Computer Literacy for Tech Industry?

One thing that has become abundantly clear to me is that most people, like 90%+, have very little idea of even the basics of how computers or the Internet works.

I could also say that a high percentage  of people I run into also has very little clue about how chemistry works, but I don’t know a lot of chemist, chefs, biologists, etc. However, I do know A LOT of people who work “on the web.”

It is the only industry I know where it seems acceptable for a majority of the positions to not understand their world. I am sure that most people who work in banking from the tellers to the board members understand basic banking principals. I have had a teller explain to me which account is better and how APR works. If you were a tailor and your sewing machine jammed up, I would totally expect you to pop the top and start rattling through to fix it.

We are humans and we use tools. We have jobs that require these tools. People who use tools on a daily basis usually have the curiosity and intelligence to learn about their tools. That is how people become good at their jobs.

But if your work “on the web,” and are anything other than a techie, you just can wave all those details off with impunity. Maybe it is because it is one of the few industries filled with techies. They love solving problems. If you have a problem, and it is interesting, techies will want to solve it for you. Don’t believe me? Go to a local Fry’s and wander into any aisle, pick up two items, and say out loud, “I wonder which one I should get?” Or just pick up some computer part and say, “I wish I knew how to install this.” Techies will come out of the woodwork to answer you. (Try getting that kind of help at a bank!)

Maybe this constant support is seen as tacit permission by everyone else to never have to read a manual or try some basic experimentation before they go running off for the nearest support guy. I am not going to lie, computers and their software are generally horrible and unfriendly. But have any of you seen a French Cookbook? A serger sewing machine? Anything from Ikea? There are a lot of things that other people are expected to master that are just as persnickety.

Do you work “on the web?” Then yes! I do expect you to understand the difference between HTTP and HTTPS. You should know how to clear cookies and the difference between that and cache. You should know what HTTP Headers and traceroute are. You should understand what people mean DNS and IP addresses. You should be able to find your network settings on your computer. You should know that anything 192.168.*.*, 10.*.*.*,, and 255.*.*.* are special addresses. You should understand the difference between Flash, Ajax, and Java.

These things are normally brushed aside as hopelessly geeky, but if you work “on the web,” you should at least know your daily tools.

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