Today on reddit, I found what is possibly the most perfect analogy of watching a non-geek use a computer.
My mother was finally convinced to upgrade from her toolbar-infested Windows XP PC when the local TV 11 p.m. news did a story on how hackers will be able to empty out ATMs and hold your files ransom with encryption. She bought a new PC running Windows 8.
I get a phone call that she keeps getting “stuck” while using her new PC. I come over later in the day.
“Let me show you.” She sits, double-clicks on the Internet Explorer tile, types “google” into the search bar on Yahoo.com, clicks search, types “aol mail” into Google Search, clicks search, moves the cursor over the bottom arrow in the scroll bar and clicks it many times until an e-mail with a .pdf attachment is visible. She hits the open button on the attachment and a full screen PDF reader presents some letter. “See? There no way to get out of this. The same thing happens when I run any other program except for Internet.” She pushes the power button, and then pushes it again to turn on the PC to get a start screen on the monitor. Windows 8 does indeed boot very fast.
I had to search for an answer on how to switch between programs, get back to somewhere I can launch programs from, and generally navigate without trifling passé visual aids such as window buttons, taskbars, or start menus. And then I asked myself whether this would make sense to her. I thought to myself, “shit.” It looks like I’ll be giving her a copy of Windows 7 as a gift tomorrow.
The story in and of itself is amusing, but provided nowhere near as many chuckles as the top comment by MetalSeagull:
Take your mom into the kitchen. Tell her you want to fry an egg. Open the fridge, verify there are eggs. Close the fridge. Open the fridge and get the eggs. Take the whole carton to the counter. Take one out. Return the carton to the fridge. Now return the single egg to the fridge. “OK, now I’m ready to take my egg out.” Open the fridge and get it. “Oops, I forgot a step. I’m afraid I’ll ruin it if I don’t do this in the right order.” Put the egg back and go get the entire stack of pans. Choose the biggest one. The more oversized the better. Now you need a spatula. Open the drawer and get one. Close the drawer and use the spatula to open the drawer to get a different spatula. When she objects tell her she confusing you, and this is hard enough already. This is what someone showed you to do, and by golly, you’re going to do it that way because you know it works. When you finish with all this, ask her in exasperation why making an egg has to be so complicated.
“This is what you’re doing to me with the computer. But I love you, and it’s mother’s day, so how do you want your eggs?”
Having experienced this level of frustration many, many times myself this really spoke to me, as I’m sure it will to the legions of exasperated techs helping their hapless families out.