NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, January 2005
Computer Essentials
by Pim Borman, Web Editor & APCUG Representative
SW Indiana PC Users Group

What can be done to make computers true household appliances, intuitive and simple to use even by technophobes? Computers capable of email and word processing, Internet browsing, audio and video editing and storage, simple data processing such as checkbook and genealogy tree maintenance, and entertainment in the form of games and puzzles. After all, modern cars have highly complex, powerful engines under the hood, but turn on with a simple ignition switch and only need a steering wheel, accelerator and brakes for operation. Computers should be just as simple to use. Here are some suggestions.

  • A simple on/off switch for instant-on computing, with a reset button for the rare occasions the system goes haywire and needs to reboot. The hibernate feature in Windows XP is the nearest thing to it, but for shutting your system down you must first click on Start (!), then hold the shift key down to change the Standby option to Hibernate, and click on Hibernate. Stupidly unobvious, and it should be easy to replace the whole rigmarole by reprogramming the current on/off switch.
  • Security and privacy, built-in virus and spyware protection, automatically updated. Upgraded Internet/email protocols to thwart sender address spoofing. Fortunately, the need for improved security is now widely recognized, and the search for solutions is on.
  • Application programs. As my former boss used to say, “Be reasonable, do it my way.” That should go double for computer applications that satisfy the users’ needs without extraneous bells and whistles and with simple menus to access special features and built-in security provisions. Most common menu items should be available by using clearly labeled, standard, special purpose keyboard keys; read on.
  • Special purpose keys on the keyboard to perform common operations in most programs. There already are Insert, Delete, Backspace, Home, End, Page Up and Down, and Arrow keys; why not have more of that kind? To start with, the function keys (F1 – F12) could be reassigned, standardized, and clearly labeled to make them more useful. F1 might always provide context-sensitive help and be relabeled as such. F2 could Save current work while shift-F2 would Save as… F3 might do Find and Find / Replace operations, and so on. Many current programs, such as Microsoft Office, already make extensive use of the F-keys, but usage is non-standard and few users are familiar with them for lack of labeling. The same holds for the Windows and Menu keys on most keyboards; they provide handy shortcuts but are mostly underused.
  • Wireless Connections, high-speed, self-configuring, to peripherals such as a mouse, printer, scanner, sound system, and router for connections to Internet and a local computer network. That rat’s nest of wires under and behind our computers has to go!
  • Broadband connection to the Internet, essential for regular updates of security programs and desirable for other Internet activities.

You may be able to think of more simplifications. Let me know about them.

Pim Borman (swipcug@sigecom.net) is Web Editor and APCUG representative for the SW Indiana PC Users Group, Inc (http://swipcug.apcug.org). This article appeared in the November 2004 issue of the P-SEE URGENT, newsletter of SWIPCUG

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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