‘I Thought You Were Good With Computers’

I’ve had this conversation with a couple of people. When you seem to have a natural skill with computers you tend to get asked for help quite a lot (this may be the case for other skills too.) I actually prefer people to ask rather than to continue struggling with something that may actually be simple to solve. It’s satisfying to help others, plus I may learn a few things in the process too – if not computer related it’s a good skill to be able to explain things clearly to others who may not share the same level of understanding. The main gripe I have is that sometimes people are either not patient enough to hear the solution or they expect too much from you.

On failure to solve a problem straight away I sometimes hear the dreaded words, ‘I thought you were good with computers.’ I’m not sure if there are really many people that can boast an ability to solve every computing issue at the click of a mouse button. Computing is a wide subject area and it’s difficult to know everything. I’ve always been more focussed in the area of software. While I have built a few computers I’m not the best person to ask about hardware related issues… Oh and I’m absolutely useless at networking. I remember at primary school, based on my ability to use MS Paint correctly the teacher came over and randomly asked me to fix the printer – I didn’t even know where to start.

I’ve always thought that when a person is good with computers it isn’t because they’re able to memorize everything and find the correct solutions on the spot, it’s because they have an intuition for it that makes it easier for them to work things out. Sometimes we need access to the computer to be able to figure it out or just to better demonstrate how it works. More complex problems can take time to solve.

I read something a while ago (I don’t remember where), that stated that there are two different types of people; the ones that can remember things more easily and the ones that are good at looking things up. Unfortunately many situations seem to favour those that have the better memory. For example, I don’t believe the tests we go through in education are necessarily a good indicator of what everybody is capable of. Some may not be good at memorising the facts before test day, but are really good at working things out when they have to. When I’m programming it doesn’t make much sense that I would have to do so under strict test conditions (even though I’ve had to in education) – Google and my textbooks are my friends. I always had a preference for assignments because I felt like they allowed me to show off more of my capabilities. I’m also not great when put under pressure.

Not everything has a straight forward solution that can be memorized and it’s certainly unreasonable to expect a person to know everything off by heart in a particular subject area, yet this is an attitude my friends and I have previously had to deal with. In the case of computing I think it comes with the territory for things to go wrong from time to time, but I believe that solving this is a mix of intuition and problem solving rather than just memorization. It’s stressful when things don’t work the way we want them to, but it’ll go more in our favour if we stay calm when fixing them or keep our patience with the people we reach out to for help.


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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When I’m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

4 responses to “‘I Thought You Were Good With Computers’”

  1. Pasduil says :

    People who don’t know much about computers also don’t know how much there is to know, or even that all computers and all pieces of software are not more or less the same. They can’t necessarily grasp that you don’t instantly know your way around every part of Windows 8 or Internet Explorer when you appear to be completely proficient with Windows 7 and Firefox.

    But that’s just something else you have to factor in when speaking to them.

    • wallcat says :

      Thanks for the comment. I think it’s a really important skill – especially if you want to work with computers – to know how to talk to people with different levels of expertise. I don’t want to seem condescending by over explaining things they may already know and I don’t want to confuse them either be using too many terms. I was working on a PSP game a while back and I had to know how to talk to the other programmers while also explaining what I needed from the artists as well. I try my best to deal with such challenges, but when the other person is particularly impatient it can be a bit stressful sometimes. If I don’t know something I just have to be honest and admit that I can’t do it, but if given time will try to look into it.

      • Pasduil says :

        It can be hard to know what people understand and don’t understand. It wasn’t so long ago that that the average person would be puzzled if you said “wi-fi” and you would have to say something like “wireless internet” instead. But now most people seem to know that and quite a few other buzzwords.

        But to be fair you see that in other fields too. I’ve been noticing lately that doctors and nurses have similar problems in knowing how to talk to patients .

      • wallcat says :

        Yeah I suppose so. I guess its when you go into heavier more specialised subject areas, you can’t expect as many people to understand what it is you do exactly. I can imagine it’d be really difficult dealing with so many different patients. To be honest, I don’t even think my friends and I even understand each other sometimes and we attended the same course. 😛

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