Re: Computer Literacy

Subject: Re: Computer Literacy
From: Fred M Jacobson <fred -at- BOOLE -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 23 Apr 1993 09:08:30 PDT

Jonathan Kochmer wrote:

> Yes, this sounds suspiciously like an urban legend, ...

This kind of computer-phobia is real. When I taught short courses at a
university, one student in a word-processing course was a secretary who
was very concerned about damaging the computer. This was long ago when
upper-lower case terminals (I think they were DEC LA120s or something)
were expensive and rare and, also, when we used acoutic couplers. This
student arranged to use a colleague's terminal in the evening to practice.
As she worked, the telephone line somehow disconnected. After some time
with no response from the computer, the telephone system's off-hook alarm
started. The acoustic coupler processed this and began sending garbage
to the terminal, which it printed. (This kind of output with random
characters, carriage returns, line feeds, form feeds, and other paper
motions can be quite impressive.) By the time the student reached me at
home, she was in tears, and I had to spend some time and effort to calm
her down and assure her that she had not done anything wrong or broken her
colleague's terminal.

I think the student completed the course, but I don't think it is
necessarily an exaggeration if a story states that someone was so
terrified by such an experience as to give up on computers. Reactions of
that magnitude are not far beyond a number of cases I have seen.


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