For the everyday user trying to check their bank balance or their bids on eBay, the world of computers can seem like a daunting world of wires, errors, bleeps and blue screens of death; an esoteric club for the nerdy and the IT savvy who treat the less familiar with imperious contempt and looks of condescension for daring to ask how you get the folder thingy with their holiday photos in to copy into the other memory stick thingy. Explaining to your grandfather why rubbing the screen with their iPhone isn’t the best method of transferring their jazz hits onto it gets very frustrating.
A vast schism is being left between the generations of people bought up with computers and those who’ve had to struggle to catch up. This tension has led to frustration on both sides as those attempting to learn, lack the basic knowledge and those attempting to teach are pulling their hair out and threatening to forcefully feed their pupil their own laptop if they don’t learn to stop double clicking web links.
Frustrated techy son: “Dad, why does your internet explorer have five search engine toolbars?”
Dad: “What’s an internet explorer?”
Dialogue like this usually leads to an ugly domestic incident and a frosty atmosphere around the dinner table. But it didn’t have to be like this.
IT when I was at school was pretty poor. We had one lesson a week taught by our maths teacher which consisted of bland spreadsheets in front of beige, flickering monitors until we felt ill and tired. This alone was all the encouragement needed for most of my class to follow a career path that diverted as widely as possible around the field of IT.
But things may change sooner than we think. A charity called Raspberry Pi has been running a high profile campaign to get students into IT beyond the level of basic users and consumers. They’re in the process of distributing low cost, credit card sized PCs to schools in a bid to get kids altering code and writing programs.
In an age of open source and customisable apps, when people are embracing the idea of writing their own programs to get a job done, having a basic knowledge of Word, Excel and email simply won’t cut the mustard. The tech savvy will soon be left behind by the tech wizards and the tech wizards left behind by the tech… emperors…?