Author: Lewis Bright
Date: January 1988
Keywords: humor power user user group hints tips
Text: (a partly-satirical last Presidential Pondering from Lewis Bright) A number of my friends have approached me asking for advice as to how to avoid becoming immersed in the world of computers if they buy a Macintosh. They indicate that they have a certain pre-defined set of interests and do not want their lives to be disturbed too much by the computer. Knowing that I'm a Macintosh owner and President of a user's group they figure I will know of some persons who have maintained this objective. And of course, being a professor at Humboldt State, they correctly surmise that since I associate with Humboldt students I am an expert in making sure that nobody around me has his or her mind expanded too much. In addition, however, they wouldn't mind being thought of as a "power user" since anybody who buys such an expensive computer as a Macintosh, must surely be able to use it for a variety of miraculous things and therefore be thought of as a power user. So the question at issue today is how to be a power user without becoming a couch potato. (computer version, that is.) I'm happy to comply. As President of the SMUG group for the past year I have seen many people achieve this goal and I'm happy to say that as a trained observer of human behavior such an objective is well within the reach of Humboldt County residents be they in business or academia. It does take some effort however and if one doesn't watch out one may find, as did Irma Brombeck's husband in the middle of the first football strike that he had been guilty of overemphasizing a bit. These people took a little extra time to play Airborn, and then just a bit more time to check the local BBS and before they knew it, they staggered out of the computer room and said to the wife: "lets get an early start tomorrow and take the kids and the dog to the beach." And the wife said, "the kid's have grown, the dog died and two years ago we moved to Phoenix, and when the devil are you going to stop computing and be like other husbands who just watch television?" If this is dangerously close to you--you need the following advice. Avoiding becoming a couch potato. A couch potato sits in front of a television screen all the time. The average American has the T.V. set on seven hours a day. The average American is a couch potato. It doesn't make any difference whether the screen is connected to a computer, the result in the same, except the computer version of the couch potato does something. He or she isn't just passive about it. To avoid becoming a couch potato follow these rules: Do one thing on your computer. And since you will only be doing one thing, you will soon find it is work and then you will avoid it, never do it Friday afternoons, or Sundays, and you will shirk it whenever possible. Be sure to avoid all games. It isn't that they waste time, it is just that there is so much to learn that its always more fun to learn just a little extra about your programs than about games. Besides Macintosh games are too difficult to master for anybody but kids anyway. Avoid all bulletin boards and telecommunications. But if you can't do this totally avoid all but the local Bulletin board. Then accept only happy messages and never, never download any programs for if you do you may be tempted to break rule number one. Avoid all graphics programs: MacPaint, MacDraw, etc. take too much time and are hard to use anyway. In playing with these programs you may discover that you have latent artistic talent. Such a discovery could disturb your priorities. Develop a habit of cultivating your dislikes and learn to narrow your focus instead of broadening it. That way you will have fewer things to worry about and you will become fascinating to those you wish to associate with who have the same philosophy. You can gain immeasurable enjoyment by comparing your dislikes with other like minded persons. In fact many people have made careers of just this sort of this (see Siskell and Ebert for example.) Join a user's group but don't attend any meetings other than ones devoted to the program you have decided to master. On those occasions, come late and leave early, thus avoiding any temptation to stretch yourself on the Mac. If you follow the above rules you will be successful in avoiding the temptation to change your pre-set priorities. And if such a mind stance becomes habitual it will serve you very well in whatever endeavor your set for yourself. In fact, nationally the whole country is beginning to follow just that sort of mind-set. As a result all kinds of opportunities are opening up for world trade and other factors. And historically the world would have been much better off if the above attitude had been held by more people. Wilbur and Orville might have given the country a decent bicycle instead of a fragile airplane. Think what could have become of the canoe if Fulton had concentrated on it instead of messing with the steam engine. And if Dr. Land had stayed with ordinary film, Polaroid prints wouldn't have been so expensive. So you now know how to avoid the couch potao trap. But the questions then remains, with little effort, how can I become a power user? Here are a few hints: Read magazine articles on software--not manuals. Manuals are often written before the software is completed and thus become an exercise in ambiguity. They are written to give the appearance of being a functional aid to a software product. If often takes time and reflection to give decent written instructions and magazine articles do it better. The same may be said of some books written after the software has been in use for a time. There are a few exceptions to this however, I've found that More has a decent manual, as do some of the orignial Apple programs such as MacWrite and MacPaint. Develop a network of friends who are skilled user's and spread your questions around. Don't bug one person inordinately. Also use the old lists (like the one in last month's Known Users) of people who have expertise in particular programs and let them answer your questions. The beauty of the Mac is that often an experienced user (and I don't mean talented or even skilled) can often crack a program by getting a few oral instructions, because the intuitive interface of the Mac allows one to concentrate on what needs to be learned that is new rather than re-doing or re-learning fundamental instructions. Remember that one doesn't need to be wildly talented to be a power user on the Mac, or naturally skilled. One needs to be persistent and open to experimentation. I know a lot of people in our group who, if they are not power users, are close to it and by their own admission are not nearly as talented as much as they are curious or persistent. Finally, I think it is better when consorting with Mac users, to admit ignorance, than to pretend to skill. Mac users often know amazingly simple short cuts and can frequently explain with remarkable swiftness, concepts that seem to be exceptionally difficult. If one's skill is more important than one's image, then seeking help as a habit and cultivating the habit of listening for assistance, would do more toward improving one's abilities than anything else. Can one do all of these things without becoming a couch potato? I think so,-- if one gives up a little television, or if one forgoes the compulsion to fear a slight modification of one's priorities.
Copyright © January 1988 by Lewis Bright