Stages of computing expertise

posted 16 April 2002

How accurate, do you think?

Stage 1: Your first computer

You view your machine as an all-knowing, awe-inspiring electronic brain that you must be careful of and respect, and not subject to temperature changes of more than 0.1 degrees lest it decide to cease working its flawless technical magic. Every day is a day of learning and discovery as you learn of new things your computer can do that you never thought of before.

Stage 2: Your second computer

You loathe your first computer. It was a mistake to buy it from those people, it was underpowered and slow, the software was out of date and the monitor a bad choice. It didn't do nearly enough. This computer will be a huge improvement. You view your computer as wonderful toy, and you enjoy the feeling of power and control in mastering its every function. Occasionally it does odd or illogical things, but that's something to do with you, and not really its fault. You eat your first pizza in front of the computer.

Stage 3: The road to expertise

You view your computer as a horrendously mismanaged, badly put-together box where nothing works properly. It's too slow, but there's nothing you can do 'cause you can't upgrade 'cause the people you bought it from were idiots and didn't leave any space. It was a mistake to buy it from them. The speakers are too small, and you don't have a ZIP drive. You envy others' machines. Your computer is always doing something stupid, it malfunctions every day and it is a hair's breadth away from complete shutdown. Nobody else has problems like these. You accidentally spill coke all over the keyboard.

Stage 4: It dawns on you

Having finally managed a workaround to upgrade your computer, you were forced to spend twice as much as you really needed to by making purchasing mistakes. You now view ALL computers as horredously mismanaged, cheaply manufactured and badly designed, inches away from complete destruction and in need of a total low-level design overhaul. The next time you buy a computer, you're going to take out a loan and buy two and hope you can salvage parts from one to make a single functioning machine. Your computer always does exactly what you expect it to do: it fails to function. You wish other people had problems like these, then at least you could do controlled experiments to find the problem. That's if your computer would do you a favour and fail to function in a logical and consistent way rather than doing something new each time. You consider watching TV instead. You intentionally pour coke down the disk drive.

Stage 5: True Expertise

You design your own computer using nothing but a soldering iron and a fifteen-ton block of iron. It is sentient, and live-in: it provides a kitchen with running coffee and coca-cola, and a small greenhouse growing pizza spices which it manages itself. Bill Gates sues you for copyright violation, claiming he's been living in it for years.


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