Thursday, September 22, 2005


Technology is a strange thing.

You see, I’m a ‘latest and greatest’ kind of guy. When I buy a new piece of technology, I don’t want just any old thing, I want the newest shiniest thing…preferably with lots of buttons. I’m a dyed in the wool gadgetophile.

(Just so you know, just because I WANT the latest thing, doesn’t mean I get it. In fact, I usually wait for the latest and greatest thing, then buy the previous version…save a lot of money that way.)

There are, however, lots of people who are my exact opposite when it comes to this. I don’t mean technophobes, people who are afraid of new technology (neither of my parents in law would touch a computer with a very, very long stick)…I mean the people who tend to say “I’ve used pen and paper all my life! I don’t care if a computer can let me do things in a half hour that used to take a day! This is the way I’ve always done it, and this is the way I’ll always do it.

They suffer from acute “I’ve always done it this way!’ Syndrome.

My mother is one of these people. She takes an awful lot of convincing to use any kind of new technology. “What we have is good enough.”

For example, my mother is the one who does all the family budgeting, and still does it with pen and paper. I tried on numerous occasions to convince her to do it on the computer. It would have reduced the few hours a week she spends budgeting for a couple of minutes. At first the argument was “But things change every week, so I need to be flexible.” That I said the computer could be just as flexible fell on deaf ears.

Put it this way, at the dawn of TV, my mother would have said. “Pictures? What do we need pictures for? We have a radio, and that’s good enough for me!” If she’d been around at the dawn of radio, she would have preached the practice of just shouting very loudly.

I’ve got to say, she has changed in recent years, and become a lot more tech-savvy.

People’s attitudes towards technology is a very strange thing. People seem to fall into one of four categories:

Technophiles : Who love advanced technology in all forms, who want the latest, shiniest gadgets.

Habitat : Any store that sells tech-gadgets

Most heard Quote: “Have you seen version 2.3? Leaves 2.2 in the dust! Has a hyper thread jingleflocker! (or other unintelligible techno babble)”

Middle-of-the-roads : Who appreciate technology, but don’t really care if they have the latest version, as long as it does the job it’s designed for.

Habitat: The middle of the road, Duh!

Most Heard Quote: “Does my DVD player have a 5.1 encoder? Buggered if I know, it plays my movies, I know that much.”

Get-thee-behind-me-satan’s : Who refuse to use any form of technology, pride themselves on the fact, and refuse to believe that technology can make things much quicker and easier. Will come up with any excuse to glorify the non-tech version.

Habitat : Behind a mound of paper, trying to find something, while scowling at their colleagues who are using computers.

Most heard Quote : “You can stick your computer up your arse! Pen and paper will always be king! We‘ll see who‘s laughing when your computer breaks down!”

Refuse-To-Learns : Who flat out refuse to actually learn how to use anything, or how it works…but complain very, very loudly (usually to long suffering technical support staff), that they can’t get whatever gadget they’re using to work. Pronounce any new technology worthless, because they can’t spend 10 minutes reading a manual. These are the people who attempt to talk into their mouse, or send a computer back to the store ‘because it won’t get on that internet thing’, when they haven’t bothered to connect it to a phone line or network.

Habitat : Middle Management

Most heard quote : “Listen, you scruffy little oik. I don’t want to hear another thing about ‘system requirements’, this software I bought won’t work, and I want you to fix it…and if you tell me my computer won’t run it one more time, I’ll sue!”

I know someone in each of these categories.

The Refuse to learns are the most annoying people in the known (and unknown) universe. They will occasionally acquire a piece of technology, and will never even consider opening a manual. Whether this is from fear, a misplaced sense of superiority or sheer laziness, I’m yet to work out.

Two prime examples of this are requests from members of my family.

For example, back in the day, I was called to an uncle’s house on Christmas morning to ’set up a computer’. It turned out that the ’computer’ was a Sega Mega drive (called a Sega Genesis in the USA). This thing needed to be set up as follows:

Plug the controllers into the front and the power cord and the antenna lead into the back. You then plugged the antenna into the back of the TV, and turned it on.

When I arrived, it hadn’t even been removed from the box. Inside was a guide to setting it up, including pictures. It was the equivalent of putting the square plug in the square hole, the round plug in the round hole…etc. They hadn’t even considered opening the thing and trying themselves.

After that, any calls from my family for technical support help were met with:
“Open the box.”

“Ok, done.”

“Take out the manual.”

“Ok, I‘ve got it.”

“Read it. If you haven‘t figured it out in a couple of hours, call me back.”


I don’t think that was too unreasonable. I figured that after working things out for themselves a few times, they would realise it wasn't’ as difficult as they though it was, they wouldn’t have to go to the bother of calling me, and getting me to come fix it.

I was my entire family’s technical support…anything from TVs to computers…since leaving one of my cousin’s husbands has filled my role, and God, I pity him.

You see, they all learned one thing…and that was to prefix their cries for help with “I’ve been sitting here with the manual for hours, and can’t figure it out!”

Liars, the lot of them!

Oh yes, I know they were lying. A few Christmases ago, I got a call to help set up and tune in a new TV.

Yes, they’d read the manual, and yes, they still couldn’t figure it out.

I’ve got to give them credit, tuning that TV was incredibly hard.

Step one, plus in and turn on the TV.

Step Two, press the button marked ’menu’ on the remote.

Step Three, By pressing the down arrow on the remote, go to ’auto tune’

Step four. Press the button marked ’ok’ on the remote.

Oh, and it came with a quick start guide that showed how to do this, complete with pictures of what the screen looked like, and where the buttons were on the remote control.

Auntie Les, I’m calling you out. There’s no way in hell you read that manual. If you couldn’t figure that out, you wouldn’t be able to tie your own shoes!

Another member of my family also got pissed off when I told him a game that he bought for his kid’s computer wouldn’t work, because the computer didn’t have a 3d accelerator. Apparently, my one tech-savvy cousin had built it for him and told him that it would do anything he wanted.

The fact that he’d had that computer for two years, without a single upgrade didn’t factor in for him.

Even the thickness of manuals is enough to scare these people. My cousin called me to help him set up his mini-disc player with his computer. He hadn’t opened the manual, because it was so thick, it was obviously far too hard.

It’s a shame that the manual on;y had four pages written in English, and the rest was all foreign translations…Oh, and that also came with a one-page ‘Quick-start’ guide.

Put it this way, one day, I spent a 4 hour marathon session fixing one of my cousin’s computers (her mother had called me, saying that ‘the colours looked funny’). I go to their house expecting to find that they’ve inadvertently set the desktop to 256 colours…it turned out the computer was starting in safe mode, was riddled with about 60 million viruses, and needed to be completely wiped. (Oh, my assertions that they needed a virus checker before they started web surfing fell on deaf ears).

I tallied it up:

Four hours at the going rate, in home tech support : 120GBP
Call out fee: 50GBP
Extra time at home downloading drivers off the internet: 50GBP
Re-installing all their software (They’d lost their discs, so used mine) 250GBP
Total : 470GBP (nearly $1000US)

I have to say, I never charged any family member a single penny for tech support, even if I was out of pocket. (CD-R’s etc). Turns out I should, I’d be living like a King, or at the very least, they wouldn’t be able to afford me, and might have considered opening a manual.

In closing…RTFM

Read The F**king Manual!

You just might learn something.


SquirrleyMojo said...

i'm not a technaphobe, but d*mn! i hate it when i can't get the DVD player & projector to work when standing in front of a class of 40 students.

Kato said...

I believe my grandmother still doesn't own a microwave (she fears them) even though they have been available to the public for at least 35 years (and the technology has existed since 1947).

Any computer person is at the mercy of their family and friends when it comes to providing tech support. Fortunately, I became interested in computers because of my dad, so he tends to field the family tech problems and I just have to worry about any technology-illiterate friends I might have.

MC Etcher said...

I'm a Technophile at heart, but since I can't afford it, I end up with Middle-of-the-road goods.

Which I'm usually fine with.

I've always liked to wait a good year after a new product comes out anyway, and let the early adopters find all the problems.

I remember that early PS2's scratched DVDs - stuff like that.

Anonymous said...

How dare you!!

I'll have you know that I now have all household expenses on a SPREADSHEET and I am in the process of mastering Databases!!! See I can do it if I really want to.
All I will say is that you should be able to use your brain as well as computers and calculators. Imagine how you would manage if you didn't have a calculator - you have only 10 fingers and 10 thumbs! Think of all those wasted hours I spent teaching you AND your brother your tables 2x2=4, 2x3=6 etc.

I am willing to embrace technology - even though I might do it slowly. Remember the tortoise and the hare!!


Paulius said...


If you'd read a bit more carefully, see the bit where I said recently you'd got a lot more tech-savvy?

I would also point out that I offered to do all the expenses on a spreadsheet in 1997...nearly a decade ago.

I never said you weren't clever enough to use a just took you one HELL of a long time to trust them.

Anyway, I can say what I want! What are going to do? Ground me?

Muah ha ha ha!

OzzyC said...

I'm like MC Etcher... a technophile at heart, but since I've got two cute little girls, their needs come before my desire to have that 2-gazillion gigahertz processor with the 10 terabyte vid card.

I'm definitely the computer geek of the family, but I don't have to support them. I gave my parents a computer about five years ago, and they've never plugged it in. They ask me for help with random tech things every now and then, but I've told them I refuse to help them at all until they at least plug in the PC. They've stopped calling. My friends, on the other hand...

And I work with the "refuse to learns" every day. Unfortunately, it's part of my job. My "refuse to learns" are either the old, crusty secretaries, or senior management.

Anonymous said...

It's not that bad - yet, but Steve (Pitied Cousin's husband) read your post and has now runn off to Join the Klatchian Foriegn Legion, however, whenever I ring they say there is no one there at that name. Infact they don't even think they are the Klatchian foriegn legion!!


Paulius said...

The Klatchian Foreign Legion will sort him right out. By the time he leaves, he won't be able to remember his name, never mind how to fix a computer!

Oh, and Squirrlymojo...maybe you can explain to me why teachers find it impossible to work electronic equipment.