Call me BC. I first touched a computer around the time the 70s turned into the 80s, diving instantly into the “how to” manually and basic programming guides. And on that very first day, I started getting questions from the adults around me: “What’s this? How do I do that?” (I don’t think kids have any magical ability to “get” computer stuff. More than anything, they just have time to learn by fiddling around. Adults don’t have that time. They’re busy trying to feed the kids.)
Since then, I’ve done a lot of explaining, and written a lot of long messages trying to help people solve problems and “get” their computers. Although a lot of skilled computer users dread the inevitable “can you help me?” calls, I enjoy trying to teach computer basics in the simplest way I can.
I made this site in the hope of helping more people than I could talk to one-on-one. If you sometimes feel you’re one of those people who just don’t “get” computers, I’d like to share whatever bits I know, and also invite you to share your ideas. (I’ll bet I can learn a lot from you.)
Also, if you’re one of the people like me who uses computers a lot and who frequently helps family members, friends, or colleagues, I’d like to make this a site for you as well. If information at Bit Cafe can help the people who ask you questions, take a break from providing tech support, and send them here! I’d also love to hear what great techniques you’ve used to help someone “get” a tricky computer task, and your suggestions for how my explanations could be better.
If you’d like to read more about what Bit Cafe is all about, head to this page. Otherwise, just take a quick glance at the Q&A below, and head in!
Who is this site for?
Bit Cafe welcomes anyone, but two groups in particular:
Learners: The first group is people who are struggling a bit (or a lot?) with computers. I’m searching for the right general name for these fine folks. “Learners” isn’t bad, though not quite right, either – no matter how much we’ve learned, we’re all still learners, right? Maybe “beginners” is a better word – though still not perfect, as if you’ve been struggling with computers for years, you’re not really a beginner! (Then again, as long as you struggle with some aspect of computers, you remain a beginner in some ways… Take that as a good thing! When pointed in the right direction, beginners learn the fastest!)
Helpers: The second group is those people who help learners – “helpers”, for a pretty obvious term. These kind souls may be engineers and programmers who know computers inside and out, or may be truck drivers and ballet dancers who don’t spend all day with computers but have learned to do basic things with computers comfortably. What helpers have in common is helping others. They’re often the informal (and sometimes under-appreciated) “support staff” for friends, family, and colleagues who have computer troubles. I’d like to help the helpers by filling this site with useful information to which they can direct people.
What’s the message of this site to people learning computers?
Here’s the boiled-down essence of what I’ve learned over the years:
- You do not need to “master” the computer or become “a techie” or anything like that. You should simply want to get along with your computer, be able to do comfortably do much of what you’d like to do, and be able to smoothly get help for anything else, as needed.
- You do not need to spend countless hours in front of your computer in order to get along with it. You should spend your time however you like; learning to get along with your computer should help give you more time to enjoy your real interests.
- You do not need to make huge efforts to get along with your computer! I want to focus on the highest bang-for-the-buck advice: the info that’ll take you the farthest, for the smallest effort. (That’s the famed “80/20 principle” in action: Get 80% of the results by focusing on the 20% of the effort that matters most.)
- Getting along with your computer is not difficult! Much of what seems difficult or confusing is not your fault. Often the fault lies with poor education and instructions on computer topics. And often, people blame their own “lack of understanding” when some they find some aspect of computers odd or inconsistent – when the truth is that the matter in question genuinely is odd or inconsistent!
- Computers are not just for young people! Seniors can, should, and do get along with computers just fine, especially when there are no misconceptions in the way.
(Whenever I hear a senior lament “My generation doesn’t get this stuff”, I want to shout “Nonsense! Your generation created this stuff! Now let’s get cracking!”)
- REALLY IMPORTANT: There are no stupid questions. None! Not a single human being is born knowing arcana like the difference between “single click” and “double click”; you have to ask! Please do. The most basic, beginner-ish questions, the ones that make you say “I’m embarrassed that I still don’t understand this”… those are the ones I love to field. Be the person brave (and wise) enough to ask!
Is there any special vocabulary I need to know?
Technical vocabulary? I’ll introduce terms you should know, explaining them to remove any “techie” mystery. But no, there’s nothing you need to know up front.
Where should I start?
This site is opening up with one big section in place: How to Do Anything With Your Computer. Before any actual technical discussions, this section wants to put you in the right mindset for getting along with computers. I hope you’ll read this first!
What sort of computers are you discussing here?
The first big item on the site, the How to Do Anything With Your Computer section, is all about a good mindset for getting along with computers. It’s very general, and doesn’t address any specific computer models or specific applications.
But where Bit Cafe does dive into specific tips and how-tos and all that good stuff, its initial focus will be on Apple’s Macintosh (a.k.a. Mac) computers. Gotta start somewhere! (If there are other devices and types of computers you’d like to see covered, let me know!)
What’s coming up on Bit Cafe?
There’s already a lot more written up, just awaiting polish and posting. Here’s a sneak peek:
- Short explanations to take the mystery out of things that confuse a lot of people (but really aren’t hard!)
- Tips to make your computer tasks much easier and faster
- Answers to common cries of “Help!”
- Helpful books you can download and read
- Easy guides to tech terms and Internet slang
- Forums where learners and helpers can talk with each other
- News you need to know
Also, from a starting focus on Mac computers, I’d like to expand to cover other types of computers, plus mobile devices: iPhone, iPad, and more.
Can I send you questions / thanks / complaints / anything?
Yes! I’d love to hear your questions (and remember: there’s no such thing as a stupid question), your suggestions for the site, your tips for others, or just your thoughts on this whole business of dealing with today’s amazing (and sometimes frustrating) devices.
Who are you to help me understand my computer?
There’s more detail on this page, but in brief:
While I’m not a “technical person” of the programmer, engineer, or other professional sort, everything I do in work involves computers. I have decades of broad experience with lots of “computer stuff”. I also have lots of experience with – and I enjoy! – trying to help out people who are struggling with computer topics.
Any questions? Leave a comment to send it on over.