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January 9, 2011 10:10 AM Subscribe
How would you go about explaining basic computer features to someone who cannot conceive of what a gigabyte is? (Or, to a more extreme degree, what a username is or how the internet works?)
posted by patronuscharms to computers & internet (27 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have acquired a new job that puts me in touch with a number of older and elderly folk (60-80 years old) who are often getting their very first computers from my organization. I have found that the features of computers that would matter to me and many other people my age are categorically abstract concepts to the people I must assist on a daily basis. Often times I must explain something I just sort of innately understand because I am a life-long power user, and those things are usually the most difficult to put in layman’s terms. These people are clearly intelligent, well-studied people, and I don't want to insult their intelligence by saying, "Just trust me on this one."
What metaphors can I use to bring these users up to speed without getting them overwhelmed with information that currently means nothing to them?
I am looking to explain...
• what hard drive space is, and how much data or media various sizes can support
• what a processor is, and how the number of cores that processor has matters
• what memory is, and why having more than 3 gb is important even to someone who just browses the web
• what wireless internet is vs Ethernet/dial up/cable/dsl (this one absolutely confounds elderly people, who frequently ask me, “Oh, is the internet actually called Internet Explorer/Firefox/Safari? What odd names, are those different types of internet? I have Cox, is that the same?”)
• what a username and a password is, and why you have to have them
I’ve tried putting these things into the terms of a house, or a road. Like, the processor is the speed limit, the number of cores you have is like how many cylinders your engine has, memory is how much gas you have to do what you need to do, and your hard drive is pretty much how big the road is and how many cars can fit on it. I just don’t think that’s entirely on point and I hate misleading people who are coming to me for sound advice, especially those who start looking at the computer like it’s a car and then ask me “Where’s the ignition?”.