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Guest column | James Pettican

Computer deniers need to reboot their reality

Although it may seem like it sometimes, denial is really not our 51st state. Deniers of the Holocaust and global warming are often in the news but the less serious computer deniers are not.

Yet, there still remains a fair-sized part of the populace in a state of denial about computers. Like the rest of us, they live in a computerized world but don't seem to realize it. Maybe they expect to wake up some morning and find that it's all gone away.

Meanwhile they go through their everyday lives ignoring computers as much as they can. While some may be thought of as sort of pathetic, there is a lot of humor to be found in their ranks also.

They are your relatives, friends and those you may casually encounter. There is a group I've dubbed the Camouflagers. They have computers in their homes, usually in plain sight, because having at least one laptop is socially compulsory these days. However, they rarely use it and when they do, find they've forgotten the little they bothered to learn. Practice makes perfect, my mother always told me when I was a 10-year-old taking piano lessons. I dropped out in my teens and can find individual keyboard notes these days but that's about all.

Then, there are the facilitators who aid and abet the computer deniers. I plead guilty there. I've been known to write e-mails and attach pictures to them for folks who can't, even though as a task, it falls considerably short of rocket science.

There are, of course, the never-changing deniers who shun the company or proximity of the dreaded computers. They somehow manage to ignore the constant barrage of exhortations to visit our Web site coming from their TVs and the publications they read. When they check out of a store or pay a cashier, they try not to notice that a computer is doing all the work. Yet, when they consult with their doctor, they must see that tiny little laptop into which he's typing.

If they have friends of child-rearing age, they often hear about or see what 5-year-old Johnny can do on his computer. I often wonder what feelings they derive from that.

In real life, I have friends and relatives whom I consider intellectuals but yet are in denial about PCs and laptops. Two of them are writers who compose their words on legal size tablets and then depend on teenagers to put them into a computer. Sort of reminds you of ancient aristocrats who couldn't be bothered by having to do everyday tasks as long as their slaves or servants were willing to.

There is the kindly old uncle, a favorite among his nieces and nephews. He gets them to do all of his computer tasks like making plane reservations or buying from eBay and then gives them three-figure cash rewards. Naturally, they are not going to encourage him to learn to do it for himself even though he could. He has a nice laptop he bought almost three years ago but has never bothered to learn to use. I understand he keeps it dusted though.

Well, there was a time when horse and buggy owners denied the noisy, sometimes smoky, new-fangled horseless carriages. They're all gone now, both the converted and the unconverted, as the years go by. Some future historian, in need of a footnote, will probably write someday about those blinker-wearing 21st century computer deniers.

Retired journalist James Pettican lives in Palm Harbor

Computer deniers need to reboot their reality 01/28/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 28, 2010 5:32pm]
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