Getting to Know Your Tools

Sometimes perfect strangers come up to me and ask me to help them with their computer, smart phone or office equipment complications. Happens  a lot in the buildings I work in but I’ve had folks approach me on planes and trains as well. To the best of my knowledge I don’t look that much of a brain. Or do I? 

I didn’t have a ton of computer training in high school, I did take a programming class but was really bored with it (this was the mid 80s) as it had a lot to do with math and I’m not really a fan of math. What we learned was really simple stuff with dots that moved across the screen or functions that calculated numbers and the like. For me not really of any interest at all and the one thing besides pot and alcohol that held me back in high school was pure boredom.

What I find most interesting about it is that I can actually help these people, I may not even be familiar with the software or equipment that they’re using but I somehow just know which menu’s to explore to make it function as they had hoped. I figure this stuff is just natural to everyone and wonder why they even call me to ask. In the office building almost everyone who moves in with their new PC’s have issues making the internet work (no one with a Mac has reported an issue – just saying) and I end up in their offices in their Control Panel adjusting their firewall and internet connection settings. It’s usually a day after they move in that someone points them in my direction for help and sure enough after the visit they are up and running.

Back when I was working overnights at one of my first office jobs I was asked frequently to do computer stuff to help out the secretary. That gave me the opportunity to explore the computer and discover all the ins and outs of what was making it work. I started on the notion (possibly out of ignorance) that I couldn’t do anything to hurt the computer, once I made that decision it was a lot easier to look around and explore a bit. The way I see it, if the company thought a lowly office guy could screw up their system with a few keystrokes they shouldn’t have released it, I still kind of look at it that way and it only gets me in trouble once in a while. After I had done the menial tasks on the word processor or spreadsheet I’d look around in the file and root structures and start to change things to see what would happen.

The functions of all software programs seem to be laid out the same. We have File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Tools… well those are the basics. From those basics I can always figure out where to go and what to tweak. I really wasn’t all that happy when Microsoft changed some of the menu functions on their software with Vista, but it’s still all fairly intuitive to me. Once you get used to some basic rules you can work your way out of almost any problem or make your program do what it is that you wanted it to do.

Before you try anything new back up your system, make sure you don’t lose all your hard work because you’re experimenting with things.

I tell my regular IT customers all the time “Oh, that’s easy to do” and they look at me with fear in their eyes. Take the time to explore your equipment, the more you use it the more comfortable you’ll feel. I really think that your best option for problem solving on your computer or technological device is to explore it more, find out what it can do and tweak things here and there. The more you play with it the more comfortable your going to feel about it when a little blip threatens to interfere with your project or just your average day. Don’t wait until your having an IT problem to find out more about your tool, it’s a tool and like all tools, you should know how to use it.

One thought on “Getting to Know Your Tools

  1. You are absolutely correct, Jamez. One has to explore and use the tool. I have gotten better at using my computer because of your help and encouraging words of wisdom. I am still, however, afraid of my tool, the computer. It is still a foreign object – not as foreign as it used to be, but still kind of scary. So many times I just don’t know what to do next. You have been a godsent to soooo many of us in the DC area. We are really going to miss you when you are gone. Love you lots and lots.


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