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
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.