I'm not going anywhere with this one. I'm just thinking about the term Digital Literacy and staring into the night. I don't think it's generally understood how real this term is.
A friend of mine worked in a gravel pit. Nice guy. Likes people, has a sense of humor, a broad selection of musical tastes, and a leaning towards the Gothic. He got the job a little after high school, and, you know, it pays really well and has a great benefits package. So he was content with that. It let him have a nice lifestyle.
Well, even rock runs dry, and he found himself laid off at forty. When he went to file for his Unemployment Insurance he found he had to enter it with a keyboard. They didn't allow written forms anymore. It took him a while. I found out how long later when he asked if he could use my computer to type his resume. He'd never used a typewriter in his life, much less a computer.
It wasn't just hunt'n'peck for the letters. He had to sit there and look at all 104 keys every single time. "How do I make a space between words?" "Just use the space bar." Pause. Oh yeah, it doesn't say Space Bar on it, does it? "How do I go down a line?" "Hit return." Pause. Oh yeah ... it's just one more key with an arrow on it....
It took him a very long time to get a few lines. I typed up the rest of it for him while he went off to sit and try not to slip into a deep depression about being forty and unemployed.
He had held the mouse very, very gently, between two fingers, and then lifted his hand to press for a click with his index finger. He knew computers were expensive electronic equipment. He owns a lot of expensive audio gear. So he was very careful. It was no good saying, "Oh, you can treat that rough, like a joystick." He'd never owned a game machine.
I put everything on a labelled floppy in several formats and handed it to him to give to the printers. I felt really bad for him by then. He really was suddenly illiterate, as much as if he'd never learned to read.
I remember an interview with a Rancher couple some years back. The wife was trying to get her husband to sign contracts more than he did, and he wasn't all that happy about it. "A handshake was good enough in my dad's day," he said. "Sure," she said, "but those big men couldn't read and didn't want to embarrass each other."
I can see that.
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© 2000 Owen Briggs
last modified on 30 sep 00