Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Using a Computer (A Personal Insight)

There are a few things I hate in life, soggy chips is one of them, vinegar is another... but enough of the chip shop variety of pet peeves, here's my main entry in the list, it is one which socially, economically and professionally I get slapped with time and time again, and this is people who think they know what they are doing, but don't.

Or more specifically people who think they know what they are doing with a piece of computer equipment, or software, but don't.

Many people in the UK talk about "exams getting easier", about things not being as tough now-a-days as they were, and computing this is most certainly true.  When I was born the PC was not really a realised entity, it was not until my little brother came into this world three years after me that IBM realised that they could get a big cash cow in the form of the IBM PC.  At the time I stayed with graphical computers, like the Commodore series (16+4 and 64), and then the venerable Atari ST (which is still here ready for use next to me as I type on my all singing all dancing PC).

But those long dark days of the 8bit and 16bit computing, the days tinkering with Commodore Basic and STOS and the understanding performance issues on a computer really set me up for the dawning of the current age of computing, I saw and struggled with unwieldy software, I saw and struggled with bad API [application programmer interfaces] to actually get this computers to do what you wanted, back in those days you could not just plug into the internet and download software to do a task for you, you had to go into magazines into infinitely minute font listings to see if someone out there had a disk you could buy which might do the job you wanted.

So you wrote your own software.  I remember the first software I ever "sold" was written in Personal Pascal for the Atari ST, and it was a semi-multi-user database for recording kills in Frontier Elite II.  The user had to write down their kills with pen & paper [can you imagine telling someone this today, in say warcraft?] then when you had done playing Elite II you loaded my program (they were programs then, not 'applications' or 'executables', the ST used the .PRG extension not .EXE - ahh, the good ol' days) and once loaded they entered all their kills, it listed them for them, gave them a tally of each craft type they had killed and let them save the list and mail it back to me on a second floppy disk, so it could be tallied with everyone else's list and I would send them their list back on that same floppy disk, and then they could see where they stood in the mix with all the other players in my rota.

Can you imagine anyone doing this in that exact manner today?  No, people today want instant kicks, they want to flip a switch.  And it was just such a someone, someone whom I remember as a child looking at my Atari like it was some sort of alien death ray and me like I was some two headed monster for understanding this piece of kit, who flipped some switches this week and ran into my ire.

This person was setting up a family tree on the internet, but as an experienced computer user; one aware of security risks and such; I didn't want to be included as more than a cursory glance on said chart.  However, this person wanted dates of birth, maiden names basically all the key identification information which would allow someone to get a spanking new American Express in my name.

So, I declined to want to be involved....

Holy mother fucking god, I wish I'd not bothered and just went to commit financial fraud upon myself (for a laugh).  This person out there clicking away on the internet really didn't read my reply, so I received this awful scree about her knowing what she was on about and basically that I should shut up.

So, I clicked all my knuckles, thought solemnly about going around her house to pull her around her own front garden by her hair, and then settled down to just say "hey, just me you may not know but I had a degree in this stuff, so I'm just giving you a heads up because you may not have realised you were risking breeching everyone privacy by publishing this info.  You have peeved me off, so either realised you have peeved me off, or go boil your head.  But if you're interested yadda yadda yadda" and I reeled off a bunch of information sources for her, sources which are not documented on-line at places like, no I told her about placed like "grave books" which reside at cemeteries in the UK listing all internments and told her of two lesser known family internments, and then told her to check out the census information.

I thought my reply was a simple, did you know, and here you go.  The second scree of utter drivel I've received had made me block this person from being able to contact me, and remove her mother from my contacts list too.  I can only assume the self-righteous pious facets of this girls personality come from her mothers side of her family, as they certainly don't come from the side we share.

And this set me thinking, why does my saying "I have a degree in this" really goad people?  You don't go to your GP and argue with them when they tell you what's wrong with you... You don't take your car to a mechanic and then stand having a blazing row about whether your exhaust has fallen off or not.

So why do people who use a computers (and whom mostly have only started using them recently) sit there and tell those of us with actual hard earned experience and knowledge the what for and why to of computing?

I mean, they've not had to sit and be jibbed about being a geek, a nerd or a hacker, they've not been laughed at when they've listed their interests as "Computing".  Because they've only come to the computer as a play thing, as a communication device, as a portal.  As a mature piece of consumer electronics.  They have basically jumped on the band wagon late, and let are still trying to degrade and insult the knowledge and experience of those of us whom were on the wagon before the electrons were flowing so nicely.

And, it's basically utterly fucked me off.

I think these people need to stop being able to buy a computer off of the shelf, they need to have a computer users license first.  They need to pass a basic literacy test as well, because I'm sick and tired of meaningless babble that some people take for well constructed text.  Of the two scree's this girl sent me, I have to say the second was far better, she even managed to use one comma in the right place... just the one, but the effort was there... that's what you have to appreciate.

So anyway, are things getting easier with everyone and their dog using the computer as a device to mix up life?  Yes, but these people need to realise they are standing on the shoulders of all those dweebs, geeks, nerds and hackers who made is possible.  And when one of those founding fathers sends you an e-mail you rant at them at your own peril.  Because you're the one who will need them, long before they need you.

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