The woes of the computer illiterate in an online world

Sally Hopman 19 October 2021 2
Old typewriter with computer mousei

One click and we’re back to the good old days. Or have a really heavy object to throw at the laptop. Photo: Sally Hopman.

I think I’ll start up a new little project. Something suitable for a middle-aged woman that won’t interfere with her knitting. I’m going to rid the world of computers.

While I’m at it, I might also round up and hide, temporarily of course, those four-year-old children who give you that look when you ask them a perfectly reasonable question like – how did you do that?

Working from home, I attend a couple of online meetings daily. They’re called stand-ups. Mistake No 1: I sit down.

They’re at the same time every day, we talk about what we’re working on and, for one of them a week, my favourite, we mostly talk about our animals and manoeuvre them subtly in front of the computer’s camera for others to admire.

For a week or so, this laptop’s microphone wouldn’t work. It told me I wasn’t connected. I was. It went on to allege that there were too many people on the one online meeting call so I couldn’t be heard.

It just continued to do its best to embarrass me in front of my online colleagues to the point where I abandoned all pretence of computer literacy, and wrote notes on the screen saying I couldn’t hear them, could they hear me and, it doesn’t matter because I’m going to blow myself up.


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On my day off, I went to the local IT shop, of which, up until then, I’d thought sold clothing for the IT crowd.

They told me my mic (computer talk for microphone) no longer existed and that I needed to buy a really expensive set of headphones to communicate with my colleagues. This information only forthcoming after I ended up stalking their shop when they didn’t answer the phone, email or even open up when they said they would. It’s like if you have computer skills, you can rule the world. In your own time.

To learn how to do this IT stuff you have to know what you’re looking for in the first place.

How do you ask them to fix it if you don’t know what’s broken in the first place? Or when it works one minute then crashes and burns the next. Yes, you’re supposed to ask a child or Google it but sometimes, you just want the answer without having to ALT-DEL yourself. Or worse still, Control Z yourself so everything comes back to haunt you.

It is such a me and them thing. And me has had enough.


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I want my typewriter back.

Not that I ever used this one for work – I may be old, but if I had used the old Remington for work, I would have died before I got old. No, it was a gift from a friend who knew my dream of living and working in Luddite Land. Where people talked to each other’s faces, computers were great big lumpy things featured in bad spy movies and the Internet was said by someone with an accent to mean, in the net.

The only time I feel confident with anything computer-al is when I visit my mother in her nursing home. Being the youngest person there by a hundred or so years, the residents rush at me, waving their mobiles around in the air, asking me to call the grandchildren, admire the long-dead cat, what this message means and can I order them a taxi so they can escape from the place. Or at least order a pizza.

For them, anything.


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2 Responses to The woes of the computer illiterate in an online world
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Tom Worthington Tom Worthington 6:10 pm 17 Oct 21

If you are having trouble with the sound in video conferences, try using your phone. Microsoft Teams, Zoom and other systems, allow you to dial in for the sound and link this with your computer for the video (you can do the whole thing on a smart phone, but the screen is a bit small). Apart from better sound, because the audio is via the hone network, it will keep working even if there are problems with your Internet connection.

More tips in my Keep “Calm and Carry Online Webinar”, from ANU, by Zoom, 1pm Wednesday: https://blog.highereducationwhisperer.com/2021/08/keep-calm-and-carry-online-some-tips.html

Oscar Mike Oscar Mike 3:58 pm 17 Oct 21

I won’t comply with QR codes, it’s a slippery slope of losing freedom

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