If you think you’re overwhelmed with computer in this technological age, you’re not alone. But you don’t have to throw in the towel because you feel you cannot keep up with technology that changes everyday. With dedication on your part, you can easily gain the knowledge and skills you need to succeed in this technological age. Computer skills falls into two categories: hardware and software.
Hardware skills allow you to physically operate a computer. Hardware skills can be as simple as knowing how to turn devices on and off. They might also involve more complex tasks like connecting machines together in a network environment (computer networking), changing parts in devices or fixing broken devices. For these complex tasks, many employers hire trained technicians with advanced computer skills.
Software skills on the other hand help you to efficiently use computer programs and applications (apps). There are some software skills that employers may consider as prerequisites to employment. Most employers this days believe all applicants have a basic understanding of word processing programs, like Microsoft Word and spreadsheets programs, like Microsoft Excel, and how to search the net for answers when needed.
Why Do You Need to Learn Computer Skills?
A person with a computer connected to the Internet can find answers to virtually any question. Understanding the computer, connecting to the Internet, opening a browser, and using a search engine gives that person so much more power than someone who doesn’t know how to do these things. Having a good understanding of the terminology and jargon used with computers can also help you be more efficient with other technology terminology. For example, if you know how to find something on the Internet you also need to know the basics of how to connect to the Internet and what programs to use on your devices. Following are some ways for you to get started with computer and be computer proficient in no time.
1. You Need A Computer
The first thing you need to be computer proficient of course is a computer itself. Teenagers these days can do pretty much everything on a smart phone. They even write their papers and do their home work on a smart phone but I wouldn’t recommend it for most people. Besides, it’s cheaper to buy a notebook/laptop computer these days than a smart phone. Since I will be using the term notebook/laptop interchangeably, I like to clarify the differences between then now. A notebook is an extremely lightweight personal computer while a laptop is a small, portable computer that is small enough to fit on your lap.
a. If you’re just starting to be computer proficient for the first time, I will recommend you go to your local computer recycling shop and get yourself a laptop for around $200.00 (US). If you prefer to get a refurbished computer online, I recommend you check out the Newegg or the Ebay websites. Whichever notebook/laptop you ended up getting, here is the minimum requirement I will recommend:
- Intel Core i7 3rd Gen 3667U (2.00 GHz)
- 4 GB Memory
- Hard Disk 128 GB SSD
- Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
- 13.3″ screen
The above TOSHIBA Grade B Laptop Model Z930 with Intel Core i7 3rd Gen 3667U (2.00 GHz), 4 GB Memory, 128 GB SSD Hard disk, 13.3″ Screen, and Windows 10 Pro 64-bit, cost $179.99 and ships for free anywhere in the US in 3 to 4 days.
b. If you prefer the latest notebook/laptop and have some money for it, I will recommend one with the following similar specifications (specs).
- GeForce RTX 2080 8 GB GDDR6
- Intel Core i7 9th Gen 9750H (2.60 GHz)
- 32 GB Memory 512 GB NVMe SSD
- 15.6″ 1920 x 1080 IPS-Level, 144 Hz 3 ms, 72% NTSC 100% sRGB
- 15.08″ x 10.24″ x 1.16″ 5.49 lbs.
- 1 x Mini DisplayPort 1 x HDMI (4K @ 60Hz)
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
- 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2
The above specs is for an MSI GE63 Raider RGB-499 144 Hz IPS , 15.6″ screen, Intel Core i7 9th Gen 9750H (2.60 GHz), NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080, 32 GB Memory, 512 GB NVMe SSD Hard drive and Windows 10 Home 64-bit Gaming Laptop which cost around $2,399.00.
I recommend buying a notebook/laptop because it’s easy for you to take it with you on the road without relying on the Hotel’s computers and leaving some sort of your digital footprint behind on a computer that doesn’t belong to you.
c. If you cannot afford a notebook/laptop, you have to make sure you go to your local Library and maximize your time on the terminal since there is a time limit in most cases. Be aware all your work on a Library computer are not private. They are strictly monitored. And you know why. Talk to the Librarian to find out how much time you have and the basics on what to do: like how to turn the computer ON or OFF and what to do if anything should happen, e.g. if the computer froze up for example. The chances are, the Librarian will want you to come over and get them if you have any problem(s) so that they can help you safe your work so you don’t loose anything.
2. What Do you Want to Learn?
So, why did you “shell” out the above money to get yourself a new computer or if you already own one or planning on taking advantage of using one at your local Library, what are you planing on learning with it? The chances are you just wanted to have basic computer hardware and software skills to help you in your day to day life or just to get better at your job. Whether you’re looking to get better in your career or venturing to learn new skills in a different field, analyzing the requirements of the field you’re going into is the best place to start. The best place to find these skills is in the job description of the new skills you’re getting ready to acquire. For example, a data entry level 2 position require you to:
- Enter information from source documents into various automated information systems and databases using formatted input screens. This basically means you need to be able to type a minimum of 50 words a minute and have some sort of knowledge of how the app you will be using (which can be an SQL database back-end with a browser front-end) work. For this scenario, you will also need to have the basic knowledge on how to use your Internet browser.
- Source information includes applications, petitions, forms, supplemental documentation, client decisions, and other documents. You need basic knowledge of Word Processing software like Apache OpenOffice Writer, Apple Pages, Google Docs, Ichitaro, LibreOffice Writer, Mathematica, Microsoft Word or WordPerfect.
- Modify, update, and correct data contained in automated systems. Basic editing skills needed.
- Perform data inquiries and searches on automated systems. Basic knowledge of search engines is needed.
- Generate records and reports from these systems; and perform name and alien number searches. Basic knowledge of database and search engines.
- Accomplishes all tasks as appropriately assigned or requested. Time management skill.
Talking to your friends or your networking group is another way to discover what technical skills other people in your area of interest have and the apps/software they use on a regular basis. This can be accomplished with a simple question, such as “Did you gain any new skills lately that have helped you in your job?,” or “What’s your favorite software or app that use on a regular basis at work or for fun?”
Since the specific skills you want to learn are dependent on your position, you need to familiarize yourself with the list of computer skills related to your job as a starting point. Then improve on those skills on a daily basis until they become part of you. Here are some list of basic computer skills for a beginner to consider.
- Analytics – Basic ways of looking at data through data graphically
- Familiarity with Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc
- Graphic Design – Basic knowledge of graphic design software like Photoshop
- Word Processing like Microsoft Office or Google Docs
- Working with Spreadsheets using Microsoft Excel or Google spreadsheets
- Communication using Outlook, Slack, or Teams.
3. Find A Tutor
Once you’ve determined the skills you would like to learn, the next step is to find a real person to help you; not just someone online. Don’t be ashamed to ask any of your relatives including your own kids. Your kids for example know a lot about computer, but they may not be happy if you ask them for help all the time. Pay a small fee to get a neighbor kid who is in High school or College to help you preferably in a public setting like Starbucks. Ask your tutor for a homework and which books they recommend you check out of the Library or online to practice with.
4. Learn the Basic Steps to Get On the Computer
You need to quickly learn how to turn the computer ON, OFF, on standby if applicable. Next step is how to log on or log off your computer using Windows 10, macOS 10.15: Catalina, or any Linux Distro (Distribution Software such as MX Linux, Manjaro, Mint, Elementary, Ubuntu, Debian, Gentoo, openSUSE, CentOS, and Mandrake). After that you need to create a free E-Mail account using Outlook.com or Gmail or Yahoo. Click on the link to the email software you would like to setup and sign up for them using their online instructions. If you’re not sure which provider to use, you can sign up for all three and test them to see which one you prefer. You can then give this Email address to family and friends as well as use the Email address to apply for jobs or register with just about any website and social media. Make sure you pick a password you can remember and make sure your password has numbers and other characters like the percent sign (%) or pound (#) sign. Buy a small notepad for recording your passwords and keep it in a safe place. Next step involve setting up a free cloud storage space for saving your information. You may select OneDrive (Click on Sign up for free) or Google Drive and use their online instructions to sign up for a free account.
5. Learn Basic Computer Terminology and Jargon
Learn about the assorted programs and applications that you will be using. In step 4 above we introduced the following terminology:
- Windows 10 (World most popular Operating system next to Andoid)
- macOS 10.15 Catalina
- Linux Distro (Distribution Software)
- Cloud storage
- OneDrive (Click on Sign up for free)
- Google Drive.
Play around sending and receiving Emails to yourself and to family and friend after you signed up for one. This will help you understand the applications better. Remember to review anything you post online or emails you send since it can comeback and hunt you for the rest of your live.
6. Learn a Little About Chat Jargon or Chatspeak aka netspeak.
This is a form of speech in which one shortens words and replaces the letter “s” with the letter “z” in an effort to save time and look cool. Chatspeakers also rarely use capitalization or correct punctuation. Some examples are “lol” (laugh out loud), and “btw” (by the way). Also pay attention to – 1337 speak, which means “leet” or “elite”. You won’t really need to worry about Elite speak, as it was mainly used by hackers and crackers in the 1990s. Now it is mainly used by “wannabe” hackers, so you are most likely safe. Another jargon to watch for is hashtag. This is a type of metadata tag that is used on social networks such as Twitter and other microblogging services, which allow users to apply dynamic, user-generated tagging that make it possible for others to easily find messages with a specific theme or content.
7. Beware of Bad People Online
There are pedophiles online, which means you need to protect your kids from them. There are also scams, viruses, cookies, and Trojan horses. You need to protect yourself by keeping your computer up-to-date with security patches and other updates. Over time you will learn to recognize spam and how to spot phishing emails or forged emails, some of which can look very real. You absolutely need to learn about money mule scams so that you do not fall for them.
8. Setup Antivirus software on your Notebook/laptop
You will learn to protect your computer by installing anti-spy and anti-virus software. Here are free options for you to pick from. Spyware is malicious software which finds its way onto your computer when you’re on the Internet and will track sensitive information about you and the way you use your computer. Spyware can install malicious software/apps on your computer which can slow down your computer. Download any of this free anti-spyware program and install them on your computer. Installing an Anti-virus software on your computer is not enough, you have to update them at least once a week or follow the online instructions to set them up for automatic updates.
Another malicious software/application to watch for are trojans. Trojans are malware that are similar to viruses, while viruses can execute and replicate themselves, trojans can only replicate themselves when you accidentally click on them. Trojans can be hidden in links or programs to infect a computer when the link or program is executed. It’s best never to open an emails from someone you don’t know and don’t just go around downloading free software from places you don’t know. As a rule of thumb, know all the software preloaded onto your computer and what each one does. Feel free to remove any preloaded software you don’t like with the assistance of your tutor since you don’t want to remove software needed by your computer to operate by mistake.
9. Exploring the Web
It’s easy to start browsing the web. If you’re using a Microsoft Windows 10 notebook/laptop, the default browser is likely to be Microsoft Edge. On Apple macOS and IOS, the default browser is Safari. On Android devices the default browser may be Google Chrome or the maker of your android device, while on a Linux Distro machine, your default browser may vary broadly but most likely Mozilla Firefox. The first step is to start your browser and select a search engine that you like. At the top of any page of your favorite browser (you can install any of them using links below):
type the phrase “search engines” into the Search Bar for information about search engines for you to pick from. Some widely used search engines (click one of the links below to access each search engine) includes:
Most preload computers have a default browser and search engines installed on them already. In the search engine bar you can type whatever you wanted more information on. If for example, you typed “local computer classes for beginners“, you may get the following if you live in the Atlanta, GA, USA area.
10. How Do I Maintain My Computer?
- Keep dust away from the cooling system of your devices by blowing dust away from them with a compressor about four time a year.
- Keep your Anti-virus software up-to-date.
- Ask your tutor to show you how to backup and restore just one file from that backup to make sure the backup is working fine.
- Use the cleaning software that come free with your computer to clean it up if one is available; for Windows 10 it’s called “Disk Cleanup” (Cleanmgr.exe), on Apple OS I recommend you download CleanMyMac X for free here. Run the app and click Scan, then click Clean. On Google Play, you can search for Clean Master – Antivirus, Applock & Cleaner, download and install it then follow the onscreen instructions to use it to clean your Android device. FSlint is a good cleaner alternatives for Linux that also finds and remove duplicate files on your linux system.
- Update your computer drivers, software and firmware directly from the computer’s manufacturer or the software manufacturer just about every three months.
11. Which Computer Books Do you Recommend for Beginners?
College and University Libraries have excellent selection of computer books but they may be too technical for beginners. Your local Library is a good place to start. I recommend going to the computers section of your favorite bookstore as well to browse through their books and find one that you like. If you prefer to stay in the comfort of your residence, you may search online for computer tutorials for beginners in your favorite search engines, YouTube, and wikiHow.