#074: Com-pyoo-ter

[F.U.C.K. is an e-zine that I started on January 24, 1993 and ended on January 24, 2000. One concept is that articles should be timeless if possible, so they were not released with dates. As such, the date on this blog is not exact but I will try to use a date as close as possible.]


A few years ago, a very small percentage of society actively used computers. Today, thousands of people purchase computers for their home or small business to do a multitude of tasks or for home enjoyment. In the past, it was TV’s, stereos, microwaves, and other inventions that changed our lives. As more and more people began to use them, more and more people learned about them. The average family has a TV, stereo, and a microwave in their house right now as well as a Personal Computer.

You take any active member of that family and ask them to program their VCR to tape a show at 1:39am on the Tuesday of next week, and five seconds later they have that done, and are asking if you want it in SP, LP, or ELP. Take them to the stereo and tell them to pick 5 CD’s, put them in, and make the stereo play them randomly, in order, reverse order, or skip certain songs, and they will have it done. Now, ask them to add a program to Windows and create an icon for it. Hours later after several calls to Microsoft, they are still having problems. Why is that?

Millions of Americans own personal computer now. Each system worth thousands of dollars. More expensive than any other item in their house usually. Even thought they spend all those dollars on this new machine/toy, they don’t take the time to learn how to use them. They would much rather jump on the bandwagon and learn the programs that they actively use. It is kind of ironic that you have a machine that is based almost 100% on logic, is being used by a person based on 1% logic.

Working in a computer store, I now get to deal with more of these people. Not only do I deal with their problems, but I have to try and guess what they did to mess things up. These people run into a problem and the first thing they do is call a computer store, the manufacturer of the software, or whatnot. No need to break open the manuals and see what is causing the problem. Let someone else do it for you.

I think that everyone who owns a computer should know the basics about it. After paying thousands of dollars for a computer, why not pay fifty bucks for a class that teaches the fundamentals of PC’s? Welp, here is a good lesson to begin with. The following applies to IBM compatible computers and their users.

DOS. An 8 bit operating system. When you boot your computer, DOS is loaded. DOS is loaded before windows, before everything else. It stands for Disk Operating System. It is a stand alone, operating system. It requires no other software to launch itself from. It uses a “command line” environment, no point and click bullshit.

Windows. A program, NOT operating system, that is a platform to launch other programs off of. Windows boots up because your AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS tell it to(*). It gives you a “point and click” environment to run your applications and organize stuff. If windows has a problem, it crashed to DOS because it requires DOS to run it.

OS/2. Operating System 2. This is kind of like windows, but a little more reliable. You have icons representing applications in a point and click environment, but it is a stand alone 32 bit operating system(*). You do not need any other software to use it. Disks. Disks commonly come in two forms. A “five and a quarter” or “three and a half“. This refers to the size of them. Both are used to store programs on, and can be written to so as to copy software from one computer to another.

CDRom. This is an optical disk with information on it. Most CDRom drives can not write to a CD. These are really good for programs that require a lot of space for information. Encyclopedias, factbooks, games with a lot of graphics etc.

Knowing that, how can you explain some of the crap that goes on regarding computers today? Why do people demand software made for windows? DOS applications can run through windows believe or not. Why do people go to stores, buy software, come back the next day saying “this isn’t for windows, I need windows” acting like no one uses anything else? True, windows is popular right now, and used by millions. Millions of computer illiterate people I imagine. These are the people that buy software without reading the system requirements first. Yes…99% of software packages tell you what it needs to run on the side or the back of the box. Why are so many programs returned for these reasons: Mac/IBM, DOS/Windows, Disk/CDRom, etc. It tells you on the front of the box exactly what is in it. “IBM 3.5” or “IBM Win 3.1 Compatible CDRom” or whatever.

Anyway, so people can’t read. Forget that. Now, they get home and can’t install it. They choose to go with software that is known to have many problems, especially compatibility, and then bitch to the store that it won’t install? Computer companies shouldn’t have to hire several people full time to answer questions about their problems. Software companies already do that because they know people will have problems with their software. Don’t bother the store who sold it to you because they don’t have the author’s their to trouble shoot for you.

Why are people so insistent upon having any/all programs on CDRom? More and more people find software, read that is on disks, and don’t buy it because it isn’t on CD. Granted, games or applications that require 30+ megs should be on CD, and they are. You won’t find the KGB/CIA world factbook on disk. Too big of course. That is why they made CDrom. But more and more people are complaining that these little 1 and 2 meg programs aren’t on CDrom. Either way, they are going to have to install it to their hard drive from CD OR disk, so why does it matter?

All these people that own these computers, and that rely on windows have a problem. If I were to delete ONE line out of their “autoexec” or “config” file(*), they wouldn’t know what to do. It would take them hours to get windows up and running again. That is so lame. If you are going to rely on this program, you should be familiar with the operating system that is running it. Simple DOS commands should be natural. Knowing what each line in your config files should be the first thing you learn so that when you can’t load windows, you can go and figure out what is wrong with it and fix it. Yes, fix it yourself. It isn’t that hard.

Even though it is simple to learn, a majority of computer users don’t know about their system. They don’t use common sense when it comes to using their machine. If you have a problem, the first thing that should come to mind is reading the manual. At the store I work at, it is quite common to find someone returning an entire system because “it wouldn’t work”. As someone opens the box to make sure everything is their, the first thing that they pull out are the manuals, still shrink wrapped. 80% of the answers to your problems can usually be found in the books that comes with software or your system. All it takes is the time to read that book, and experiment. Take the time to poke around in applications you have never played with. The most that will happen is that you will delete something or mess up an application. Just reload it and try again.

I could go on and on about the yuppies that come into the store and do this and that, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that a majority of computer users these day are ignorant when it comes to using them. Quit relying on other people in computer related matters. Don’t expect an employee to know all 5000 pieces of software in a store. Don’t expect them to know all about networking when they sell mostly individual machines. Don’t expect each and every employee to know about Winfax Lite and how to set up a fax init string for it without first asking if they are a windows user. Bottom line: Use your head.

  • Don’t know what that means? You need to learn more about the machine in front of you.