Have you purchased or ridden in a new car lately? If so, you may have heard about or experienced sticker shock. But that is not all! You have been exposed to “dashboard shock” created by the myriad operations offered to you by knobs, buttons, levers, touch pads, and even voice activation.


Photo by: Erik McLean on Unsplash

Case in point. I recently bought a Jeep. I didn’t need a new car, just one that could pull a boat trailer and the jeep promised to fill the bill. I picked up the car from the dealer at the showroom in the early evening. I was pressed for time and the salesman was intent on spending as little time as possible. A perfect match for a short session. I knew how to drive a car. 

My skill set included: starting, steering, stopping, and changing gears. I could read warnings illuminated on the panel and knew that dial indicators that registered in the red needed attention. I could figure out the radio and air conditioner. I was away with my new car in five minutes.

I left with the intention of getting to my destination using the right roads, not hitting anybody, and not being hit by them. This worked.

Over time I learned that some operations I had always done easily were now impossible like unlocking the fuel hatch. With the new car it is done by pressing a button hidden in a recess next to the drivers left knee. This required consulting the owner’s manual the first time I went to a gas station. That is just one example. There are many others. These include nuanced actions that could go into the hundreds. How about this one? “To activate lane change assist, tap the turn signal up or down once without moving beyond the detent, and the turn signal will flash three times and automatically turn off. This will cause the car to return on its own to the correct lane.”

For safe operation of your car, indicators at or near the instrument cluster help us make good decisions by informing. Not doing something for us. This includes: speed, oil level and engine temperature warnings, and a few more. Based on what you see, you observe and employ your common sense.

You can figure out on your own the lights, the turn signals and the windshield wipers, etc. The voice activated phone you got but didn’t ask for, navigation, heated seats and steering wheel, media options (AKA radio), a complicated heater and air conditioner with dozens of options, and many other things are there for somebody. They are not for the person who wants to drive to the grocery store, your doctor’s office or to a daughter’s house, and is willing to make and receive phone calls at home. Fortunately, most of us can figure out a way to use the car the way we want and avoid the gadgets and so-called conveniences we don’t need.

Why can’t we do the same thing with our computer? There is a simple answer, but it takes a plan. Like using our car there are many things in our life where we only want what we need rather than everything that is possible. OK, how about us with a computer?

Most of us use a computer for the following:

  • Send and receive an email,
  • Access Google for information or to buy something on Amazon,
  • Write a message or create a document like I am doing now.

This is less than one percent of what a computer can do and is easier than following a recipe for making brownies or driving to Bloomington without getting lost. The problem is that we confront a computer with anxiety because we don’t understand everything the computer can do and therefore don’t start. It overwhelms us. Think about it. You don’t avoid driving a car because you can’t change a tire. You get help if you need it.

Let’s start. Get access to a computer. It may either be a lap top, or a desk top. If you eventually purchase one, the lap top option would probably be best. Then get someone skilled with a computer who is patient, and willing to teach you from the bottom up (what you want to learn) and not from the top down (everything you can do with a computer including what you want).

Reaching out is the hardest thing. Once you have accomplished this the rest is easy. “Stay tuned” there is more to come.


By Savvy Senior

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