[vcf-midatlantic] OT: people don't understand computers anymore

Dave McGuire mcguire at neurotica.com
Tue Jun 7 14:55:01 EDT 2016

On 06/07/2016 01:22 PM, Dean Notarnicola via vcf-midatlantic wrote:
> Having grown up in the early 8-bit era and wanting to share the experience
> with my children, this is something I think about often. I liken the
> general lack of knowledge about the inner working of computers to the
> general lack of knowledge of automobile internals. in the first half of the
> century, it behooved you to have a very good working knowledge of your car
> so that you could keep it running in any kind of good order. It was easier
> then, as engines, suspensions and electrical systems were vastly simpler,
> and anyone with a modicum of mechanical aptitude and desire could do most
> routine maintenance and repairs. Todays vehicles are an order of magnitude
> more complex with virtually unserviceable electronic systems controlling
> virtually every aspect of the car. So in defense of users, they shouldn't
> have to know the intimate details of the car if they just want to drive.
> And much the same, users should not need to know the inner workings of
> computers if they have tasks to complete.  This is the goal that
> programmers, user interface and human factors engineers have been striving
> for years. Now we finally have it, at the cost of a loss of interest of
> what's going on under the hood. The upside is computing power for everyone.

  Agreed 100%.  The big problem we have, though, is that people have
lost sight of what knowledge is necessary to write software (not throw
it together, but WRITE it) effectively and efficiently.  They know
they've lost sight of it, and they think that's fine.

  The other problem is that we still call them "computers".  Yes, of
course that's what they are, but then so are our phones, and our air
conditioners' remote controls, and most everything else.  What most
people sit in front of nowadays are terminals, simple communications
devices which do little other than browse the WWW on any given day.  If
it's not that, it's running games, turning a complex very capable
machine into a toy.

  In short, very few people COMPUTE with computers anymore.  That's not
a problem, of course...but still calling them "computers" rather than
"terminals" or "toys" confuses people and affects their thinking.  If
you "know computers" that might mean you "can browse the WWW" or you
"can play with toys".  It very rarely means that you actually "know


Dave McGuire, AK4HZ
New Kensington, PA

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