Skip to content

What do you know, and how far do you know it?

CmdrTaco takes note on Slashdot about technical literacy in The Hard Drive Is Inside the Computer

As much as I hate to admit it, this particular thing drives me nuts. You don’t call the auto shop and tell them that your engine is broken when your radio breaks

It sparks an interesting discussion. Most posts miss the point.

There are several issues at point. One is that there are many technologies in use by the public at large from automobiles to toys to tools. Another is that these things are designed and built to do something. There is also the fact that things break, wear out, or become obsolete. Any tool or device requires learning to use it, even if it is just a substitute for another tool that does the job better, faster, and with less hassle.

With automobiles, you have to have a license to drive it and you need to demonstrate some acquaintance with traffic laws and some basic level of skill in handling the automobile. In addition to that, you will have to know how and when to add fuel and how to do other things you must do to be able to use the automobile to get around town.

Computers do not require driver’s licenses and they do more than just one thing. They are not as dangerous to the population at large if misused via ignorance. That means there is little incentive to learn even how to describe what one wants to do with a computer much less anything about its major subsystems or basic functioning. When that happens, a user cannot even describe a problem in a way that a technician can figure out how to fix.

Like the story about the banker who didn’t want to know how the watch works but just wanted to know what time it is, there is a need to know the purpose of a clock and how to read time and how to interpret that time in the necessary context that is being overlooked. Some things we learn in grade school that are enhanced by use and experience that we take for granted. That can lead to trouble when we encounter something a bit different.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.