How to become a midlife computer geek in ten easy steps

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dog and laptop

A dog is like a computer

This article will help all those people over the age of 35 (and technically middle aged) who yearn to be computer geeks but who think:

  • they are too old.
  • they are too dumb.
  • they don’t have enough time.
  • computers hate them.

First, let me be clear about the last thought: COMPUTERS DO NOT HATE YOU.

They are inanimate objects and they do not think. When you believe computers hate you, what you really mean is that you hate computers.

A computer is a harmless device that needs your input and it’s like a dog waiting for you to take it for a walk. A dog will sit all day, wagging its tail and following your every move, until you spend quality time with it. Your computer/handheld device is like your devoted pooch – it needs attention and your reward is its unconditional love (unless your name is John Connor and your computer is connected to Skynet, because then it really does hate you!).

Humans created computers, despite what you might think.

Here are my ten easy steps to computer geekdom:

1/  Just do it
A computer does nothing on its own — it can’t even turn itself on or off. This means you are in command. The computer will communicate with you via the keyboard as you press lots of buttons. These buttons do amazing things like save your files, create graphics, edit and capture video, play and make music, download movies and tv shows and occasionally surprise you with unwanted internet porn pop-ups. Pressing buttons is harmless. Just do it.

2/ Keyboard shortcuts
A shortcut to instant computer geekdom and lots of saved time lies with five basic keystrokes. Repeat after me (to the tune of Do Re Me in The Sound of Music):
On a PC, hold down the Ctrl button (Command on a Mac) and then, while still holding down the Ctrl button, press a letter like so:
Cntrl  S  to Save
Cntrl N to Open a document,
Cntrl W to Close a document,
Cntrl C to Copy,
Cntrl V to Paste.

These five shortcuts will make you look like a pro. Learn them.

3/ Use online tutorials
It looks like everyone is happy to help you with your software needs. Whether it is the manufacturer, a programmer or some lonely geek with a camera in his or her bedroom (I don’t mean those who make 18+ videos). Google your needs and the internet provides. Video tutorials are great because you can stop, pause, and start as required and you learn at your own pace.

4/ Ditch  manuals
Forget expensive manuals — they’re obsolete the minute software is updated. It’s far better to buy a good internet connection to download those online tutorials I mentioned. There’s plenty of free stuff or you can spend a couple of dollars and download an eBook.

5/ Ask without fear
You fool nobody when you pretend to know what you’re doing. It’s like impersonating a rally car driver when you haven’t got a license. It’s obvious to anyone who knows how to use a computer that you can’t, so quit fumbling around like an idiot. Real geeks realise they can’t know everything, so why should you? Ask someone for help and then keep on asking. If that person gets tired of being asked then find someone else. Most people are happy to share their knowledge, particularly guys with cameras in their bedrooms.

Lets have a short break and a recap. Go take your dog for a walk.  I’ll still be here when you get back.

6/ Practice
I don’t need to add much to this one. The brain learns through repetition and the more you practice the better you get.

frustrated by computer

7/ Don’t panic
You rarely lose files unless your computer has a virus or you forget to save them. People panic when files disappear off the screen but you probably just closed it when you hit a button. However, if you’ve already saved the document, and kept saving it whenever you made major changes, then it will be hiding in a folder somewhere. Ensure the file name corresponds to the content — and this segues into the next step.

8/ Create a file structure
It is so much easier to find files if you’ve saved them to a folder. Make it a habit to create folders for different purposes. There are default folders like My documents, My pictures and My videos, but make them to reflect your files’ purpose.

9/Use free software programs
There is a multitude of free software out there so why bother buying expensive Microsoft Office products? Programs like OpenOffice and Google Docs are free and they do everything that Microsoft Office does. Save your money for a good internet connection and watch online tutorials (did I mention that already?).

10/ Familiarise yourself with the app store
These days there are so many apps on the iTunes and Windows store that you won’t need to learn much software anyway. However, if you do decide to make a new career out of it (and there is plenty of work around for someone with good computer skills) then I recommend you learn Adobe products like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Premiere or their chargeless equivalents — Gimp, Inkscape and any free video editing program.

Start with these ten  steps and you are well and truly on your way to geekdom. Good luck!

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About the author

Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.



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