everything wrong with free software
"obedience breeds foolishness"
other pages: [[computerphobia]] | *originally posted:* jan 2021
classes like yours werent always mandatory. the history of computing in schools is a series of gradual overhauls that change not just with technology, but with politics and marketing. in the 1980s, computers were fun new toys-- in the 90s they were presented as machines for office work, and ever since theyve been treated as a hybrid of the two. of course computers are all these things, but the approach to teaching varies.
one thing thats different now is the number of people carrying a computer around. in the 80s when most lightweight screens were in wristwatches, a computer was nearly always as heavy as the screen, and the screen was bulky, heavy and fragile. most people didnt have a use for a computer unless it was to play video games, and most people didnt connect their computer to a phone, let alone the internet.
in the 90s, the shift in teaching became less about computer literacy, and more about office applications. instead of learning about computers, you would learn about writing a document, creating a graph or a presentation, or using a spreadsheet. you might learn how to manage icons in folders-- but this teaches you very little about computers, except how to use them for office work.
to show how ridiculous this really is, imagine you want to learn about cooking. youve always wanted to know more about how to cook, but lets say you grew up in a home with a single parent who is too busy to do, let alone teach much homemade cooking. ive lived with a single parent before too, so dont think i dont understand. but youre excited because youre going to be learning more about this in school.
so you get to class and its the day these lessons are supposed to start, and you look around and there are no pans, nothing to cook with, no bowls for mixing, no spoons or ingredients-- and you wonder what the deal is. it turns out, youre going to learn *how to order food in a restaurant*. what a rip off! youll still learn something about food (depending on what kind of restaurant it is and what kinds youve been to) but *this isnt cooking*-- its just selecting options and then consuming them.
alas, so it is with many computer classes-- they skip teaching anything about computers and skip straight to applications, teaching how to use those instead. what you learn then is less about computing and more about products! sure, you can take your lunch and rearrange some of it to be sort of like something else-- maybe you can take the chips off your plate and put them on your sandwich instead of having them on the side. thats customisation. but it isnt cooking.
but dont worry, next year (or even when you go to another school) theyre going to teach real cooking. maybe theyll skip right over the basics, and start with french cuisine-- its a stay-alert-or-fall-behind sort of course, but you already know the basics, so-- /no?/ well dont worry, youre still interested enough in the lesson that youll probably manage.
though if they want to teach the real thing, they honestly could make it easier for everybody.
one of the big problems (and open secrets) is that most teachers dont know a lot about computers either. they probably know enough about them to get you through the course, but odds are good that nobody taught them the basics. unless youre lucky, you may well get a teacher who is almost as new to this stuff as you are. and that wont be as much fun for them, or for you. youll also learn less that way.
so lets start with the basics. if youve heard them already, this is going to be ridiculously simple.
whats the most important lesson a beginner (or even a teacher) can learn about computers? *fear!*
no, im serious: ([[computerphobia]]) this is what a lot of people are up against.