I Went to College for Technology So You Don’t Have To

People constantly tell me “I don’t know anything about computers or phones. I didn’t grow up with this stuff.”

I feel the same way about cars or anything home repair related.  I didn’t grow up fixing cars or houses. I’m constantly trying to figure out how people know how to fix cars and houses.

I feel like everyone should be good at one thing in life. People who are good at technology and home repairs are all my arch-enemies. I have a friend who has a high level IT job and rebuilds houses in his spare time. It’s the worst.

Sure, I went to college. I took programming classes. I broke my own computer trying to install a disc drive. I was focused on trying to figure out how to impress the girls in college. I focused on trying to stay awake through my classes. We didn’t learn much. None of the technology we have today existed when I was in college, or if it did it was incredibly expensive.

At my first job out of college, on my first day, I installed more RAM (memory) in a PC incorrectly and left my boss to figure out why the PC wouldn’t boot.

Ten years out of college, I went on a job interview at an IT CyberSecurity company. The 2 people I met with asked what I did for fun and I told them I hacked my Wii to play Mario Kart without the game disc. They were incredibly impressed for such a simple feat. Years later, that same company hacked the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone for the FBI, which seems a billion times more impressive to me.

Here’s what you need to know about technology: It’s not as difficult as you think.

It’s sort of like being a first-grader. Once you learn to read, you’ve cracked the code. The squiggles start to become patterns and make sense, they become letters and words, which become paragraphs and chapters. You’re basically unstoppable once you can read. It’s the same thing with technology. Once you get the main concepts, you’re on your way.  Here are the main concepts:

  • Everything should be easily accessible everywhere, securely.

All my photos should be saved in The Cloud (like Google Photos or iCloud), all my music should be saved in The Cloud (like Google Music), and all my files should be saved in The Cloud (like Google Docs or Dropbox.) If I want to see something saved on my home computer, I can access that remotely using Teamviewer, or make sure the file is uploaded to Dropbox. I can download that file using my phone or my work computer or anyone else’s phone. If something doesn’t connect to something else, you may need to ask for some assistance.

  • Everything is built on the back of something else.

Think about Snapchat. It’s a storytelling app that lets you show your day to everyone who follows you. For Snapchat to exist and work, a camera and data connection of some kind need to be everywhere, like WiFi or 4G. WiFi or 4G everywhere to provide data everywhere, you need a phone. Phones aren’t possible without touchscreens and batteries and microchips. Batteries aren’t possible without power outlets. Everything is just standing on the shoulders of something else. You can do this exercise with anything.

  • Everything is individualized.

People who read newspapers are seeing the whatever the news media company wants them to see – from yesterday’s news. When people say “all anyone does is stare at their phones” I say “Isn’t that crazy? They choose what they want to read! And in 2017, no less!” Everyone can subscribe to whatever content they want – YouTube, Reddit, RSS feeds, Instagram, Facebook, or any other platform. You choose the information you want to see. That’s what makes broadcast television seem useless – the show I want to watch is only available during a small window of time that’s probably not convenient to me. Give it to me in a manner that I can decide how and when to watch it.

  • Everything is about marketing.

Just because a product or service costs more does not mean it is better. If you can justify an item’s cost based on its perceived value, that’s fine – just be aware that you can probably find a comparable, less-marketed product or service for less.

  • Everything has a cost.

If you’re using a product or service that doesn’t cost anything – then you’re actually the product. For example, Facebook doesn’t provide you a free website with pictures and videos to be nice. It provides a platform for advertisers to show you their ads. The advertisers are their actual customers. So if you say “why did Facebook change this feature?” the answer is always “so advertisers benefit.” It’s never for your benefit.

  • Every problem has happened before.

You’re not the first to experience a given problem. Type the issue you’re experiencing or the error message into Google and read through the results. If it’s a YouTube video, start watching. If it’s instructions, start reading the steps. A friend of mine who worked in construction used the motto “measure twice, cut once”. It’s the same thing with technology – read the directions twice, ask questions if things are unclear, then proceed.

 

I could write stories of all the technology mistakes I’ve made. I could tell you that I’ve accidentally deleted important data so you would feel more confident in making mistakes. But generally, if you read all the directions twice and do some investigative Google searching, you’ll be fine- even if you didn’t grow up with this stuff.