You’re “not a computer person” eh? Well I’m not really sure why that’s an excuse for anything. I think tomorrow I’ll just be “not a walking person” and I’ll ask someone to do it for me. Though I know my way around a computer, I don’t like being called “the computer guy” because that’s not my profession.
But let’s say you aren’t. You “just don’t get” them, and you’ve run into a problem. Here’s what you do:
- Stay at the computer. I’m blown away at the number of people who throw their hands up and literally run away from their computer at the first sign of trouble. “I’ll just break it,” they say. No you have broken it. At least make an honest effort to fix it now. Leaving your computer has never solved, nor will it ever solve, any of your problems.
- Realize that you probably did something wrong. Let’s get this straight: electronic devices do not just spaz during normal operation, nor do they make conscious decisions to stop functioning. You know when that late person shows up to the meeting in the morning, and you’ve been waiting for an hour, and they tell you they’re late because their “alarm clock didn’t go off”? Everybody’s thinking the same thing: no, you forgot to set it. Alarm clocks don’t decide one day not to go off out of protest. Along these same lines, don’t tell me that you were “just sitting there and then it just broke.” Think back to what you did differently between the time everything worked and the time nothing worked. If you did something, figure out how to undo it.
- Don’t pick up the phone yet. You barely know what you’re talking about, which is fine, but think about it: how are you going to get help from someone if you don’t know the right words? Two weeks ago, you thought a “cursor” was someone who used bad language. Have you ever tried to help someone over the phone when he or she is only using pronouns? “Yeah, that thing, it’s not going in the other thing, and she said the thing would go in that place.” It’s frustrating.
- Turn it off, unplug it, plug it back in, turn it on. Make this one of the first things you do. Funny story: My girlfriend-at-the-time’s dad worked as a systems engineer for Siemens, which means he made a crapload of money to do stuff that nobody really knew about. After her wireless network crashed, she called him to come fix it, and he spent a good hour before I asked if they had simply reset the router. He told me “well that’s usually the last thing I try.” Yes, it probably is, because it usually works. Two minutes later he thought we should try resetting the router. Of course it worked.
- Google it. How do I know this stuff? Oh, I just go to Barnes and Noble and buy every computer book, and then I read them from cover to cover. Or I just copy and paste the error message into a search engine and read what the other 50,000 people who have had this problem have done.
- Don’t try to fake it. No, you can’t just use “upload” or “download” for everything. You were not trying to “download” pictures from your camera to your computer. You aren’t “uploading” an order on Amazon.
- Slow down. Whatever you do, you can probably undo later, but if someone has to help you and you tell them “I don’t know, I just clicked some things” (can you tell I’ve been through this conversation?) it doesn’t help anyone.
- No, things were not better before. Yes, you remember a simpler time, when you could just wind the ink ribbon around the spool, fit it between the two things, then onto the other spool, then retype your ink-spattered business letter, then realize you left out a word, and then get the liquid paper out… ad nauseam. Also, this is not about age. It has nothing to do with the “generation” I grew up in. You grew up in this generation, too. In fact, you should have been learning more about this than I was, because you were in the business world.