Becky Flaum
Updated Mar 12, 2014 @ 8:03 am

Last week, a survey was released that shed some light on Americans’ disturbing lack of knowledge about computers and technology. For example, 1 in 10 people surveyed thought that HTML (the code used to build web sites) was actually a sexually transmitted disease. This is upsetting on so many levels, the most alarming being that it’s possible these people might not be aware of ACTUAL STDs.

Chances are you are reading this on a computer right now on the Internet, so you’ve managed to type in a website and click through to this article. Or you saw it on Facebook or Twitter and clicked through until you got here. Good work! It seems you might be ahead of the curve just by doing that. But more and more of our friends and family (like my 10 year old niece and nephew) are getting to be really computer savvy. And if you don’t catch up, you could be left in the dust with the people that think a Blu-ray is a marine animal (truth).

So here’s 8 things that will make you seem less computer clueless and more PC pro (or Mac, your choice).

1. Give in to peer pressure, get a Gmail account already!

No one is going to believe you know a thing about computers if you still have a Hotmail, Yahoo! or…(shudder) AOL account. If I saw that, I would automatically assume that you know nothing about computers… and I’m not the only one. It took me a long time to make the switch to Gmail. I was emotionally attached to that first email address and to be honest, a little lazy about having to update contacts. But once I embraced Google, Gmail and all its features, my life became different. I shared documents easier with Google Docs (you can also much spreadsheets). All the photos from my phone automatically got backed up. I have a Google Calendar to keep track of everything. I know it seems like you are being asked to join a cult, but… you kind of are. Join us!

2. Back your s**t up!

Seriously, this is the biggest rookie mistake. Even if you aren’t writing the great American novel, your senior thesis or a huge report, you should at least back up your music, photos and videos. If your computer crashes, all your work is backed up and restored. It only takes a few minutes and every Mac and PC has a program installed that allows you to do it. Apple has the Time Machine and Windows has Windows Backup. If you haven’t backed up ever or in a long time, do it right now. Seriously, I’ll give you a second to do that… Okay. But in the event of a fire or theft, all the backing up in the world can’t help you (“Then why did I just do that?!”, you ask). In that case, you’ve got websites like Dropbox where you can store all your important files.

3. Remember your memory.

Digital memory is measured in bytes. A kilobyte is 1000 bites, a megabyte (MB) is 1000 kilobytes and a gigabyte (GB) is 1000 megabytes. You can go up to a terabyte, which is 1000 gigabytes. Anything larger than that and you are dealing with a huge system of servers because your average Mac or PC holds between 2GB and 3GB of memory.

4. Know your address.

Your IP address. The IP address of your computer is the digital address assigned to every device that gets on the internet. It’s kind of like a return address label, you send something out into the world like a tweet and the Internet knows where to send all the replies that your tweet will surely get. To find your computer’s IP address, you can simply Google it (or Bing, your choice). Your IP address changes depending on your location unless you are at home using a router and that address will always be the same.

5. Get to know your computer.

Knowing the technical specs of your device can be useful if you ever have to get the computer repaired or serviced. Like knowing a little about how your car works before going to see a mechanic, knowing what your computer can do before having it repaired will save you and the tech guru helping you, a lot of headaches. To do this: go into “About this Mac” for Apple or “My Computer” for PCs.

6. Plan on watching Silicon Valley.

HBO’s newest comedy is about 5 guys building a tech start up in California’s Silicon Valley in the 1980s. It comes to you from the mind of Mike Judge (Office Space, Beevus and Butthead). It’s Entourage meets The Big Bang Theory. Lots of computer geeks are cautiously optimistic that the portrayal of their kind will not be over the top and 2-dimensional like the aforementioned CBS sitcom. And with indie comedy darlings like Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller, Kumail Nanjiani and Martin Starr, it is going to create a fan base of computer and comedy geeks. Set your DVR because this is might be a great intro into the real world of nerd.

7. Phishing, not the sport your Grampa enjoys…

Or the act of seeing Phish in concert. Phishing is the act of a hacker trying to convince you to hand over your personal info. Typically they do it in email form. Phishing has come a long way since all those Nigerian princes looking for salvation in your American bank account. Now these emails appear like they are coming from your actual bank. Before giving out any of your personal information, verify the source. Call your bank or log-in to their site directly and have them confirm that they do indeed need your information. Do not follow any of the links in the email.

8. Learn a new language.

Computers speak code. And like with the different languages we speak, very are also many different kinds of code. HTML is probably the most popular (or unpopular if you pay attention the aforementioned survey) and is used to display web pages. It’s the language of building a website. There is also JavaScript for building interactive elements to your web page. Python is a scripting language for web apps and Ruby is a language used in behind the scenes app development.


Ready to really go from noob to whiz? Check out these sites for information and learning tools to get your geek on.

Life Hacker – Tips and shortcuts for computers that run from basic to expert

Codeacademy – Learn the language of computers with easy to follow, interactive instructions

Valleywag – Gawker’s snarky tech gossip branch

Techmeme – For all your tech and computer geek news

Featured image courtesy of ShutterStock