Are you computer literate?
As jobs, finances, communications, and health become digitized, computer literacy is poised to become as fundamental to daily life as going to the ATM or reading the label on a bottle of medicine. Run through this list of computer literacy basics to see how you stack up.
1. You can name your computer’s operating system and how much memory (RAM) and hard disk space your computer has. It’s often the first question you’ll need to answer if you place a call for technical support, even for something as basic as hooking up to the Internet. And buying the right version of that genealogy software you’ve been meaning to get, or the correct laser printer, is just one more reason to know the basics of the system you’re working with.
2. You can identify what type of file you have and the application you should use to open it. You know an MP3 has something to do with music. But if you had a TIFF, would you reach for an image viewer or just get upset? Knowing the difference between a document and an image file, or a Web page and a program file, is the key to unlocking the content from those icons perched on your desktop.
3. You can find the file you just downloaded or saved. If you don’t know where you put it, what good is it to you? Knowing the difference between your desktop, your documents folder, and your programs and settings folders – and how to search for a lost file – could save you hours of despair and fistfuls of hair.
4. You can copy from one application and paste into another. Users howled when Apple omitted a copy/paste function on early iPhones. Without the ability to move and share content from one application to another, information can’t travel.
5. You know how to connect to the Internet. It may seem simple at home, but if you’re traveling or borrowing a friend’s computer, it can be baffling. You’ll need to know the basic types of Internet connections (including cable, wireless, and DSL) and the different applications you can use to hook up to the Net.
6. You can search the Web well. Be honest about your searching ability: It could prove to be the most important computer literacy skill in your arsenal. Being a good searcher is more than knowing how to describe what you’re looking for. It’s also being able to scan the results that your search engine generates and avoid dubious sources and phony or malicious sites (unless that’s the kind of thing you’re into).
7. You know how to create a strong password. Like it or not, details about your identity and finances are online and could be just one weak password away from people you wouldn’t trust with your garden hose. Creating a strong password system is essential to safely navigating the digital high seas.
8. You can send an e-mail attachment. You’re great at hitting the forward button, and your friends and family know it. But if you want to share something of your own, from a photo to all 500 pages of your memoir, you’ll need to know how to create an attachment that someone else can open. Knowing how to compress files larger than 10 MB or upload them to a Web site where the recipient can retrieve them saves you the trouble of sending dozens of e-mails with smaller attachments and puzzling over undeliverable messages.
Now if you could only find that memoir file on your computer.