“I hate computers! I really do.” said the girl crossing her arms and staring at the screen with an evil glare. Her expression was a mix of frustration, anger and intense hatred for inanimate object. Then as if to punish the defiant, malevolent machine she started angrily pressing the alt+ctrl+del combination rising her finger high above the keyboard and smashing the Delete key harder each time.
Quick inspection of the machine revealed that it was simply hopelessly stuck swapping to disk. Poor, old, battered laptop was running Windows XP with merely 256 MB of Ram to work with and it’s screen was literally littered with open windows. I noticed iTunes (known resource hog), AIM (the new super-bloated client) 5 or 6 open Office documents, dozen IE windows, some yphoto editing software, and a whole array of apps running in the task bar. There was a recent Norton Internet Security Suite there, Google Desktop, 3 or 4 icons that were probably installed with the Printer drivers, bunch of auto-update tray apps for Adobe, HP, Cannon, and Quickbooks. There were 3 different garbage apps from Dell, a quicktime icon, a real player icon and some other stuff that I didn’t even recognize. I bet there was some spyware running in the background as well.
What we had here was a classic user problem. If you have a slow machine with a limited amount of memory, and proceed to open few dozen applications it will slow down to a crawl and eventually freeze on you. It is a simple resource management. And yet most people fail to see it this way and assume that their computer is somehow broken, or better yet, that it somehow became sentient and is simply being malevolent and hateful.
The truth is that there is no more point in hating a computer – it is an inanimate object. It is a simple tool. Would you say you hate screwdrivers or hammers for example? Or, I don’t know – shoes? Of course not. That would be stupid. Naturally you may not care for a particular pair of shoes, or dislike a certain screwdriver because they are shoddy or uncomfortable. But you wouldn’t hate all of them.
If your computer acts weird, its usually your own fault. 99% of problems are caused by user stupidity, ignorance or just carelessness. Almost all software problems can be traced back to some user action that caused an infection, corruption or interruption of some sort. These problems are your fault. You are the one to blame for them. The remaining 1% are real issues such as genuine hardware failures, and actual software bugs. Most of the time you are the one in control, and you have the power to both cause and prevent nearly all potential computer problems. We geeks thrive on the fact. Mere mortals rarely even admit that they may have any kind of control over the internal workings of their machine. To them it is a mystical, semi-sentient device that has it’s own mind and temperament. And of course such a magical being can never be figured out so you should not even try.
By allowing people to “hate computers” we are enabling them. They end up anthropomorphizing their machines so that they do not need to learn them. It is easier to say “I hate computers” or “this computer hates me” than actually admitting you don’t know how to do something, or worse – that you did something wrong. This is the attitude we should fight with extreme prejudice!
I’m sick and tired of hearing people enthusiastically claim that they are “computer illiterate” as if this was something to be proud of. It’s shameful and disgraceful! It is nothing one should be bragging about. And yet people say it loudly and proudly. It is not a badge of honor. It is not a lifestyle choice. When you willfully choose to be “computer illiterate” you are crippling yourself. Don’t do that and don’t let you friends and family do that to themselves!