How do you learn how your tech works?

Way back when, technology used to be simpler, and came with owner’s manuals. I sense that a lot of modern technology (such as phones and computers) is intended to be intuitive - but it doesn’t seem to be intuitive to us (late 50s).

Yesterday my wife took an iPhone class at the library, and learned the thing responds to double taps and swipes in ways she never imagined. And that texts from different devices were in different colors.

Personally, I’m not a heavy user of tech, but I don’t intend this to turn into a pro/anti text discussion.

I’m just wondering how you learn what your phone/computer can do. Do you just mess with it? Discuss it with friends? Research on the computer? Read books? …

Fiddle with it, mainly, and occasionally ask Google. I’ve also been known to cuss at the thing and, during a recent attack of “my goddamn browser has decided to stop recognizing my security certificate and I need it to be able to do a tax-related thing”, to ask in a WhatsApp group where even the dead cats* have multiple computers.

  • granted any time someone posts a really, really bad joke, i.e., a kittykiller.

man files can be helpful for figuring out what you can do with sed and awk.

Fiddle with it, guided by knowledge gained by fiddling with previous tech over the last 40 years.

Mostly fiddle with it, push buttons and, when in doubt, ask Google.

You aren’t going to break anything by pressing buttons so might as well go all in.

These. However, I agree with you they should provide more documentation.

Most tech manufactures try to have an internal consistency which means the things your learned about one app are likely to translate into another app.

Another example is the texting you mentioned. If different text messages are in different colors, there is probably a reason. So you take a minute and google it.

I have dealt with some older folks that take the attitude “Oh, all this tech stuff is confusing and unknowable” so their intellectual curiosity dies and their statement becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I have dealt with younger folk who had the same attitude :frowning: And by “younger” I don’t mean “under 50”, I mean “22-25yo”.

Have my kids teach me, of course.

Just kidding. We are a low tech house as far as the kids are concerned. They don’t have their own phones and computers yet. When they do, it will save me the effort of googling “tricks for your iPhone” like I do now.

My first iPad was a gift from a friend. When I opened the box I was dismayed that there were no instructions, no owner’s manual. I plugged it in to charge and it powered up. I began playing around, trying to figure things out. In a few hours I was pretty proficient! I eventually downloaded and read an iBook instruction manual and was surprised to see that I’d discovered most of what was in the fucking manual!

Boy - fiddling with it sure seems inefficient. With most tools/appliances, my preference is that their function is pretty self-evident, and that prompts to unlock other uses be clear. I don’t buy a phone - or other tool or appliance, out of a desire for a new hobby - researching how to operate it.

Yeah, I realize phones and computers are different than most tools/appliances, because they are so customizable, and serve such diverse uses.

My problem is that I don’t even SEE things like the different colors. I don’t care (or know why I SHOULD care) what kind of device a text is coming from, so I might not even notice the different colors. If I DO notice it, I might just think, “Hmm, I wonder why those are different colors” - and then never follow it up.

Reminds me of when we got some windows upgrade. My IT person told me to click on the start button. There used to be a button in the lower left corner that said “Start”. Now, there was a Microsoft logo. Hell, I thought it was just decoration or something. Never thought it was clickable. :smack:

At ANY time of the day or night, I could likely identify at least 5 things I would rather do than just fiddle around with my phone. And if I were taking classes, I could think of no end of things I’d rather study than my phone/computer. So that DOES create/accelerate the self-fulfilling prophecy. I feel myself becoming more and more out of touch. Seems like it will take more and more effort to keep up. So instead, I relegate myself to ever increased obsolescence.

Like others, I figure it out by messing around with it. I have the advantage that I’ve been messing with computer technology since the 70s and aren’t afraid that I might “break it”. I haven’t missed any major advances so learning the incremental differences hasn’t been an issue. Plus, there’s always Google and factory resets if it really comes down to it.

Of course there is a relevant XKCD for that…

FTR and as a curiosity, today I downloaded and installed a program someone mentioned in another thread.

Download, no problem.

Install, no problem.

Manual. Lots of pages. Lots. Part I is a “tutorial” and claims to be aimed for people who know computers but nothing about the particular type of program. OK. So, I go to the tutorial and try to start following the instructions. Key word “try”, as the instructions were not followable as written: they assume that the user knows how to reach some never-described screen which, well, I didn’t know how to reach. So, uninstalled.

And yet there are other programs with similar uses that I’ve been able to download, install, open and get running before ever opening the manual. They have manuals but I didn’t need to open them until I was looking for how to do a very-specific task which wasn’t part of the evident interface.
A manual can be a great thing; I love a good manual and will babysit for people who write them. But if the manual isn’t good at explaining what to do, nowadays it’s not even good for keeping a table from wobbling (PDFs don’t take up much physical space).

LOVE that flowchart.

Unfortunately, my general response after my first couple of attempts prove fruitless, is to say, “Oh well, I guess I didn’t really want/need to do that anyway.” There generally is a lower tech workaround. This is especially an option, if you do not adopt the attitude that time is always of the essence.

Part of the self-fulfilling prophecy is that as a low-level user, many of the actions don’t stick with me. Can be even more frustrating the second time around, days, weeks, or months later. “Damn, I KNOW I figured out where this thing was hidden before. Why can’t remember it.” Whereas if you are always fiddling around with your tech, and interacting with people who fiddle around with their tech, such things are more likely to stick with you.

Generally speaking, I’ll go through any tutorials they have available, and read any quick start guides before I do anything, in order to get “the lay of the land”, so to speak. I usually try and figure out the general UI layout, major menus, functions, etc… before I start messing with the device. From there, I’ll fiddle and/or look at the documentation (most things still have manuals; they’re just online or on a disc) if I can’t figure something out. Sometimes I’ll go to Google and/or any online communities if I’m still stumped.

Then again, I’m a professional IT person, so I’m already inclined toward this kind of thing anyway, and have a lot of experience and training to draw on.

Other people I know have a more… pragmatic(?) view, and tend to think that everything technological should work like a toaster from 1975- a lever to adjust the brownness, and a lever to start it toasting. Anything more complicated is too much trouble, and frustrates them. I’ve known people who assume that a PC’s memory management is better than it is, and they just open up new browser windows for everything they do- like 30 of them, and then bitch that the computer’s slow. It’s hard not to say “No shit Sherlock, you have 30 browser windows open.” But they neither understand how that works, nor do they care; they want it to work without them having to actually deal with housekeeping or maintenance or anything like that.

I struggle with that as well, and I think there are two parts to it:

  1. When you learned it the first time, your brain didn’t really “tag” that action as particularly interesting. Your brain tends to remember things that it considers interesting. The less interested you are in tech, the less your brain thinks its is worth remembering.

  2. Age makes it worse. I keep saying “I just learned this last week, now I can’t remember” more and more. My young daughter can do an action or read something once and it just sticks there forever. Her brain is like a freakin sponge. Kids brains are at peak learning performance. The older we get the worse it gets.

I ran across something for which there was not an xkcd. Frankly, it was terrifying. I thought the universe was going to implode, right then and there.

I think there has been an xkcd for that since then though.

If you don’t care, then it doesn’t matter; and you probably wouldn’t want a big thick manual that covers all the little details like this.

I think modern technology actually does a pretty good job of being usable by a wide range of people, from those who just want to know enough to be able to do the basic stuff they want to do, to those who want to be able to take advantage of all the features and possibilities.

When I got my new car - a 2017 VW GTI, I actually read through the entire 300+ page manual. I placed post-its on a couple of things I wanted to remember how to do - like accessing certain displays. Was surprised at how many other things - as simple as changing the clock - required that I use on-line message boards.

I’m convinced the car is way more complex than I need to know about. Basically, I like to get from here to there with some level of comfort, fun, and reliability. I don’t need/wish to endlessly personalize my car.

Hell - the one thing I wish it WOULD do, is decidedly low-tech. I’ve had a number of wagons, hatchbacks. Every one, allowed the front passenger seat to be folded forward, for carrying long objects. This new car can do all manner of whizzbang things that never crossed my mind - but the fucking seat does not fold forward! :smack:

My brother bought a totalled Subaru, replaced all the glass but left the body dents (pretty big hail). We were talking and I started fiddling with the odd rail on the roof. Figured out just by messing with it that each roof rail had a bar that you could release and swing over onto the other one to have a roof rack. He said, wow, cool.