Seven Rules of Computing

With the New Year, it's time to revisit the Four Rules of Computing. They have remained tried and true for a number of years but the time has come for some changes. I am proposing to add three new Rules.

As you may remember, Rule One states, "Bill Gates is not worth fifty billion dollars for being stupid." This means that if you think that some function in your computer or software should be there, it probably is. You might have to look a little, but the option or preference undoubtedly is present.

Rule Two is, "if all else fails, turn the darn thing off." This may be the most important rule. Rebooting' can solve ninety-five percent of computer or software problems. When the mouse stops mousing, the keyboard locks, the screen freezes or some other screwy thing happens, reach down and press the 'off' button. You can't hurt anything; you just get a nasty message when you turn the computer back on.

Rule Three is seldom practiced. It says, "you must have patience." Regardless of whether you just purchased a new hundred million gigahertz super computer, things still take time to happen. Bill Gates probably would be worth twice as much if only Windows would start faster. Of course, there even is a limit on patience. If things take way too long, go back to Rule Two.

Rule Four, mostly neglected along with Rule Three, is, "read the screen." How many times do I hear the question, "I can't figure out how to fill out the form," or other variations of this question. My answer is that you may have to break down and read the instructions on the screen. I understand that some genders are less likely to read instructions; however, sometimes there is no alternative.

Now for the new Rules: I propose that Rule Five be added which states, "don't be afraid to try things." Most computer learning happens when you simply try something new. How do you multiply two numbers in an Excel spreadsheet? How do you 'cut and paste' in Microsoft Word? Whenever I try something new, I make a 'play' document. Then I can make mistakes without causing problems. If something really gets screwed up, I go back to Rule Two and turn the machine off and start over. No permanent harm.

Rule Six, which follows from Rule Five, is "use the Help menus." Few manufacturers or software companies write manuals anymore. Fortunately they mostly have improved their Help menus. In the Excel example in Rule Five, typing 'multiply' in the Excel Help Index screen brings up a dozen relevant topics. Of course, you also can purchase third party books from a score of good publishers, but start with the Help menu.

Lastly, proposed Rule Seven is, "if you really get confused, visit 'Coffee and Computers' any Friday morning." 'Coffee and Computers' started a few years ago in the computer lab at the Tustin Family and Youth Center. It was a free, 'if you have problems, come in and play' session for people taking computer classes. Today, after two moves to larger quarters, 'Coffee and Computers' meets in Classroom Two at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 South 'C' Street, Tustin, every Friday morning starting at 9 a.m., though people come in anytime until about noon. It's still free, we've added coffee and pastries, and it has grown to about 25 regulars and many visitors. The email list is over fifty. You do not have to be a resident of Tustin or be enrolled in any classes to attend.

The purpose of 'Coffee and Computers' is to answer computer hardware, software or Internet questions. Questions range from, "how do I buy my first computer?" to the esoteric. People with all levels of computer experience attend so there's almost always someone to answer almost any question. It's very informal, lots of fun and the pastries are good. It is not a class. It is an open 'free for all' where I act as the Ring Master.

So if you are interested in computers or the Internet and have questions or just want to sit and listen, visit 'Coffee and Computers' any Friday morning.

In the mean time, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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