Adam Turner January 12, 2012
Technophobes, fear not, help is out there.
ARE you a 12 o'clock flasher? It's never too late to master your technology.
A 12 o'clock flasher isn't a pervert who likes the midday sun. It's someone who is so technologically illiterate, the clock on their VCR is still flashing ''12:00'' because they don't know how to set the time.
You may feel technology has passed you by but it's never too late to come to terms with the digital age, thanks to our four-step program.
1. Read the flamin' manual
The people who most need to read the manual are often the ones most likely to ignore it - perhaps because they feel intimidated. Admittedly, some manuals have been translated poorly from other languages but it pays to persevere. Don't try to learn everything at once. Start with the basics and then tackle advanced features over time.
Keep all your manuals in a safe place and perhaps write yourself a cheat sheet.
If you've already lost the manual, you might be able to find it online. Start with the manufacturer's website. If you can't find the manual you're looking for, see if the manual for a more recent model answers your questions. If you can't find what you need online, trying giving them a call.
If the manufacturer can't help, try a web search for the make and model number. Steer clear of websites that want you to pay to download manuals. Once you've downloaded the manual, probably as a PDF, you can print it and even keep a digital copy on your computer, smartphone or tablet.
2. Google the question
Many people post their technological queries in online forums. Chances are you can find someone discussing your problem and someone else offering the solution (if they've answered with a curt ''RTFM'', you know the answer lies in the manual). Don't ask a question until you've checked if it's already been answered.
Knowing how to phrase a search query helps and you'll find a good guide by Google at
tinyurl.com/74gqwcf. If you can't find the answer for the exact make and model of your gadget, try broadening your search. Sometimes you'll find your answer where someone is discussing a different model of the same product.
3. Ask a kid
Kids always think they know more than you but when it comes to new technology, they're probably right.
Unfortunately, children aren't always great teachers. Don't just let them fix your problem, get them to explain what they're doing. Don't be afraid to ask them to slow down and repeat things or to ask what may seem like stupid questions. Grab a notepad to jot down important points. Write down new problems as you encounter them, so you've got a list of questions ready to go next time you see your young assistant.
4. Take a class
Whether you are the student or the teacher, sometimes we're the least patient with the ones we love. Perhaps it's time to take a class.
A growing number of community centres, libraries and tertiary institutions offer technological classes. Most are aimed at beginners and, often, seniors.
One of the easiest ways to find your nearest courses for using computers and the internet is to contact your city or shire council, which should be able to direct you. You'll also find details by searching at the Victorian government's website, vic.gov.au.
Some computer clubs also run courses aimed at beginners, plus they hold monthly meetings and run special-interest groups focusing on various topics.
The Melbourne PC User Group runs a range of computer courses; for more details, phone 9276 4000. The Apple Users' Society of Melbourne (AUSOM) doesn't offer classes but runs a range of special interest groups; for more details, phone 0421 126 175.