Experts find problems are basic

LITTLE PROBLEMS

March 23, 1992|By George Papajohn | George Papajohn,Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- Forget about the Michelangelo virus or those rumors about some nasty Friday the 13th computer infection.

The types of problems most owners of home computers really fret about are not nearly so spectacular or so complicated.

"We have had people move their machine and they forget where things plug in," said Don Erber, 32, co-owner of P.C. Tutors in Chicago.

Exactly.

People like Mr. Erber receive a lot of calls in which people express confusion, frustration and trepidation about "things."

For those of you who still haven't entered the Age of Ease, Enlightenment and Organization represented by owning a personal computer, or PC, think of the PC as something akin to a very complicated VCR, without remote control.

Given consumers' inability to program VCRs or even set their VCR clock properly, you can imagine what kinds of technological terror can result from PC ownership.

"It's like taking a VCR to the fourth magnitude," Mr. Erber said. "They get the machine home and they turn it on and it doesn't do anything by itself and they're not sure how to leap into it," said David Dimbert, a PC tutor who runs Macmania out of his home in Skokie, Ill.

Mr. Dimbert and Mr. Erber have found a market niche in making house calls to people staring at $400 color screens, unable to figure out how to write a letter to their aunt in Tallahassee or organize their finances.

"I had somebody call me up and ask me about floppy disk compatibility," Mr. Dimbert said.

He considered this a quaint, even humorous, question. Sort of like the owner of a VCR wondering whether it would run eight-track tapes.

Another cute one from the Macmania files: Some owners of Macintosh machines called Mr. Dimbert expressing concern about the Michelangelo virus.

He pointed out to them -- presumably without snickering -- that the virus was aimed only at IBM-compatible machines, and Macs are not IBM compatible.

Mr. Erber occasionally is contacted by parents who bought a nifty, spiffy expensive computer to amuse and educate their children. The kids, though, got bored quickly.

Eventually the parents get around to calling Mr. Erber, explaining to him, "I bought this for my kids, they used it for two months and that was a year ago."

The computer, by now, is snuggled in Styrofoam again in the original boxes.

"People know how to take it apart," Mr. Erber said, sounding as if this truly was a positive development in mass computer literacy.

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