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May 13, 2016

Things I Don’t Have to Write About Any More

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

I have books that have been through 15 or more editions. It’s amazing that these titles are still around. Yet, the reason they have editions is that technology moves forward and, honestly, people aren’t as naive about computers as they were 25 years ago.

Take DOS, for example.

DOS For Dummies was a necessary book because DOS was as unfriendly as an explosive sneeze in a movie theater. In fact, if computers suddenly reverted to text-only mode and DOS came back, I’d still sell millions of copies of that book. Such a thing isn’t ever going to happen, of course.

Along with text-mode computing came people migrating from the typewriter realm. For generations, it was common to type a lowercase L for the number 1 and the letter O for zero. Some typewriters lacked a 1 and 0 key for these reasons. So I had to tell beginning computer users that 1 and 0 are real keys, and really important, and not to use “l” and “O” instead.

The computer keyboard was also a baffling piece of technology. It sported symbols and a layout beyond that of a typewriter. Specifically, I had to explain how the Ctrl and Alt keys worked. Still, on laptops, I review how the Fn (function) key works, but gone are the days when I had to explain in depth what Ctrl+C meant and how to generate that keystroke.

Wordwrap is another miracle of computer technology that I can skip writing about. It’s expected these days that you don’t need to press the Enter key at the end of each line of text. No, you press Enter to end input. In fact:

Pressing Enter is the same as clicking the OK button in a dialog box. Likewise, pressing the Esc key is the same as clicking cancel.

Oh, and I don’t need to explain that “Esc” means “escape.”

It’s no longer necessary to describe how to use a computer mouse. Point. Click. Double-click. Right-click. These techniques require no explanation.

For a while, up until about 12 years ago, people complained about having to log into a computer. That’s no longer the case today. As I wrote back at the turn of the century, logging in will be a must for the future. Today, people think nothing of signing into Windows or logging into various websites.

Kiss goodbye removable disks. They’re gone. First went the floppy, followed by the optical disc. Anyone still have a computer with an optical drive? I know they exist, but since software is now delivered over the Internet, who really uses optical discs for anything any more? (Okay, well, playing movies, but even that’s turning the page to online delivery.)

Primitive networking was a pain in the rump to write about. People saw the value to networking computers years ago, but the setup was a beast. With several networking standards, it was easier to avoid the subject altogether than to write about what didn’t work. With the advent of Wi-Fi, networking is pretty painless these days.

Printers no longer need specific configuration and setup. In fact, you can either plug a printer into a wired network or set it up wirelessly and in a few moments the thing is up and available to all computers and even mobile devices on the network. That’s pretty slick, so I don’t need to write about it.

Way back when, I would admonish users never to set anything on top of the computer monitor, especially a glass of liquid. Have you seen how thin monitors are today? Yeah, that advice just doesn’t make sense.

Finally, I don’t need to explain the details of the Internet, email, or the web. People get it. That makes my job easier, but it also makes for less of a job to do in the first place.

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