back to article User stepped on mouse, complained pedal wasn’t making PC go faster

Welcome again to On-Call, The Register’s weekly column in which we provide a little therapy by letting readers share their stories of horror tech support entanglements. This week, met “Vince”, who “during 2002, unwittingly took on a contract with my local council to setup and operate a community cyber cafés.” Vince told us he …

Reminds me of a story

Hahahaha. That mouse thing reminds me of the story my aunt told me.

She joined one such class.

When she was told to click with the mouse on screen - she took the mouse and physically tried to click on the screen.

It was funny but she did learn stuff there.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

No "Any" key on keyboard.

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Happy

Re: Reminds me of a story

Scotty!

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Re: Reminds me of a story

But the old HP Agilent Logic analyzers have a 'Don't Care' button...

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Re: Reminds me of a story

I wonder if that was the same class my mum was in? She told me an identical story about one of her colleagues. Mind you, it's probably a common occurrence.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

"When she was told to click with the mouse on screen - she took the mouse and physically tried to click on the screen."

Like any group of people the elderly vary in IQ. My elderly aunt and uncle (late 70s) would put plenty of kids to shame with their surfing abilities, not just on a PC but on their tablets and phones too.

Honestly - it doesn't matter who you are or how old you are, if you can't understand how to use a computer mouse (which was designed for the non technical) after an hour and be able to click on a simple icon then frankly you're just thick. Most elderly don't have a problem using a TV remote control and a computer isn't that much harder.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

I've heard of such incidents as well - "move your mouse to the top right corner..." And there he was, holding the mouse to the top right corner of the screen. I wouldn't blame the user. I'd rather say it's the user interface that is under-developed.

But there are other things... Two people, one of which is the misses of an ex-colleague, attended a computer class to learn stuff about an office suite of the Microsoft flavour. Both of them were perfectly able to use e-mail. One day they wanted to exchange some homework, something done in Excel. Solution: 1) do the work in a spreadsheet; 2) print the spreadsheet on paper; 3) fax* the paper to classmate; 4) type the stuff in spreadsheet... 5) Face meets palm quicker than you can say d'oh.

*Fax, for millenials, is instant messaging on paper.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reminds me of a story

working in a lab we have numerous bits of Agilent kit. The only interesting thing about them is Agilent is an anagram of Genital

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"Most elderly don't have a problem using a TV remote control"

Really? Every time I go back to my folks I have to show one of them where the button for X is on the remote. In fact, most of my family tech support these days is teaching (or reminding) them how to do various tasks with technology, rather than fixing or setting things up.

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"Really? Every time I go back to my folks I have to show one of them where the button for X is on the remote"

Then no offence , but your parents are either senile or dumb.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

"Honestly - it doesn't matter who you are or how old you are, if you can't understand how to use a computer mouse (which was designed for the non technical) after an hour and be able to click on a simple icon then frankly you're just thick."

On similar lines, lots of software interface people talk a lot about "intuitive use patterns", which, if you you have no similar past experience to draw on, are anything but intuitive. Pensioners back in 2002 were quite unlikely to have any experience whatsoever with anything even vaguely resembling moving an object around on a surface and relating that to something moving around on a screen.

Dealing with that age group myself to some extent 20 years ago, I found it worked best to use the sort of education methods used in schools in the 1950's. ie repetitive rote learning rather than flashy, exciting, interactive, attention grabbing and engaging learning that people are more used to today. It worked really well to get over the basic of what a mouse is and how to use it. Once that was done, moving on was much, much easier when liberally sprinkled with relevant analogies that the older generation could properly relate to.

It's a less of an issue now, but back then I found many younger instructors assumed levels of knowledge and experience based on that young persons entire (but short life), experience the older (long lived) students simply didn't have. They got treated as idiots, to some extent, despite often having wide ranging experience of life, systems, processes etc that the instructor probably couldn't comprehend.

Reminds of the one 85 year old guy that a colleague referred to as "a bit dim" but was actually a retired senior engineering designer who could still tell you anything you need to know about mechanical engineering. Once I took him asside and showed him the relevant basics that he'd not yet been shown, he was away and sailing on the PC ant within weeks was showing the other instructor (the one claimed this guy was "dim"), was showing him so very advanced engineering related uses for the PC that the instructor obviously was not understanding. It made me smile.

Oh yes, I should add that explaining the mechanical design of the mouse to the 85 yo engineers helped a great deal in his almost instant and thorough grasping of what it did and how to use it. Back then pretty much all mice were the mechanical ball and roller types.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reminds me of a story

Boltar,

I have had Office workers ask similar questions when using computers.

Some people are Techo-phobes or simply afraid to be seen to 'not know' so do nothing rather than demonstrate their lack of Knowledge.

A little bit of 'Hand holding' and boost of their confidence can do wonders.

Your response will ensure they never try again !!!

I know we all laugh at the 'Lusers' but give them a chance first before condeming them !!!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reminds me of a story

John Brown (no body),

So glad you replied as I have had similar experience and can totally concur with the methods used.

Too many people (usually quite young) forget that their life experience is not the norm for 'Older' people and that what is obvious to them is not to many others.

All the time the issue is 'lack of empathy' and if you approached the situation with a bit of understanding from another persons 'point of view' would find many of the 'problems' go away.

You have also highlighted what is known by modern Teachers that there are diffent ways of teaching that appeal to different people, so 1 flashy powerpoint presentaion can miss your audience if you are unlucky. [As we all know :) from PP hell ]

If I had more 'Upvotes' you would get them :)

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Re: Reminds me of a story

"That mouse thing reminds me of the story my aunt told me."

I didn't know you were my cousin, because that's what my mum did.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

"I wouldn't blame the user. I'd rather say it's the user interface that is under-developed."

It's not even the user interface to blame. Just whoever should have but didn't explain the relationship between mouse and screen.

Back in the day if you bought a Windows computer there'd have been a big manual explaining this stuff. Nowadays it's just assumed the user will have used something similar before or will have seen it being used. When that assumption fails - and it's the assumption, not the user - then someone needs to fill the gap.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

"When she was told to click with the mouse on screen - she took the mouse and physically tried to click on the screen."

She did that because that was exactly what she was told to do.

If she had been told to 'Use the mouse to move the cursor to a part of the screen and click...' then the result would have been different.

Bad teaching!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reminds me of a story

"My elderly aunt and uncle (late 70s) would put plenty of kids to shame with their surfing abilities"

Hear, hear. The best Linux guy I know is a balding, stooped old man missing a couple teeth with a penchant for suspenders and walks with a cane. Do NOT judge by age or appearance!

(AC in case he's a reader...)

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Re: Reminds me of a story

Most elderly don't have a problem using a TV remote control

They do if they have presbyopia like my wife's late aunt. She understood perfectly what was going on, but had to put on her reading glasses to see the button labels on the remote, then switch to her long distance glasses(*) to see the on-screen menu, and back again to press the next button. Total faff for her. If she was still alive she'd have loved the voice control systems we have now.

(*) she hated varifocals.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

And to make it worse, on modern tablets and smartphones, you DO click" the actual screen.

Ample scope for misunderstanding.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

@John Brown (no body)-Another item that shows an age gap is attitude towards smartphones. Those of us who are 60+ can remember when there were only landlines with caller id. Often a family had maybe to 2 phones on the line in the house. Wanted to make a call, you shared the phone. Couldn't reach someone (a common occurrence), no message so call back. Away from home, no one could easily reach you. Older people often are not as worried about not answering the phone just because someone called if it interrupts something they are doing. The youngsters often feel they must answer every call even when it disruptive.

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It was funny but she did learn stuff there.

There is a very steep learning curve with anything completely new - and using a computer really has no analogue in the real world for people born before the computer age.

More power to them all.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

"Pensioners back in 2002 were quite unlikely to have any experience whatsoever with anything even vaguely resembling moving an object around on a surface and relating that to something moving around on a screen."

You mean moving your arm and hand to move one object which in turn moves another in lock-step?

Hmm, what, like a car steering wheel for example?

Honestly, however you want to point it, using a mouse is not hard. The concept takes seconds to learn and the co-ordination little longer. I don't buy this whole pensioners don't have the experience line. Its basic hand-eye co-ordination.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

It's a bit like languages, if you're in your 20s you speak one generation of technology and like all first language speakers you picked it up because it was all around you and you didn't know anything else. People in their 60s are maybe on their fourth, but unlike languages you don't really get a choice in whether you are going to move country or not.

I can certainly explain to someone how, for example, moving a mouse corresponds to moving the pointer on a screen, that many of the little pictures are icons (provided they are in a certain location and have certain context), and that to click "on" an icon in fact means to position the pointer over the icon and press the left mouse button. But there are actually quite a few concepts bundled up in there, and if they've already got a stack of conflicting concepts on board it's not surprising if their intuition keeps leading them in the wrong direction and it takes time to re-integrate.

Tablets and phones are more direct in their interface, and my grandmother is quite happy using a tablet, while she still gets my dad to write down instructions for their array of remote controls. Assistive technologies are very important for older people, and while they carry privacy concerns people here are well aware of, things like the Echo have the potential to greatly improve people's quality of life http://www.ucl.ac.uk/research/domains/collaborative-social-science/social-science-plus/echoes-around-home (disclaimer, I'm not involved with amazon or the study, not sure if they've finished, by apparently feedback from the participants is quite good so far).

Edit: I still don't know how to use my mum's sewing machine.

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At the other end of the spectrum

... is my 77 year old Dad, who can write in C, C++, COBOL, FORTRAN, and Assembly.

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"Honestly, however you want to point it, using a mouse is not hard. The concept takes seconds to learn and the co-ordination little longer. I don't buy this whole pensioners don't have the experience line. Its basic hand-eye co-ordination."

In the words of Bugs Bunny, "what a maroon". Poor analogy, no empathy. Nothing to do with hand eye co-ordination and everything to do with "prior experience".

Even using your analogy, poor as it is, at some point, "driver trainee" had been shown the basics of steering wheel usage, had been a passenger in some vehicle with a steering wheel or, at least, seen a movie or TV show depicting such usage and so gained basic knowledge of steering wheel usage.

Get your head out man.

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perhaps better instruction would have been "using your mouse to move the cursor place the cursor on top right."

deal with elderly parents (who are pretty decent about this stuff) as well as lot of older people at some churches that sometimes follow directions TO THE LETTER and showing me its my verbiage that caused issues.

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Oh. My. Goodness. I used to work for Agilent/Genital and never heard or realized that. Thank you! I will never think of that time in the same way again.

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Were they sock suspenders? Don't see those much these days - nor the leg ones (stockings - not sock stockings) mores the pity. Or trouser (pants) braces (suspenders) - very handy, as is often the case with AOM (any old men) the paunch expands but not proportionately with trouser waist line.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

"No "Any" key on keyboard."

Sure there is, and I had a canned reply for just that situation:

it's also known as the space bar. They* used to have the word "Any" printed on there, but as it is used so often the print would wear off, resulting in warranty service calls for the keyboard. Which cost money, so they just stopped printing it on there.

* The elusive 'they' - you can blame anything on them and get away with it as long as you move on immediately.

Some users would "get it" and laugh, but most just went happily on their way, probably sharing their new-found knowledge with everyone around them.

By directing users to use the space bar you avoid the ones who will hit Shift, Alt, Ctrl, Fn, NumLock or CapsLock key and then tell you nothing happened.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

My late father, who served in the Royal Navy for 39 years working in telegraphy (the early "Internet") and was decorated for his work in helping set up the RN communications training college, HMS Mercury, in Hampshire, didn't get into PCs till his twilight years: I set him up with a PC running Windows XP (this was 2002 similarly), and showed him the basics of using it for what he needed it for, mostly typing up minutes from Royal Naval Association & Korean War Veterans meetings, and, more importantly, playing Solitaire!

He picked up how to use Windows fairly quickly, but as he'd been used to a typewriter, didn't see the need to save anything after proof-reading things before printing them out and filing them away in a ring binder. Most of all, as clever and wise as he was, he found it difficult to deal with any occurrence on the PC that wasn't detailed in his extensive instruction lists, something I put down to his many years of simply following orders and not having to think too far beyond them for himself.

When he passed on a couple of years later at 82, I found all his "instruction lists": I still smile to myself at the memory of how detailed they were, to the letter indeed, and the fact that what he didn't know about using a PC, he didn't need to know!

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Re: Reminds me of a story

Those of us who are 60+ can remember when there were only landlines with caller id.

I'm 52 in a couple of months, and I can remember when there were only landlines *without* caller ID.

And when pulse dialling was the norm.

And when the GPO owned the telephone (singular) in your house.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reminds me of a story

(I'm the original AC)

Suspenders (braces) for pants. What I mean is, he looks like a dictionary example of "crotchety old man". Somebody you really wouldn't expect to be an expert on current tech. (And he does get crotchety if you mess with his tech!)

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Re: Reminds me of a story

"Pensioners back in 2002 were quite unlikely to have any experience whatsoever with anything even vaguely resembling moving an object around on a surface and relating that to something moving around on a screen."

Apart from playing Pong & its derivatives in the pub about quarter of a century earlier?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reminds me of a story

What. Never try to use a remote control again?

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Re: Reminds me of a story

1 flashy powerpoint presentaion can miss your audience if you are unlucky

FTFY

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Re: Reminds me of a story

"Really? Every time I go back to my folks I have to show one of them where the button for X is on the remote"

My problem is usually finding the right remote for X. There's the TV itself, the Mythbox and the Kodi (what a crap user interface that has - every single one of them) on the Pi.

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Re: It was funny but she did learn stuff there.

"people born before the computer age."

There aren't that many left alive. The computer age is older than you think.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

and, more importantly, playing Solitaire!

In the early days of the internet I spent many a day helping people who had just got their first computer so they could get on the "Information superhighway". Most of these people had little or no experience with computers. The first thing I would do is get them into Solitaire for a a game or two. I used to think of Solitaire as the mouse use trainer.

This was always time well spent. I have never found a more effective method of teaching the basics of mouse use.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

"The concept takes seconds to learn and the co-ordination little longer. I don't buy this whole pensioners don't have the experience line. Its basic hand-eye co-ordination."

Agreed. It's simply assuming that the person knows what's the actual link between what the hand does and the eye sees.

As with all jargon it's a necessary short cut to say "click on icon". Even "click the mouse on the icon" is too long-winded. But if someone doesn't know it's necessary to explain that "when I say 'click on the icon' move the mouse like this so that this pointer on the screen moved over that thing there which is the icon and then press that button which makes a clicking sound". Not difficult to have to say once, easily understood thereafter but there does, in the article appear to a big cognitive gap. The gap is in the instructor and it relates to the need to explain that.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

"And when the GPO owned the telephone (singular) in your house."

And, if you were unlucky, you had a party line. (Younglings, Google is your friend.)

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Re: Reminds me of a story

"Somebody you really wouldn't expect to be an expert on current tech."

But you said Linux. Which is only a Unix look-alike so it's quite conceivable that he's been using the underlying tech for well over 30 years. What does he think about systemd?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reminds me of a story

I'd say it's the "post-millenials" (however you want to define these things) that might not actually be aware of fax machines; folks who grew up in the 80s/90s/very early 2000s are very likely to be aware of their function/existence. Unless you're already over the hill, there's likely some study group out there that considers you a millenial as well. I know as well as the next person that every generation loathes the next, but the condescension and (often derisive) labeling is a scourge on humanity.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

Systemd - Redhats' HellSpawn bastard Child ...

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Re: Doctor Synatx. "And, if you were unlucky, you had a party line." Or even, as I remember as a child, you were on a rural party line with 5 other customers! When the manual exchange (central) rang all the 6 phones rang. Everybody picked up their phone and were supposed to replace theirs when they found the call was not for them. The conversations were often very faint!

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Re: Reminds me of a story

1) do the work in a spreadsheet; 2) print the spreadsheet on paper; 3) fax* the paper to classmate; 4) type the stuff in spreadsheet... 5) Face meets palm quicker than you can say d'oh.

This is roughly what you have to do with medical data if you don't want to spend $MM proving that every system on the internet is secure and HIPAA compliant

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Re: Reminds me of a story

"Really? Every time I go back to my folks I have to show one of them where the button for X is on the remote"

Your remote has a short-cut key for pron?

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"And to make it worse, on modern tablets and smartphones, you DO click" the actual screen."

Ive noticed something with my kids and their friends.. they dont "click". They "tap".

Even when using a mouse on a desktop PC they "tap" the icons... our lexicon is changing and I for one plan to resist.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

Pensioners ... "playing Pong & its derivatives in the pub about quarter of a century earlier?"

I doubt whether 40-somethings were really into Pong. They probably reckoned that was the machine surrounded by the younger generation and therefore best avoided.

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Re: Reminds me of a story

Then no offence , but your parents are either senile or dumb.

no offense, but you're rude and thoughtless.

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Re: It was funny but she did learn stuff there.

"There aren't that many left alive. The computer age is older than you think."

The computer age for nerds dates from WW2. The computer age for normal people started around about 1990. Most people over 50, of which there are quite a few left, probably had their first serious encounters with a computer in adulthood. Those over 75, and there's a few of those left too, may have decided at the time that this was a young person's thing and they'd give it a miss. Only now, with the government full of spotty teenagers who can't believe anyone could not want to do everything on the web with their smartphone, do that generation realise that this might have been a bad call.

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