite remember when I ceased to be afraid of computers. I think the turning point came when I took my wheezing laptop to a genuine firm of IT experts to be completely cleared of all the dross that well-meaning but inept aquaintances had installed for me.  This included illicit copies of Windows software and even a pirated version of Windows XP,  all trying to fight it out with free but legitimate anti-virus and firewall applications.

I came home with legally installed Windows 7, free AVG and free Open Office.  From then on I took charge of my own destiny. Windows 7 was so user-friendly compared with other systems I had struggled with.  Not only was I no longer having snarl-ups all the time, but I overcame my dread of actually fiddling around with settings and making alterations.

My first success with downloading from the internet was a major triumph. Every success led to a better understanding and more confidence. These days I am running an iPad and iPhone alongside my PC and thoroughly enjoying working with Apple and Microsoft, resolving my problems by digging around on the internet and delighting in the intuitive nature of modern software. Now I am the one giving advice to my circle of bemused but grateful senior citizens and have just (dare I say it?) “set up” a friend’s first computer. All legal stuff, of course, and I’ve refrained from drowning the newbie with too much helpful information.

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