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View Full Version : Gen Xer battles to learn about computers



saranine
09-03-2013, 01:01 AM
I was brought up with Ronald Reagan, punch-ticket bus systems and phone booths. I left school in the early 90's with absolute computer illiteracy, having failed maths because the entire subject depended upon using spreadsheets and nobody taught me what a spreadsheet was.

I have battled ever since to learn anything about computers. A few years ago I attempted the Microsoft Win 7 config exam. It was double dutch to me. Stuff their NDA. It's a networking exam. One question asks about striped RAID arrays. How in the name of Jeremiah's left toenail am I meant to know what those are? The whole exam struck me as a quasi-autistic sham; it didn't use any idea of context or why you needed to know something.

I have no clique. I have nobody to help me learn anything about computers. I learn through trial and error, books and internet articles/forums and some sites like vtc and lynda. Last year I plowed through a network tutorial on vtc. I tried to learn what ip v 4/6, udp, TCP, OSI layer etc all are. I don't know how much I bloody learnt. I tried my best but it never seems to be good enough. The same with xammp and apache. Maybe I was in the wrong bloody generation to learn computers. Courses are useless. They only aim for the corporate market where the dollar is. Computer educators have little interest in people like me. They want to get X number of people, charge huge amounts in some skyscraper for 5 bloody days and make megabucks. For instance I can't find any course that just teaches me how to back up a computer. Not bloody striped freakin arrays. Not virtual box back ups. Not the bloody cloud. Just get a normal OS and use some tool [eg acronis] to back the thing up. That's it. So as usual I have to battle on and teach myself with mixed outcomes. And because I am certainly no Julian Assange or Charles Babbage, this is just bloody hard and seems to have no endpoint when I have "learnt" X.

How the hell anyone else from my generation got anywhere with a computer I have no bloody idea. Unless you had a leg up such as a family member who worked in IT, how the hell did anyone get anywhere? With no mouse, computer printouts that were no better than lemon juice, and no print button so you had to bang in 5 lines of double dutch every time to print anything.

Nobody wants to teach me stuff. I don't fit the corporate market. And all computer educators want to do is to chase the dosh. I want to learn stuff. I don't take the easy way out. That would have been for me to have gone with Modo rather than Lightwave. But IMHO Lightwave is better in spite of fewer tutorials. And I hate twitter. It's compulsory for people of my era to hate twitter. Unless you are bloody Stephen Fry. Hashtag to me sounds like some illegal stuff that you could smoke.

Greenlaw
09-03-2013, 09:04 AM
I came in on the tail end of the so-called Baby Boom, so as a child my options for learning about computers were were non-existent. I hadn't touched a computer until I was in my twenties, unless you counted the Atari 2600. (My first real computer was the Coleco Adam (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coleco_Adam) which narrowly counts.) :)

I think many of us here in these forums, regardless of age, had to take a 'self-learning' path toward computer literacy. Nowadays, this is much easier to do because there are good, inexpensive online training sites like Lynda.com and Digital Tutors. But in my experience, the best way to learn anything has been to develop a personal 'learning project' and just do it. This way, I learn by solving actual problems as they come along and I'm not dealing with a suggested abstract that I can't relate to.

Whenever I got stuck on one of my projects, I've been fortunate to find other users who are more knowledgeable and have been happy to help out. Back then, I found users groups were a great way to meet these 'great brains'. Nowadays, meeting and intereacting with smart, experienced people is much easier thanks to forums like this one and other social networking venues like Facebook.

I'm not saying developing and working on your own projects is the easiest way to learn but, IMO, it's the most effective and rewarding way.

G.

jasonwestmas
09-03-2013, 09:32 AM
I think you'll find most people who are commonly on these forums enjoy sharing their knowledge and experiences. So in a way you have answered your own question which is to find the best community and resources for yourself. Videos and Books, Forums and search engines are your friends.

I think my best advice for new people is to be super duper specific in what your needs are and what you are trying to do and what you think is wrong when trying to trouble shoot. That's when I get my questions answered. Some times even if my questions don't get answered, I at least get pointed in the right direction by someone and discover my own solutions as if it were by dumb luck and I say to myself, why didn't I try that before? Oh it was because I wasn't being curious enough, or I didn't push the settings far enough, or I didn't take a break and look at it later with a fresh pair of eyes from a distance. Or maybe I knew something but had forgotten and it just takes a while to remember how I did it before. Be patient and it will reveal itself.

Sekhar
09-03-2013, 09:51 AM
One word: Wikipedia. Actually, two words: Wikipedia, Google. I spent nearly 14 years of my life in college earning 4 different degrees (last in 2001), but learning has NEVER been as easy as it is today...WAY, WAY easier.

PixelDust
09-03-2013, 10:30 AM
I'm also a "late boomer", and I didn't get my first home PC until 1995. It came with some software tutorials on how to use Windows, some basic DOS stuff, and using Microsoft Works. I learned mostly through reading computer magazines and books back then until I got dial-up in 1997 or so. What really kept me motivated to learn about computers was that I fell in love with computer graphics. I watched Jones Computer Network on satellite TV and ran across the show "Digital Gurus", starring none other than Deke McClelland of Photoshop fame. That's where I first learned you could use computers for art, and I was hooked!

Sara, it sounds like you got started in an advanced computer course. (Networking is still my weak spot.) I'm surprised the school you attended didn't offer any basic computer courses if it was just a few years ago - our local community college offers some, and I'm in a dinky rural area. Maybe they assume everybody knows computers now.

And I hate Twitter and Facebook, too! (Well, not exactly hate, but I don't want to join!)

Dexter2999
09-03-2013, 11:04 AM
What this 15 year old did with Wikipedia and Google...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-ycQufrgK4

You will also be quite overwhelmed with what you can find on YouTube.

And don't take it too hard. I work with bosses, my age (mid 40's), and some younger (20's) who think a spreadsheet is just a grid to stick blocks of information. They have no clue about using or writing formulas to actually process and use data, and so they have no idea how to properly arrange the data they enter so it could be useful. (My new boss and I are slowly working on this problem...well, not fixing the people's ignorance but automating everything so they don't have to think about it.) There are alot of people who don't really understand computers and pretty much only use them for email and web surfing. Age not playing into it at all.

You have demonstrated a huge leap over most people just by WANTING TO LEARN.

(P.S. RAID, Redundant Array of Independent Disks, is a way to protect data by mirroring or distributing the data across multiple drives. Different RAID levels use different methods to do this. RAID systems can also speed up data retrieval/playback because it uses multiple disks reading at the same time rather than trying to spin one disk very fast and read everything from a single disks read head. RAID isn't something you necessarily use on your home PC that you use for email and whatnot, but it would be something you would want to protect the files of your home theater PC with 100+ movies on.)

warmiak
09-03-2013, 11:23 AM
I am not sure what's wrong with your particular case, but GenX is the first generation which is truly computer savvy.We grew up in the 80s and 90s with Commodores, ZX Spectrums and Ataris all around us ... this is the generation of guys like Linus and countless computer programmers ....

Frankly, you simply missed the boat ..

Danner
09-03-2013, 11:29 AM
I went to high school in the mid 80s, I had no-one to teach me at all, but I was fascinated (obsessed?) with computers, it was that simple. After school I saved up and bought a Comodore 128, and later an Amiga and would buy/read every computing magazine I could get my hands on. Some of the stuff I did back then seems so absurd today, like spending hours reading page after page of code and typing it exactly on screen to play a really simple game.

jasonwestmas
09-03-2013, 11:57 AM
I went to high school in the mid 80s, I had no-one to teach me at all, but I was fascinated (obsessed?) with computers, it was that simple. After school I saved up and bought a Comodore 128, and later an Amiga and would buy/read every computing magazine I could get my hands on. Some of the stuff I did back then seems so absurd today, like spending hours reading page after page of code and typing it exactly on screen to play a really simple game.

Yeah I was born in 1977 so I went to highschool in the 90's. I saw some of my friends get into computer programming with really early PCs and I was fascinated with the graphical interactive content that came out for various RPG games but I certainly didn't have the patience to create any game content at that time, I just accepted it as something that was just way over my head. Instead I drew and painted using traditional medium until early 2000. It wasn't till 2003 that I was really heavy into digital art creation and discovered zbrush and lightwave. Compared to today it was a lot more difficult technically I find. Dealing with unstable software and speed and memory limitations.

I think graphics software will get easier and easier to use as time goes on just because hardware and software in general is always speeding up performance wise. Then we'll see more an more ways to speed up the workflow and less complaints about memory and processing, but of course computers are never fast enough.

JonW
09-03-2013, 02:48 PM
I was born in the early 60s. In the later years of high school they had a couple of computers of some sort where the nerds hung out. I had no interest in this rubbish, rather doing real things like metalwork, tech drawing (the computer was a completely different subject), art etc.

Only started using computers at the end of the 90s with a Mac. As others said, you need a real project to force you to perform. My first photo montage job.....

I was at a customer trying to get a job to supply an architectural model. They also wanted some photo montages and wanted to know how long they and a model would take to deliver.

I got back to the office & said we got the job!...... Now we have to buy a Mac & learn how to do the photo montages!

Best thing I ever did. I went halves in a Mac 7330 with 272mb ram (2 x 8mb + 4 x 64mb at $600 each), Photoshop, monitor & other bits & pieces plus an additional 2mb video ram (doubled the original 2mb!), $10k later!. We got medium format (645) transparencies scanned ($100 per scan) for the job onto expensive removable disc.

It was bloody difficult, asked lots of people questions. Asked a contact at CSIRO what bit depth & pixel density meant. We bought as much ram as we could afford as we needed A3 prints.

We delivered the job on time & they were blown away with the photo montages of the model photographed & looking like it was already built in the images printed at A3.




One just has to have a go, even creating your own project, treat it like a real job & give it a deadline as well!



To make things worse...... I only mentioned this other day in another thread, if you don't keep active (very long holiday breaks) you will go rusty very quickly!

JonW
09-03-2013, 02:58 PM
I went to high school in the mid 80s, I had no-one to teach me at all, but I was fascinated (obsessed?) with computers, it was that simple. After school I saved up and bought a Comodore 128, and later an Amiga and would buy/read every computing magazine I could get my hands on. Some of the stuff I did back then seems so absurd today, like spending hours reading page after page of code and typing it exactly on screen to play a really simple game.

Re Photoshop, what took me 2 days to do now takes 10 minutes if I am having a bad day! Simply because I did not know a thing and I had to read the manual for every step, & because I had no feeling & there was so much to remember I had to keep going back & forth in the manual.

Basically the same when I started learning 3d... but 10 time worse at the very least!

Sekhar
09-03-2013, 03:10 PM
I got back to the office & said we got the job!...... Now we have to buy a Mac & learn how to do the photo montages!

This (learning on-demand) is IMO the best way to do it. In formal schools it's like we're being prepared for all contingencies...when you're learning with a specific goal, you're not only focused and efficient, but you also learn/remember the stuff better because you need to actually apply it, not just pass a test. Sure, this piece-meal approach would give you a narrow/warped sense of the world, but it can work great if you start with a basic (ideally college) education.

saranine
09-03-2013, 03:19 PM
OK. Thanks for the replies. One of the better net resources from which I have learnt a lot:

http://www.dedoimedo.com/

I emailed the author once and told him about POV ray and he hadn't heard of it and he thanked me on the site for having told him!!! So at least once I have kinown more than someone else!! :)

Davewriter
09-03-2013, 07:25 PM
Sometimes it just takes the "right" thing to get you started. My mom (currently 83) got a sudden interest in learning about doing family histories. At the time the "name" program for doing it was a DOS program. So out of nowhere and all by herself, she learned DOS. Now I won't say that she has kept up with other things, but even now she does seem to do pretty well.
Just needs the right motovation.
Now if I could just the one that pushes me to learn more LW... :)

shadowshifter
09-03-2013, 07:31 PM
Damn. Now I get to feel like a child as well as like a total n00b whenever I'm cruising round here :)

Probably not much consolation but I picked up what I know "on my own" (aka I scoured the internet and read a lot, 12 years of school was a bit of a waste, uni was entertaining but otherwise only good for the friends I made and the introduction to the existence of Lightwave).

Rayek
09-03-2013, 11:33 PM
My grandma's sister decided to teach herself Windows a decade ago when she was 91. She purchased a couple of books on the subject, worked through those, and then decided she wanted to try the "real" thing. So I accompanied her to a local computer store, got a good deal on a pretty good office PC, and got her set up.

Mind, she decided to learn proper French in her early eighties, and now watched the daily news in Dutch, German, English and French.

She just celebrated her 101st birthday last month. ;-)

I kid you not. My dad taught himself DOS, and WordPerfect at 68 years old. Then Windows, and the rest.

The entire "generation" thing is biased and untrue, in my opinion. I recall reading about this research that pointed out that "elderly" people, once getting into the swing of things, not only learned faster, but also retained the learned information better than people in their teens.


Myself, I'm from '69, and we (my brother and I) started out with a pong console with actual cartridges. Then an Intellivision, and next the C64. I fondly remember the day we got the C64 with this game called "Forbidden Forest" (look it up in one of the latest issues of Retro Gamer), and all us kids in the neighbourhood got together to hack the game the same afternoon. Which we did, obviously. Joined a hacker's group (those were the days), got into 3d and multimedia on the Amiga, and so on.

Trial and error, open mind, no preconceptions - that's the way to learn. Still my method of learning. Jump in and have fun. Don't care about making mistakes. Like a kid. No worries, and play!

Just finished my first iPad game, btw, last month. Because I thought it'd be an interesting new experience! And it was, so onward to the next one now.

And I love Coursera, MIT and all those open (free) University courses online now. A while ago I finished my first University of Pennsylvania course through Coursera, and I intend to participate in many more.

Life is learning, and learning is life!


Sometimes it just takes the "right" thing to get you started. My mom (currently 83) got a sudden interest in learning about doing family histories. At the time the "name" program for doing it was a DOS program. So out of nowhere and all by herself, she learned DOS. Now I won't say that she has kept up with other things, but even now she does seem to do pretty well.
Just needs the right motovation.
Now if I could just the one that pushes me to learn more LW... :)

JonW
09-04-2013, 12:30 AM
Don't care about making mistakes.

This is the key bit, you just have to keep buggering it up all the time!

Thomas Edison "I learnt 5000 ways how not to make a light globe!"

I did hear in the family tree that a Great Great Grandfather or something like this. Made the first spiral within a spiral filament (hand wound). I wonder how many times he messed this one up!

jwiede
09-04-2013, 06:23 AM
Hmm, wasn't someone complaining just the other day about the education system's failure to teach them 3D?

Greenlaw
09-04-2013, 08:45 AM
Trial and error, open mind, no preconceptions - that's the way to learn. Still my method of learning. Jump in and have fun. Don't care about making mistakes. Like a kid. No worries, and play!

This is the key bit, you just have to keep buggering it up all the time!

Thomas Edison "I learnt 5000 ways how not to make a light globe!"

This is so true. Of course, with my failure rate I should be a genius by now. :)

G.