The fear of technology is a common complaint I come across regularly in my line of work.
The thing is, I’ve never really been particularly phobic about computers or technology, but I can say I have been a bit wary at times, especially when I don’t really initially understand something.
Personal computers have been around since the 1970s, but didn’t really become mainstream in business and homes until the late 1980s, and even then only the select few had them as they were still quite expensive.
I first came across PCs when I first attended university in 1992. It was a requirement that we had basic understanding of PCs to undertake the course. The thing was, nobody realised this until we had begun the course!
Anyway, after successfully negotiating my first year using the university’s computers, I managed to hound the bank of mum and dad to buy me a PC for my second year as an early birthday present. This would allow me the freedom to work from my room at my digs rather than having to spend late evenings hanging round the engineering department or library to use the university’s computers.
The first week back into the new academic year and the new semester, one of our subjects required us to use a ‘popular’ engineering mathematics program (you can start yawning now). If you had your own PC, you could obtain a student version for installation. Thinking this would be a good idea and I had a shiny new PC to try it on, I grabbed myself a copy. It took me about three hours to realise I didn’t know how to install it properly.
Installation back then was not the nice smooth download and install and job done like it is today. First off, we are talking about using DOS. For those not knowing what DOS is, it is the operating system prior to Windows. DOS stands for Disk Operating System and was command prompt based, so you didn’t have your flashy cursor and lovely objects to click on. You had to type everything in to do anything; and you had to do a lot of typing in to get any graphics at all.
This program decided to cause me some serious grief. On one of the few seldom phone calls I made to my sister, I discovered her neighbour worked in the IT department of a large company and she suggested I speak with him about my PC problem. After an elongated chat with him, he said he would need to have a look at it in the flesh.
So the following weekend I arranged a train trip from Leeds to Birmingham to see my sister and her family, and subsequently her neighbour about my computer problems. There was no remote support back then, not even an Internet, so I had to carry my midi tower PC (quite a large box) and a few clothes for the weekend in a large holdall all the way to the West Midlands from Yorkshire.
When I got there on the Friday evening, I was straight round to next door. We set up the PC quite quickly. I showed the neighbour the instructions for the installation which we followed to the letter (and which I had done so several times before).
Then he did the one thing that wasn’t written on the instructions – turned the PC off and then back on again. THAT chestnut that is written into IT support folklore!
He typed in the run command and the program started. Infuriating, but so simple in the end. Grrrr!!!!