Reflections: Some people just don't do computers

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By Thomas W. Ivines

A few people I work with are computer illiterate. That's not a good thing because the work we do requires using computers almost exclusively.

Now days most everything is Microsoft. The world seems to evolve around Microsoft software programs, with the standard being Microsoft Office.

For the most part my co-workers can do word processing. That takes care of reports and other similar things. Work forms are almost always in Microsoft Word, so all that's required, is simply filling in blanks. Most anyone can fill in blanks and write a letter. It's getting into spread sheets and databases that get them into trouble.

The other day our supervisor asked one of my fellow workers to separate our customer database into locations closest and contact them in that order.

Arranging lists from a database or spread sheet into different orders requires computer skills above and beyond the ordinary. My coworker panicked.

"Tom, what should I do? Gasp! Can you help me? Please!"

This particular person I'm talking about I computer-rescue regularly. Making up for his loss of computer skills is not just something new - not that I'm some sort of computer-guru - because I'm not. But I can do most anything with Microsoft's spread sheets or databases, so I am constantly helping him.

In another week I will be in Hawaii for a few weeks and he will be on his own at work. Either he will have to get someone to help him or face the music. I often wonder how he was even able to get the job.

My co-worker is not the only one held to computer basics. My father, who spent his entire business life before computers, does not know how to use a computer, either. Sure, he pecks out words on a keyboard to write, but that's about it, and he hates when he has to do even that.

I told my students when I was teacher, that some day they were going to encounter a keyboard no matter what they chose to do to make a living and that is true today because now there is very little any of them can do that does not require using a computer once in a while.

I worked at an airport when the now defunct Sky Bus Airlines came in existence. The only way you could purchase a ticket from them was to purchase one online. I was plagued with calls from people who were helpless. They did not know how to use a computer let alone the Internet. Most of them did not even own a computer.

"Please, can you help me, Sir?" they would ask. "I will gladly pay you to purchase my ticket for me."

Unfortunately I could not help them because the process required using a credit card with personal information. I had to tell them to ask their children or grandchildren to help them. Usually it was the older folks who were helpless, like my father, who was never required to use a computer before. "The only other option, I told them, "was to use a public library computer and hope an employee or patron would assist."

It is sad but there is still a whole array of people out there who simply cannot use a computer. The world is truly changing.