Okay, I’ll admit that I was moderately offended the first time I saw a “for dummies” book in my local Barnes and Noble. Who did these people think they were, calling us DUMMIES? But then I picked one up -- it was for a specific computer program -- and I began to understand the value of the guide books designed “for the rest of us.” The intention is not to make you feel like a dummy, as so many other TECHNICAL books do.
NOT REALLY FOR DUMMIES
And this is where "PCs For Dummies" is so admirable. Dan Gookin, though a tech-head himself, speaks to his readers like a LAY person -- he uses common, everyday words and spells each principle out in a clear, easy-to-understand manner. It seems that his entire goal with this book is to make you not feel like an idiot -- to recognize that you are an intelligent adult who simply has never been exposed to computers before and wants to learn a new SKILL. He takes you from absolute square one -- turning the machine on -- through to increasingly more difficult tasks -- saving files, adding graphics and sound to your computer, and using the internet. And best of all, his book is set up using three simple CLASSIFICATIONS to indicate information that might be useful to you.
When Dan offers an important suggestion -- such as the fact that “double-clicking on a mouse will open a file or new window” -- he makes sure to catch your attention by posting a small SYMBOL near the pertinent information. “Tips” are quick little HINTS that will help you maneuver more easily through the use of your computer. Instead of having to read 5 pages of technical gobbledegook to find the piece of information you need, Dan has DISTILLED all of the important facts down in to these brief and effective snippets of wisdom. And I’ll tell you, as a veteran computer user, it would take you months to figure out some of these “tips” on your own -- just piddling around with your computer.
Also of great help are the items marked “remember it.” These are skills, issues, and important bits of information that will continue to POP UP over and over again as you learn to use more and more of your computer’s functions. If you had time to do nothing else, you could learn a great deal about the basic use of a PC just by skimming through the “tips” and “remember it” flags.
Of course, a new computer user’s worst fear isn’t understanding how a mouse works -- it’s the cold-blooded terror of accidentally punching a button you shouldn’t have and causing a complete meltdown! We have all -- at one time or another -- gotten an ERROR message and thought, “My God, I’ve killed the computer!” Dan does two things to help alleviate this particularly insidious form of TECHNOPHOBIA. First, he continually reassures his readers that the chances of permanently destroying your computer are very slim. With the current Windows operating systems, it’s really hard to screw things up for too long -- you don’t have access to programming code unless you know what you are doing. If you goof up, you just RE-BOOT the computer (hit control-alt-delete or the “restart” button). You may lose some of the information you were working on -- if you haven’t been following Dan’s “tips” and backing up regularly -- but the world isn’t going to come to an end.
However, to avoid these little catastrophes, Dan has strategically placed a series of “warning” symbols next to tips that will keep you from accidentally erasing your hard work or causing START-UP problems with your computer. While these suggestions are important and clearly command attention, the wording is friendly and welcoming. These warnings are meant to educate you about potential HAZARDS, not make you feel as though you are two clicks away from destroying your computer at any given moment!
Since Dan Gookin has been working in the computer industry, he has received a lot of mail from both first-time and veteran computer users. Most of these letters contain QUESTIONS about computers -- on everything from installing new software to hooking up a modem to the underlying programming language that runs your system. Do you remember being in school and being told that you should speak up if you have a question -- because someone else in the room probably has the same question and is just too afraid to ask it? The same is true with computers! As you are working through the different sections of this book, a question may pop into your head -- one which has probably been asked a dozen times before. So Dan has selected the most common and universally APPLICABLE of these questions to share with his readers. You not only learn from Dan’s wisdom, but also from the experiences of other “newbies” just like you!
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