Learning is lifelong

I have been using a computer for the past

15 years or so. I certainly did not grow up in

this world of telecommunication, amazing

electronics and cell phones. In the 1960s my

big upgrade in the phone department was getting

a “princess” phone extension next to my

bed. If you didn’t catch on to that, ask your


Using a typewriter was no mean feat. One

had to have an extra ink spool (just in case),

carbon paper and a bottle of whiteout. Knowing

how to spell also made life easier – or a

dictionary. I was a fast typist, still am until the

arthritis in my little finger goes on strike – or

strikes the wrong key.

In my late 40s I made the transition to word

processing. Back then the screen was small,

green with white letters and storage was on

a floppy disk. I still have some somewhere if

you would like to see what one looks like. Directions

were a joke. Even computer experts

of the time didn’t know how to explain the

procedure. I stumbled along the best I could,

trying to figure these marvels out. It didn’t

help living in the hinterlands of Nevada.

When a night class was finally offered in computer

programming, I took it. I will have you

know that, using DOS, I created an amortization

program that actually worked. Know any

16-year-olds who can do that?

From a big monitor, tower and keyboard, I

graduated to a laptop, plus separate Logitech

keyboard and mouse. I connected and maintain

my HP printer, and can email and send

attachments with the best of the kids. What I

lack is being able to do things the easy way, as

in using a combination of keystrokes. I know

“ctrl P” – for you novices ctrl stands for the

control key on the lower left/right corners of

the keyboard – will wake up my printer to do

its job. “Ctrl E” moves the cursor to the center

of a line, and “ctrl L” moves it to the left margin.

I’m a whiz at backspace, tab, the arrows

and delete. That’s it.

Not one to give up, I printed off 12 pages

titled “Keyboard shortcuts in Windows 10.” I

looked through them, marking the keystrokes

I thought I might try. When I got to “Ctrl +

Spacebar,” I decided it was lunch time. Those

keystrokes would turn the Chinese input

method editor (IME) on or off. Not versed in

Chinese, I knew I had better not go there.

One instruction caught my eye: “Windows

logo key + H.” This would start dictation. If

I had known that was available, I would not

have spent money on the Nuance Dragon dictation

program. I put a star by that one.

Here’s a scary one: “Windows logo key +

Y.” This will switch input between Windows

Mixed reality and my desktop. I have no idea

what happens with that. I am not much for

Reality TV shows, but I doubt those are involved.

Virtual reality is a whole other bag

of tricks. Someday if you notice I’m missing,

I hope someone hits the escape key – just in

case I tried it out and wound up in cyberspace.

I found a few I think I can use to help me

along. F2 will rename an item. That would help

when Windows gets testy with my including ?

/ & in my titles. F3 helps me search for a file

or folder, and F4 displays the address bar in

File Explorer. My job is to remember which is

which. A sticky note on my screen might help.

The Cut (X), Copy (D), Paste (V) commands

have always been a bit confusing to

me. I know they are basic strokes. Guess I’m

just afraid something I have spent time on will

get cut to pieces, copied some place I don’t

know where, and pasted on a computer is a

scary move.

Here’s a command that demands more dexterity

than I can muster: “Ctrl + Alt + Shift

+ an arrow key.” The first three keys require

three fingers on the left hand so the right can

operate the arrows. If I practiced that, maybe

I could rearrange tiles instead of scrolling

down. At times I wind up off the screen and

that’s not at all helpful. I also note that somewhere

on Windows is a charms menu. That

might be fun to check out.

To help myself I have purchased books

such as “Teach Yourself Visually” and the

Dummy ones. I happen to be a visual learner,

as in “don’t tell me directions; give me a

map.” So, an instruction book in which every

step is numbered and explained works for me.

I seem to be a work in progress.

My goal is to give the lie to the old adage,

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Right

now, I’m hitting the “escape” ke

key and hoping

it doesn’t “delete” this column.

Mary Louise Routh Brodie is a freelance

writer and Pinedale resident. Her column

appears in the Roundup every other week.


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