Joe average user is in trouble

Friday, 24 October 2003, 11:23 AM EST

One of the many hats I wear here in St. Louis is that of college instructor. I teach courses in technology at Washington University, recently ranked the ninth best overall college in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, one of the better community colleges in the area. I teach smart people at both locations. One is composed of folks who can pay the high prices for an education at a nationally-ranked university, and the other has people who work during the day and want to improve their skills at a good public school while keeping their costs low.

In other words, I see a pretty good cross-section of the computer users in our area.

Oh sure, some of my students are what we'd call "computer people," who work professionally programming or administering various systems or developing Web sites. But those are few and far between. Most of my students are office workers, or writers, or homemakers. Almost all of them run Windows at home and at work, usually ME or XP. They all know how to "use" their computers, which means that they can write papers, read email, use the Web, and even install software (as long as it's not packaged as a ZIP file: most of them have no idea what a ZIP file is or how to use it). In other words, your typical American computer user.

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