Kathryn's Blog

Books for Computer Illiterates

I’ve been writing about how great computers and the Internet are for older folks.  I’d just love to get everyone wired up!  Unfortunately, getting wired does not mean that the individual can actually USE the contraption.  Often, my over-50 clients know enough about cyberspace to check me out online and fire off an email, but not much else.  Once they start Internet dating, the wires can get humming pretty fast, and a lack of skills can make an anxiety-provoking (and exciting) process enough to make you want to tear your hair out.

So I’ve been looking for books that might help.  Here’s the three I currently have come up with:

“The Senior’s Guide to Easy Computing” by Rebecca Sharp Colmer
“Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Computer Basics” by Michael Miller
“The Senior’s Guide to PC Basics” published by Gateway

“The Senior’s Guide to Easy Computing” is basic, very basic.  It’s all in a question and answer format, one to a page.  You can look up terms in the index and find related answers.  The answers are simple and crystal-clear.  But they are not comprehensive—for instance, last night I opened the book while on the phone with a client who did not know how to send an attachment.  I looked up “Attachments” in the index, got one reference, and turned to the page.  The “answer” tells you how to open an attachment, but then goes on for three paragraphs on why you should not open attachments, and then, nothing on how to send one.  Nothing.  And the book has no pictures, which astounds me in a computer book. How can you give good computer lessons—such a visual medium—with no pictures?

“Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Computer Basics” is, from the looks of it, quite complete.  For instance, I looked up “Attachments” here too, and the book gave a short, clear description of how to send a file as an attachment.  The directions do assume the reader knows how to browse and find the wanted file.  So I looked up “browsing” and “finding files” with no luck.  Since the directions for sending attachments were on page 225, I’ll have to trust that the reader would have learned about browsing and file-finding already.  I do prefer a book that you do not have to read from beginning to end to understand one small part.  “Absolute Beginner’s” does have pictures and illustrations of what the author is explaining.  The index is pages and pages long, the longest of these three books.  However, the writing is extensive, detailed, and perhaps too verbose for technophobes.

When I got “The Senior’s Guide to PC Basics,” I was so pleased! Lots and lots of pictures, very colorful, large easy-to-read type, and not too wordy.  It’s published by Gateway, the computer maker, and the first part of the book, about the computer hardware, may or may not be helpful for non-Gateway owners.  The rest however may be just what we are looking for.  Unfortunately,this book does not pass the “Attachments” test—I can’t even find attachments listed in the index. But I do think that this book could teach the adult computer-unschooled user the essentials of getting around the desk top and the Internet.  This book does the job without going on and on.  It’s my current top pick.

I’d like to hear if you have suggestions for the technology naive—any resources online or off that you would recommend?



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