Monday, April 25, 2005

Multiple O/S Tango, interlude

Learn to beware whenever you're learning something new and the phrase, "It's pretty easy once you get used to it" pops up.

A long time ago I had a car wreck, and in the savings-building interim between the two week insurance loaner and the purchace of the new wheels a couple of incredibly kind and generous friends let me borrow a second car they weren't using.

He bought it for Her, but She didn't have a license and was still freaked about driving, so they let me borrow it so it would be driven since Bad Things happen to cars which sit.

It was an Audi Fox, quite old and rusty at the time, and the agreement was that I was to be a sort of test pilot, identifying and hopefully correcting problems while I drove it so that She wouldn't be bothered by them.

Unfortunately for them, I'm freakishly adaptable to odd situations.

One big problem was that the starter stuck. Every time you got into the car and turned the key... nothing. However, we found out by listening to the subtle noises it produced that the starter solenoid engaged, and that current was flowing to the starter and it moved a little. A little tap with a hammer on the starter body always freed it up, no problem. Since replacing the starter was well beyond my troubleshooting mission, I very quickly got in the habit of grabbing the hammer I kept by the driver's seat, walking around to the passenger side, bending down, reaching under the fender, and striking the starter. This very quickly became automatic, and I soon learned where to hit instinctively without having to look under the car.

Not that I didn't work on it. It overheated and the cooling system exploded when I was using it, and I replaced the hoses and thermostat, in addition to many little easily fixed details.

Friends who often drove with me quickly got used to it as well, and one friend even had fun doing the hammer work for me. Hitting your car with a hammer to get it to start was just incredibly amusing to people of a certain mental bent.

By and by She got her license and about the same time I bought a new vehicle, so we met for me to demonstrate the Care and Feeding of her new baby...

I have no words to describe the Look on her face when I casually chatted about how to hit the starter with the hammer before you started it up... confusion, frustration, and slight horror come close... "It's pretty easy once you get the hang of it!"

The more I use different computer systems, and try to get things done and solve problems on all of them, the more I begin to understand how most people get in the habit of not thinking about having to crawl under the metaphorical car and hit it with a hammer. It's when you try and teach intelligent but novice people how to use computers that you begin to notice the looks of confusion, frustration, and slight horror at what you've gotten comfortable with.

And most powerfully, the look that almost screams, "There must be an easier way!"

1 Comments:

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