I wish someone had taken the time yesterday to ask me if I'm computer literate. Nobody asked, but I would have said yes. Today I have to change my answer to no. This morning I ran across an article entitled, "Ten Things You Have to Know to be Computer Literate". Now that I have read it, I need to erase "computer skills" from my resume'.
I have never taken a computer class. I graduated from Twin Falls High School in 1983, and I didn't take the one computer class offered at that time, which was computer math. I did not own a computer in college, either. I wrote my term papers using a really nice Smith-Corona manual typewriter. No electricity required.
When I started working in radio, I scheduled commercials by hand, wrote copy using that same Smith-Corona model typewriter and played vinyl records on a turntable with a needle. I even chose which records to play and when to play them. No computer required, and none used. Eventually, I began writing using a PC with Wordperfect and a dot-matrix printer. While others updated their software every year, I stuck with Wordperfect until about 2002. It was easy to use.
Then came the Internet. In about 1997, someone showed me how to get on the Internet and surf. That was 16 years ago. Everything I've learned about computers since then has been through trial and error. I do know how to use e-mail. I do know how to use the Internet. So, what else is there?
Here are the ten things from the article I'm supposed to know how to do. For some of you, this list will seem as simple as the alphabet or addition and subtraction. Not me.
1. Search engines. No problem. I know how to Google, even though I usually use Yahoo Search. But according to the article, you don't really know how to operate a search engine until you figure out the advanced search and Boolean operators. Since I have no idea what a Boolean operator is, I apparently don't really know how to use a search engine. Strike one.
2. Word processing. Again, no problem. I've written and printed plenty of letters and documents. But the article states, "you can't claim to be computer literate if you don't know the basics of table creation and working with headers." And I don't. Strike two.
3. Spreadsheets. Pass. I have no idea how to make a spreadsheet. Strike three. If this were baseball, I'd be heading back to the dugout right now.
4. Browser basics. This one you can learn through trial and error, and I have. I can use bookmarks, open links in new windows and clear the browser cache.
5. Virus/malware scanning. This ability now comes built-in with Windows, so it's not difficult for me to perform a virus scan. I do wish that not every virus program included advertisements for a more-advanced virus program, but I suppose I can live with them.
6. Common keyboard commands. The first sentence here said, "If you do not know how to cut and paste without using a mouse, you are not computer literate." Oops. Strike four.
7. Basic hardware terminology. Not good. I've been on the phone with tech support enough times to know that I don't speak their language. And not just the ones who speak native Hindi. All of them. Strike five.
8. Simple networking diagnosis. The article says I should know how to determine my IP address (I think I can do this), verify connectivity to the network (I think I can do this, too), check that I have a logical connection to the network (I don't know what that means), find out what path network traffic takes to get to its destination (I don't know what that means, either) and translate from DNS names to IP addresses (nope). I think this qualifies as strike six.
9. How to hook it up. I've done this. I've done it several times. I'm not great at it, but I can get it done if I follow instructions.
10. Security/privacy 101. At work I let the engineers and IT guys take care of this. At home I don't put any sensitive information on the computer. Do I know how to check a link for safety before I click it or verify that encryption is being used to transmit sensitive data to research sites? I do not.
So there you have it. Of the ten things I have to know to be computer literate, I know three of them. On the other hand, I did write this whole thing using a computer. But I'm not the guy who physically posted it to this website.
Hey, we have people for that.