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Poll: How did you gain your computer skills?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / August 8, 2008 8:23 AM PDT
How did you gain the majority of your computer technical skills?

Computer courses or training (Any recommendations?)
Learning from friends or family (How so?)
Learning from technical forums or Web sites (Any recommendations?)
Magazines, learning CDs, or textbooks (Any recommendations?)
Learned all on my own through trial and error (How so?)
Other (How so?)
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Trial & Error, Advice from GrandKids, Dummies Books, Cnet
by Ol Rod / August 8, 2008 10:20 AM PDT

I,m now 75 years old. I started playing with computer after I retired. Been at it for about 9 years, now. We first bought a couple of Dummies books, then I asked anyone who seemed to know for advice, then I discovered Cnet forums. By then my computer had some hardware problems. I added Ram, then replaced a fan, then a power supply. While all this was going on, I took Cnet's class on Building Computer. (Twice). I built my own in November 2005. I posted on Cnet forums, got quite a lot of helpful advice. I built with great fear and trembling, but i am pleased with my computer, useing it right now. Now, sometimes I help others with their problems.

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Trial & Error, Dad
by samusgravity / August 9, 2008 6:05 AM PDT

When I was about two my dad began to teach me how to use a PC. It was an old Windows 95 PC. When I was about five I was able to do everything on that computer. I recently installed Ubuntu on my laptop and found that I didn't like it. Now I have Windows XP installed on my laptop. So Yeah... I started young and now I am an Advanced PC user.

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OJT. . .
by Coryphaeus / August 8, 2008 10:57 AM PDT

or maybe AHT (At Home Training), self taught, trial and error, fixing failures, started building my own, learning in real time, no formal training, and here, at the time ZDNet. Every one I've built, I've really lost count, have worked flawlessly. I've modded OEMs, and built my own network, then graduated to my own server, then expanded it to my own web server, then built my web site.

I've graduated from home builts to IBMs. I have owned 8; four desktops and four laptops. Currently have a slightly modded fast ThinkCentre; upped the RAM, changed the optical to a DL DVD burner, added an external SATA drive, replaced the stock 40 Gig HD with an 80. I don't mess with laptops. Currently have an R-40 and the wife has an R-51.

Wayne (IBM freak - 6)

Click here to see the CNet faces, learn a little about analog and digital data, Internet connections, Spyware removal, and download free software (and a GREAT chocolate-cherry cobbler recipe).
My mini-Schnauzer is smarter than your honor student.

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brute force
by x1800yolk / August 8, 2008 11:19 AM PDT
In reply to: OJT. . .

by messing with an old packard bell running Windows 95, until it crashed. Once that happened, I was well on my way to becoming a nerd.

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30 years of PC
by M Blazer / August 8, 2008 12:08 PM PDT

I've been programing, building and modifying computers for 30 years. I bought a TRS-80 with 4k of memory and Level 1 BASIC. Radio Shack made the mistake of having the service manual in the store and the warranty seals died only minutes later. I started playing around programming a Star Trek game in BASIC and then went on to assembly language. Since then, I've programmed everything from IBM mainframes to an 8 pin Zilog chip. I've found the best way to learn about computers (or most other things in life) is to dive in and start playing with it. Find something you would like to get the computer to do, think about how to do it yourself and then, tell the computer how to do it. Simple, isn't it;)?

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How did I gain my computer skills?
by lyndaschat / August 8, 2008 1:23 PM PDT

I learned through trial and error, online forums, chat, free tutorials, Classroom in a book for Photoshop, actually for all Adobe products. MS office, through their own help files. Tech support for any hardware I needed, Gateway.. LVS online gives 6 week tutorials for a lot of software. HP gives classes online free.. I love it all, just wish I had the time and could make myself stick to one program.

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by huizhe2 / August 8, 2008 2:40 PM PDT

All of the above. I spent three months taking Novell CNE (Computer Network Engineer) classes back in 1994. For the seven years before that, though, I played with all kinds of computers on my own and with my friends. My first OS was CP/M (Control Program for Microprocessors), a single-user operating system for the 8080 and Z80 microprocessors. I can't remember whether it was a Japanese or English version. Then I moved on to DOS and Mac in English and Japanese. I had to teach myself through trial and error, by reading PC magazines, and asking my computer-savvy friends. I studied a couple of apps using commercial CDs and by reading the manuals, but since 1995 or '96, I've been doing it all intuitively and through trial and error, especially on Chinese operating systems (more difficult to deal with than Japanese). I was the system admin -- PC and Mac -- for my department at a high school in Japan for four years and spent a lot of time teaching the teachers how to use both OSes, and I've spent many, many hours providing phone and in-person support to most of my friends and family for the past thirteen years -- I still give my 84-year-old stepmother and 85-year-old mother phone support for Mac OSX and Windows XP (English). The only problems I've had so far, beyond languages, have been with desktop Linux, which is just too much trouble to bother with and will continue to be until developers come up with something that is totally compatible with MS Office, and especially with MS Word, and until Linux distros stop proliferating like the viruses they seem to be at the moment. Okay, it's nice that a user can modify their own Linux OS for specific purposes, but having so many options is off-putting.

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I got a...
by dx210 / August 8, 2008 2:56 PM PDT

Well for starters, I got a certificate on Computer Science and the rest is the internet. as the Technology advances right by your side, you don't want yourself getting left out. What I did, I do lots of research on my free time if I can't get my hands on them physically... that is, if it's hardware stuff...

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The only way I could
by rbsjrx / August 8, 2008 3:37 PM PDT

I started out back in the late 70's using an Apple II running AppleDOS. A few years later the IBM-PC came out and I learned PC-DOS. Later came Windows (I jumped into it at Windows 3). When I started, therefore, there were no classes for PC's since PC's were still new. The Internet as we know it didn't exist. The only way to learn was to buy one and dig in.

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Another dumb old fart..
by feduchin / August 8, 2008 3:52 PM PDT

Isn't it surprising how many of us 'learned all on my own through trial and error'!
I intended to start about 1981 (when I was 40) by buying a 'System 80' which was a Made-In-Singapore(?) copy of the Radio Shack TSR80, however I had to go away for a month after buying it; when I return my 15yo son had commandeered it and already had programs saved on compact disks and I couldn't drag it away from him, indeed I felt completely overwhelmed by his knowledge!
This put me back 9 years!
Finally I joined a computer company and, on the advice the accountant, got a used 286 for a song, plus a book on DOS. This really got me going and frankly I've never looked back. I DO regard my knowledge of DOS as the primary reason that I have a basic knowledge of MOST things Microsoft!
DOS, together with Nortons and other memory utilities that allowed me to manipulate file internals, taught me tons of stuff, also Word Perfect 5.1 which was great software.
Of course a lot of the newer stuff is more complicated, but then one doesn't really need to know the intricacies as long as basic DOS/Windows is understood.
I still keep most of my old programs, indeed whole operating systems; remember Windows 3.11? It was pretty good and surprisingly reliable.

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This and that
by white-bread / August 8, 2008 4:34 PM PDT

Classes, online, trial and error.

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Everything listed and then some.
by wcslaw / August 8, 2008 7:34 PM PDT

My fingers first danced across a keyboard before computers had them attached (punch cards). Most of my knowledge has been self taught over a 35 year period. The first computer I ever used was an IBM 1170, and the first one I owned was a TRS80 Model I. I've used (and learned) Dos's from CPM-DOS, TRS-DOS, MS-DOS (1 thru 7) and almost every version of Windows from Win-286 thru XP. I even used a Mac for awhile in college. The next system I buy will undoubtedly use Vista. Mostly I learned by reading, reading, reading, and doing, doing, doing. Anyone who thinks Tech-support will help them has never actually had to make that call or they would know better. The first rule of Tech-support is that whatever the problem is, their hardware/software is not the culprit. If you own a computer, and want it to actually work, you must learn to take care of problems yourself.

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It all started with a Commador 64
by emanday / August 8, 2008 10:00 PM PDT

My husband brought one home from Hong Kong (he was in the Royal Navy) before they had even appeared in the shops here.

From that point on I was hooked and have experimented with computers ever since.

After dragging various employers kicking and screaming into the 20th century, I then spent the last ten years of my working life as an IT Contractor earning "big bucks"; usually a lot more than my formally trained client supervisors were getting! Wink

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Error and Trial
by USSENTERNCC1701E / August 8, 2008 10:02 PM PDT

My first computer experience was with a Packard Bell when I was 13, it was my dad's old computer and I wanted to install a game; I didn't have enough free space on the hard drive, so I started deleting files... in System32. When I was 17 I did take two formal classes at a local community college, A+ hardware and OS prep courses, but other than that most of what I've learned came from finding old broken computers and trying to fix them, or trying to get old computers to run new software.

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by JoMilton / August 8, 2008 11:53 PM PDT

In 1996 I had no PC experience at all. Never seen Windows. I got a job in a call centre and between calls began to investigate the pc. Even switching between applications terrified me because I had no idea what I was doing.
In 2003 a friend made me try a game she had on her desktop pc. Reluctant at first I rapidly became hooked on Sims 1. Her PC was a tragic mess. She did NO maintenance whatsoever, surfed without a firewall, constantly loaded free trial software, never ran scans. When the PC ground to a halt she reinstalled Windows. Over and again. I had no idea this was not normal behaviour.
Then I bought my own copy of Sims when the borrowed copy was returned. At this point I discovered House Keeping, and began to defrag, check disk, disk clean up, virus scan, installed anti spyware, all on my friend's pc, snd all thanks to the instructions on how to prepare your pc before installing Sims. And I badgered male friends for information.
In 2004 someone persuaded me to go halves on a second hand laptop. So I had my own machine to fiddle with. I now get asked to clean up other people's machines. Yesterday I even installed a driver all by myself. Last year I added 1GB of Ram. All to make my Sims work better. If it hadn't been for Sims I never would have learned anything about PCS - motivation is everything.
I'm afraid to mess about too much with my laptop in case I break it and get told off by my brother in law. So I can't see myself ever progressing beyond "dusting and tidying" level work. I am a 50 year old single lady who grew up pre-computer era. I don't think I've done too badly so far.

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By "breaking" them
by jmastanduno / August 9, 2008 12:18 AM PDT

I have had no "formal" or classroom training at all. What I do have is an inquisitive mind, and always had an interest in things electronic, back to when I recall " installing" an earphone jack in a clock radio as a kid so I could listen to music when I was supposed to be going to bed!!!!
I always built sound sytems and PAs stereo systems etc, and didnt start messing with PCs until around 1996 or so... I had an AMD K5 with 32 RAM and couldnt figure out why It crashed all the time when I used "cakewalk" (a primitive music multitrack recording program). In I dived, upgrading RAM, etc. till it couldnt be made any better.

I learned the most by having poked around with settings/ trying cooked drivers etc so much that I have rendered the things inoperable. I have learned that hard drive failures are catastrophic AND unrecoverable (had 4 or 5 so far) and that AT LEAST 2 full backups of YOUR DATA (music, photos, docs etc) is essential. (I dont use "backup" programs or utilities, I just copy all the folders my data is in to external drives. Nevr had any luck with restoring from "backup" programs").
ALSO... a clean fresh Windows install IS NOT A BAD long as you have your legally purchased program discs and the aforementioned backups you'll be back in business in no time at all.
Thats my story and Im sticking to it

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Had to vote for 'OTHER' -- since I use all methods,
by MichieS / August 9, 2008 12:37 AM PDT

listed, Except Computer courses (because there are far too limited, and don't emphasize deep down basics, in my opinion).

There are things to learn via all the methods listed in the poll.

I have a friend, now 81 years old, who is a virtual sponge; because he *wants* to learn. That is his key, for anybody else too. Five-six years ago, he wouldn't touch a computer. By helping him, I myself, have learned much. That's another key. Help others, dig into whys and hows, so you can explain facts better.

I'm not far behind my friend agewise (but I have the advantage of a lifetime of growing up with computerdom). But, even now, not a day goes by that I don't learn 5-10 new 'things' about the field. Some, I should have learned long ago - just didn't.

Finally, a 'new' age tip -- use Google extensively. I rarely fail to find very informative searches. I when I do, I copy/paste excerpts into a collection of text files for later reference.

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by akareload / August 9, 2008 1:16 AM PDT

This is a very complicated area and unless there was the ability to mark more than one or even ALL of the above, it is not really accurate.

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Course work and on the job training...
by jpprice47 / August 9, 2008 3:03 AM PDT

I started working with computers in 1978 as a computer operator on an NCR min-computer, then IBM mainframes. During my work, I took programming courses at a community college, then was hired as a programmer/analyst. I progressed from mainframes to personal computers. I completed a Masters degree in computer information systems. I am retired now but troubleshoot and install systems for local businesses.

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Most of the above
by 4Denise / August 9, 2008 3:29 AM PDT

About 90% of my knowledge comes from my own trial and error, but I have taken computer classes in college. Also, I am definitely a reader. I own numerous computer books and I have checked out pretty much all of the ones at the library.


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How did I gain my skillz?
by zepper / August 9, 2008 4:04 AM PDT

I checked "Other" as it was a combo of several of the above. I became inerested in small computers thru a friend who worked in computers at a local university and had a fairly extensive S-100 system at home (late '70s). He could also program in assembly language, C and others. He helped me get started and I learned a lot by myself from books (I never bought from the "for Dummies" or "for Idiots" series as I'm a Mensan 2 percenter and disliked that whole marketing concept), magazines, etc.
. I avoided a lot of trial and error, as the stuff was quite expensive then, but if you know the basics, you can avoid major traumas. Back then the Internet wasn't a consideration - there were local bulletin boards where hobbyists could share info at 300 bits per second and up as time went on... and local Users' Groups (my mentor and I were involved in initiating groups there too), but now you can find out most anything you want on the Web and the bookstores still have large sections of computer titles. IAC, there are still Users' Groups in most major cities to assist the noobs.
. I consider myself an advanced level user, but others would put me on a higher level. It's all relative... Get there by whatever route suits you.


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Every way I could
by jennywren1420 / August 9, 2008 4:50 AM PDT

Reading, reading, reading, reading, CNET forums and others, friends, repair people (fortunately, I didn't need many of them), lots of trial and error, necessity (when I was the only person using a computer in my office), giving lots of thought to problems when they arose and a lot more. I think that everyone has to do it in a way that suits that person's way of dealing with gaining knowledge and dealing with problems. I try to prepare myself ahead of time, but there are always new things to learn. Listen carefully, take notes, make hay from problems. I recently bailed out a PC person, although I have a Mac. She couldn't get her mouse to work but happened to mention that her screen wasn't lighting up, either. I suggested taken the computer's plug out of the wall and leaving it for a few minutes. The computer started up fine after that. I would not have learned that, had I not had a similar problem with my printer, years ago. So I try to apply things both specifically and more globally, when applicable.

Books are great, though I no longer can use much of my favorite, "Sad Macs, Bombs and Other Disasters," because it hasn't been updated for current versions of OS X. The Dummies books are good, and Help functions for various applications can sometimes lead you to the right place. For Macs, the Apple Support online articles can be extremely good. Magazines for your OS may have what you need, and many have online versions. There are forums for many subjects, from the broad ones to those for more specific issues. There are discussion lists also (ongoing, versus responsive only to posted questions).

I haven't used a physical Mac Users Group, but I'm sure that they are good, too, and there must be some for PC users as well.

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Learning the computer
by Christine58 / August 9, 2008 4:57 AM PDT

In the beginning there was Win95 and great Tech-Support all based in this country.
There was communication with people in foreign countries.
There was irc. Then there was NetMeeting. For free, you could talk to these people. Amazing.
Email was also the most fantastic thing. An instant letter to anyone.

I finally took a computer class and discovered the whys and wherefores of what I was doing.
Then there was a web-design class.

During all of this there were free publications to subscribe to that taught a myriad of things on caring for your machine. Eventually, you are the one that people are going to for information about their computers.

If you really like the process, you can learn it.

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All of the above
by Owl / August 9, 2008 5:29 AM PDT

I have gained my knowledge from all of the options, and to say which one I have learn the most from is hard to say. All come down to trail and error to solve some problems.

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All of the above.
by a_raub / August 9, 2008 6:59 AM PDT

For me the correct answer was missing from the poll. For me the correct answer is "All of the above". I have used all to the methods in the poll many times over to gain my computer expertise. One of the biggest factors to my expertise is that I have bee utilizing these methods for well over 20+ years. Truly this is no bigger asset then time and experience when it comes to computers.

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Leo Leporte
by Aileen358 / August 9, 2008 7:09 AM PDT

Watching Leo Leporte when he was on ZD TV I think that was the channel I'm not sure. The shows were Call For Help and Screen Savers.

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Computer skills gained through training/courses.
by rosie82 / August 9, 2008 12:30 PM PDT

My advice is to start with the basic courses and work on up to the more specialized courses that interest you. Local technical schools or community colleges are best for the beginner.

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learning with Macs
by jolysmoke / August 9, 2008 6:22 PM PDT

The beauty of Macs, especially the earlier ones, is that they are consistent and logical enough for one to be able to work out what to do from brain-power alone, once you had grasped the basic principles from the excellent manuals that were provided with the early Mac machines around 1990 with OS6. So I never took any courses or read any hefty tomes such as existed in the PC world. As the OS grew more complicated with OSX in 2000, the Internet was there as a source of help, and now when I cannot find the answer in Apple's fine built-in help system, I go to CNET or the main German Mac help forum and ask a question.
In the case of a major crisis I would ring Apple Care.
Ironically, I learned about PCs from Internet sites, as I was forced to use them in Internet Caf

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Another vote for "all of the above"
by ninetywt / August 9, 2008 10:46 PM PDT

I suppose I'll say "other" but actually it should be "all of the above".

I first went to engineering school in 1977. Started out with punch cards and mainframes; we were required to write our own Fortran programs. I had a couple of computer science classes there.

My dad was a Civil Eng. professor and he soon had a Tandy which we played around with a lot. By the time I finished undergraduate school, PCs were more common and I did a bit of programming on them. In graduate school I worked with a scientist and we used a Packard Bell extensively in his research.

On to my first real job, we used PCs to do our number crunching and began to use 'packaged' software. Back in that day, if you had to swap out floppy drives or add memory you had to do it yourself - computer repair shops were unheard of around here. At that company, over time, I became competent at part-changing, defragging, etc. Before I left I was the on-site Network Admin (Novell, ugh).

Now I've got my own business, where I take care of all things computer. I've set up my own home network, and can take care of most problems without having to take a PC to the shop. Best of all, I know when I'm over my head and *do* need professional help. Heh.

My advice for folks just starting out: Pay attention, Be inquisitive, and Don't be afraid to get your feet wet; also Be aware of your own limitations.

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Count me in on ALMOST all of the above
by crazzeecathy / August 15, 2008 5:20 AM PDT

I've never worked with computers unless you want to call a computer register a pc.LOL!
I didn't even know how to turn a pc on 5 years ago.I let the one I bought for my step daughter set in the shipping box for almost 3 years before I came home from the market one day & a friend who happen to be visiting for a few days had set it up while I was gone.

Now I know how to put desktops & laptops basically together from the so called bottom up.

I learned by asking everyone who sounded like they knew what they were talking about everything until I drove all my friends crazy.

So then I learned about tech websites & I read,read,read.Bookmark,bookmark,bookmark!

I love the tech world.Cnet has been my mainline to keeping up on the fast-changing tech world.

So almost all of the above is my answer!
Thanks Cnet!

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