Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

August 3, 2003


Learning how to utilize the marvelous resources of my computer


          My friend Grady Rowell has taken me on as a personal project. He is taking the time to teach me how to use my computer. I am delighted at his willingness to help me, but fearful that I may exhaust his patience by my slowness to learn.

            Like many people who own and use a computer, I have never studied how to use this incredible machine. I have never spent an hour in a workshop or a seminar that offered instruction in the basic use of a computer.

            For me the computer has been a glorified typewriter. I learned how to use a typewriter in high school. Though I had big fingers, I excelled in typing, and that skill was enormously helpful to me through both college and seminary.

            When typewriters began to be obsolete, I switched easily to composing documents with a computer. However, along the way, I learned very little else about using a computer. Going on the Internet had little interest for me, mainly because I did not know how to “go on.”

            Gradually I learned how to use the Internet. What impressed me the most was the remarkable reservoir of information that is “out there.” So, for several years now, I have utilized the “search engines” to find quickly answers to questions that heretofore might have required hours of research.

            This is an incredible aid to learning. Recently my wife shared that she had been trying for days to find a certain poem written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. She remembered only a phrase from the poem. I entered the phrase and the words, “Poem by Bonhoeffer,” in my favorite search engine, google, and within seven seconds the entire poem appeared!

            How amazingly different the world is today. As a student at Auburn University, I spent hundreds of hours in the library, losing myself back in “the stacks” where I researched one subject after another. Now students can get “into” some of those books, through a computer, without ever touching the books themselves.

            But back to my instruction by Grady. What is he teaching me, and why? I will let him explain “in his own words”: “There are so many things you can do with a computer once you learn how it operates. You can move things around, copy and paste helpful information, and have it available to insert in your documents as you are composing them. You will be amazed at how helpful this will be to you in your writing.”

            One of the first things Grady has taught me is how to move documents into a “folder.” Laugh if you want to, but I did not know how to do that. I have hundreds of documents in my computer, but I did not have them organized into folders. Now I do, and not only that, I know how to do it myself.

            I have found that most of the people who are skilled in using computers will sit down at your computer and impress you with their speed in solving a problem. They can zip right through the basic steps. You are impressed, but once the genius leaves the room, you don’t know how to use the program yourself.

            My friend Grady patiently lets me set up instructions for myself in my Notepad. We do not stop there, however. He helps me put a small icon on the bottom of the Desk Top screen, so that my instructions are easily accessible when I hit a snag.

            This week Grady taught me how to “burn” a CD. For a long time I wondered what a “CD Burner” was. Then one day my nephew Paul Flomer offered to install a CD Burner on my computer. I was delighted.

            My delight turned to embarrassment, however, when Paul said with surprise, “Uncle Walter, you already have a CD Burner on your computer; it was built in when you bought it.” I had owned the computer two years before Paul introduced me to my CD Burner.

            Paul showed me how to save some documents on a CD. However, I forgot to write down the instructions, so without Paul I was helpless.

            Now, having been guided carefully through the process  by Grady, and having stored away instructions in my Notepad, I am ready to burn one or two on my own.

            Next week Grady says we will work on the use of pictures and music. I want to learn how to attach music and pictures to my documents or e-mail. For second and third graders, using the computer is as simple as A,B, and C. However, for those of us who are 70 plus, using computers is not “for sissies.”

            Grady and I have been friends since he moved to Wetumpka in the 1940’s. He lives with his wife Celestra on Lake Jordan north of Wetumpka. Like me, he likes ugly old trucks and days with nothing more to do than motor down to my house and talk computers.

            One day next week he will send me an e-mail saying, “How about my coming down about 8:30 in the morning for a couple of hours? There are a few more tricks I want to teach you about your computer.”

            I will cancel all my important morning meetings and tell him to come on down. While Dean putters around the house wondering what two old fools are doing, Grady and I will be hunkered down in my study, mastering a few more ways to use the amazing resources of  my computer.

            With Grady’s patient persistence, my computer is fast becoming much more than a gloried typewriter. He loves to teach, and I love to learn. + + + +