SURVEY SAYS: Comfort with Technology

Last week, we reported about the Beloit College Mindset List for the college class of 2019.

I started thinking about how my children have always used computers and been comfortable with the latest technology, while the first time I touched a computer was in 12th grade and I’m still today confused and amazed by how technology works.

I asked NewsDash readers, “When was the first time you used a computer, and how comfortable are you with the latest technology?”

For the majority of responding readers, the first time they used a computer (including desktop, laptop, iPad, notebook, tablet) was in high school (20.5%), college (22.9%) or in their 20s (21.7%). Slightly more than 1% first used a computer between the ages of one and five, 7.2% in elementary school and 4.8% in middle school. More than 14% were in their 30s the first time they used a computer, and 7.2% were in their 40s.

No one said they are not at all comfortable using the latest technology (computers, smartphones, other mobile devices), while more than half (53%) described themselves as somewhat comfortable (“I can figure out most things, but sometimes wish I had my own personal IT support”). More than one-quarter (26.5%) consider themselves very comfortable and always anxious to see what’s next.

More than 13% agreed with the phrase, “Just when I’m get comfortable with a technology, something new or improved comes out and I’m uncomfortable again,” while 7.2% said they are a little uncomfortable (“I figure out what I have to do for work, school or to keep up with family, and that’s it”).

Reader comments about first-time computer use and staying up-to-date with technology included lots of reminiscing about word processors, punch cards and carbon paper. While many expressed relief—and even joy—about how technology has advanced to make things easier and quicker, one reader noted, “When PC’s first came to the office they solved a lot of problems and increased efficiency. But now it seems like they are the source of most work problems and those problems are a drag on efficiency.” Editor’s choice goes to the reader who said: “WordPerfect with its function keys (no idiot icons there!); black screens with eerie green characters; strange programming codes that populated the start screens and slowly burped out processes; typing a 20-page brief then going to save it and it disappears; bending the floppy disk and destroying all the files on it; Pong ruled!”

Thank you to all who participated in the survey!


I don't like being on the bleeding edge, but at least I am lucky enough to surprise my kids with what I know about technology every once in a while.

I laugh now that I used to prep the year-end 1099-R forms using carbon paper, which we would then re-use to get as much as possible out of the carbons. Now it's a $10 program from Staples each year and the forms print on my color printer!

My husband and I were officing together when we got our first desk top computer. Prior to that, we had a "word processor" - the kind with the 8" square disks that you inserted in the drives. I thought our new computer was wonderful - it had so much memory --- 32 megs!

I was in Kindergarten when we had a class twice a week to use the computer for games. I remember when the screen was black with green letters/words. Then I got re-introduced to computers in 5th grade. We used floppy disks to save our reports. The printers weren't as good then. They used to make this noisy sound and we can only print in black and white. I am amazed at how technology is advancing now and how little kids as young as 5 years old know a lot about smartphones as much as I know.

WordPerfect with its function keys (no idiot icons there!); black screens with eerie green characters; strange programming codes that populated the start screens and slowly burped out processes; typing a 20-page brief then going to save it and it disappears; bending the floppy disk and destroying all the files on it; Pong ruled!

Let's clarify the answer to the 1st time I used a computer..... When I was in high school, we had an Apple IIe at home that was used mostly for a couple of games and a bit of word processing. We did not have computers in high school. When I went to college, I didn't have access to a computer until my senior year (1990 A.D.) when I learned Excel in a business class. 🙂 It's so important to stay current with technology - we'd be obsolete if we didn't.

Born in 1949 and wondering what the next generation of technology will bring. The first computers took up a city block and now we are using the cloud. How did we ever exist without it!

I remember in 1982, my department obtained two desktop computers to share. To start them up, you had to first load "DOS" via a big floppy disk. We were amazed at the computing power. Formerly, we would do DB annual valuations manually on really wide ledger paper. I consider myself fairly tech savvy, but that's because I have two twenty-something offspring who serve as my personal IT support. They do so with eye rolling condescension, but they've been most helpful!

I feel sorry for all those people I see walking or sitting around, looking down at their phones. They are missing a world of activity going on around them. Sometimes I’ll stop one and say “Did you see that? Brad Pitt just walked by”, just to mess with them.

Verbatim (cont.) 

1983ish. Working as a legal secretary in a small firm. The computer had 8" (I think) floppy disks - one for the program and one for the data. We had a word processing program and a database program we used to produce statements.

I will date myself to say I remember when corrector tape for the typewriter was invented. The first computer I recall using was in the early 70's. I worked for a manufacturer and sent telegrams via Western Union to our sales force throughout the US. The monitor was probably 8-10" diameter. The next memory is from the early 80's used for tracking orders and goods in production to billing customers and tracking payment. I recall designing how we wanted the database to look. I try to keep up by embracing and using new technology and poking around until I figure it out.

I remember getting a job based on my response to an interview question about my computer experience (or lack thereof) and thoughts on the use of computers in the workplace. Having worked for a financial institution, I at least had experience using "dumb" terminals, thus wasn't afraid of the concept, which gave me a technology familiarity ahead of the other candidates. While I can do and learn what I need to keep functioning, I don't doubt my antiquity in the increasingly technology-based work environment.

I'm pretty good with anything relating to work, but when it comes to personal computer use I'm far behind the curve as i don't get paid to learn that!

Quite sad that it was so long ago and far away. Memories of DOS, green print, AOL news as the only choice, UGH.

Compared to most people my age, my tech skills are quite advanced, although I would not be surprised if most elementary school age kids far surpass my knowledge.

Learned some basic programming from my math teacher during study hall in 8th grade and kept my programs on a cassette tape. In HS I tried to get my parents to convert to doing their farm bookkeeping on our Apple IIe (Lotus 1-2-3), but mom preferred a paper ledger. I like evolving technology but prefer a larger screen size so I'm more of a laptop guy then smartphone/mobile guy.

My job requires me to keep up with technology which is great! As far as first time computer use, I looked at it as an adventure to be enjoyed and treasured, not feared.

My first computer was an Atari 400. Yes, it was a computer and not just a game machine. It had a flat pressure keyboard so I could use it with the word processing software available for it to do my term papers. By modifying it via a chip I bought through a computer magazine (way before e-bay or amazon, I was able to print using a dot matrix printer. Did that printer last years. Inkjets are nice and so are laser printers for clarity, but, you could not beat a dot matrix with ribbon for printing massive amounts. Next computer was the Atari 800 which at least had a keyboard with real keys and one could not only use the cartridges but you could have a floppy drive to store your data on or you could use a tape drive and use any standard tape cassette for storage. In High school I used a dumb terminal hooked into a PDP-8 and/or PDP-11 mainframe. I remember programming with key punch cards in Fortran and Cobal and using the terminal to play games like Star Trek and to talk with others via texting. Yes, texting has been around a lot longer than people think. Graduated high school in 1978.

I took a computer class in college, but still combed the help wanted ads in the newspaper to find my first job. There, I used a CRT and learned Lotus. Now, my grandchildren are finding Youtube videos online themselves before they’re age 2.

Verbatim (cont.) 

If I need help, I ask my 10 year old daughter.

I took a key punch course at a technical school while in college. Young people now don't even know what that is.

I took a COBOL programming course in college--complete with punch cards! Technology moved at a dizzying pace after that. It is amazing what we have access to on our small phones. I don't know how I'd find anything without Google Maps.

Born in 1953 - first computer use was by punch cards sent down to the school district computer center to process - you communicated by typing on a keyboard the computer typed back on a roll of paper. First calculator senior in college - added, subtracted, divided and multiplied.

Although it takes work to keep up with the technology changes, the volume of work that can be accomplished now compared to the days before computers is staggering. (From someone who actually used carbon paper to create cc's and bcc's on a typewriter.)

The first time I ever used a computer was at my first job out of college as a plan recordkeeper. The company had recently upgraded from using punch cards to enter plan transactions.

Funny how "The Latest Technology" has become an accepted part of our social strata. My father was a straight-up, to-the-core, early adopting Nerd...our Radio Shack TRS-80 was the envy of all the other nerds and none of the girls!

I sold computers in my first job, and bought a TI-99 (1983). But it was in my second job, as, of all things, an archivist, that I learned how to actually use computers (DOS, Word 3 & 4 and Word Perfect). Now it's amazing to think that my iPhone has more memory and storage capacity than the first 3 computers I owned. It also shoots better video than the camcorder/"portable" VCR setups that I sold in my first job (RIP Video Concepts).

Of course that first time computer use in high school was on a computer that took up an entire room!

When pc's first came to the office they solved a lot of problems and increased efficiency. But now it seems like they are the source of most work problems and those problems are a drag on efficiency.

Verbatim (cont.) 

Took a programming course on Fortran IV in college. Handed the punch cards in and waited for 1-2 days for results. After college lived in England and worked on a computer system by handing written codes to the punch operator. Punch cards then sent to a warehouse in another town which housed the computer. Finally in the early 80's in SF we installed a mainframe and we all had dumb terminals. It wasn't until the late 80's early 90's that we changed to PCs, although at home we already had one.

I'm fine with computers, it's the social media that I can't grasp. All this tweeting and #ing, I have no idea what to do with a # after I've heard it.

Before the PC one relied on others in the organization to input data and run the code, so the PC really was the first individualized form. I recall using it to have the nondiscrimination regulations sent to our NJ office from Philly in the early 1990s. The download took two hours! Now new regulations are seconds away from release on government servers. I enjoy seeing what new technology offers and am grateful for the connectivity that lets me confirm children and other friends are safe without finding a landline.

My first year of college, my boyfriend at the time, now my husband, told me I really should write my class paper on the computers in the computer lab at school rather than using my Word processor at home (that had @ a 2x4 inch screen). I was very reluctant because I had never been 'trained' on a computer. But alas I listened to him, and he was right...much better. Now he's asking me questions about software, etc.:)

We used Radio Shack computers to write a simple game program - no Windows yet, that's for sure!

although some of my college peers were using computers for actual research and assorted numbers-crunching (and computer classes had been available in high school, with many students taking it so they could spend an hour in an air conditioned room), I used computers just for games well into grad. school, where we still carried around boxes of punch cards (in 1980 and beyond)

My first experience with "computers" was in college. We had to run boxes of punched cards through the machine. You had a real mess if you dropped the box and the cards got out of order!

I am a problem-solver, so by nature I love education apps. That said, I am so happy I married a computer software engineer....only way I know how to use my phone after each update 🙂

I started using a computer in 10th grade and the operating system was DOS and took commands, those old black screens. The technology still amazes me but I do not feel the need to sleep with my phone on all night and have my face stuck in the phone constantly like most 20 year olds. I swear it makes them stupid. I am the go-to person at home whenever there is a computer or printer problem but that is the last thing I want to do after being on one all day at work. I do not even touch the computer or check email all weekend. I prefer to be sitting out in my backyard reading a book. It is not the end of the world to be when the WIFI does not work. There are other more important things than that, call me old fashioned but sometimes my husband and I feel like unplugging the WIFI just to teach the girls what it was like in the dark ages!


Verbatim (cont.) 

I was in my 20s and my children were young. I learned it all on my own through trial and error. It was so slow I could turn the computer on and make breakfast before it would finally boot up. Thank God things have improved since then. Today I still learn new software on my own. I love that advances we have made. Coworkers come to me when they have issues. My boss calls me a computer whiz and I it all came from just jumping in there and figuring it out.

I have always been in the mindset of, "Press the key, button, etc. and see what happens!" I think that's the best way to learn something. If it goes haywire, you won't do it the next time! The internet is a great place to find answers to your computer problems. I can usually find solutions there quicker than having to contact our tech team.

My kids might laugh at me some day for not knowing how to use the latest technology and having to teach me, but I will then remind them that I had to teach them to use a spoon and cup. Now how primitive is that. Ha!

I'm older - learned how to type on a manual typewriter - used carbon paper for copies! I have had a cell phone for a number of years - it's a great way to stay in touch with my kids. I got my first smart phone last year - love it and would never go back to any other kind!

Windows 10 just came out and although I can get a free upgrade, I'm putting it off since Windows 8 was so bad. I'm still using Windows 7.

Oregon Trail in 2nd grade!!

First time was back in college around 1971 in a computer lab with a buddy who was in a programming class. I played a computer football game; all text, no graphics, by keying in plays against the computer as my opponent. I won. Didn't see another computer until a few years later when I got one of the early Tandy home computers.

First time in High School was using an Apple IIe with the huge floppy disks - everyone was excited but it is nothing compared to what today's computer looks like.

My first job I had to use an electric typewriter with carbon paper. Completing the old IRS plan document submission forms on those typewriters was a messy and time consuming process! Thankful for new technology, though am at times frustrated by how slow I am to learn and how quickly my younger coworkers pick it up!!

Just a little story about technology - While walking through a local mall with my grandchildren, we passed a set of signs locating Restrooms and Phones. My grandson turned to me and inquired why they would have a sign for phones by the restrooms and told me. "Everyone has a phone, why would you need to find one?" - made me stop and realize that his generation has never known what a pay phone is!

Electronic typewriters were the cat’s meow when I started out, then there were monitors to mainframes, actually using my own laptops was an evolution.

My first exposure was actually in college where I used punch cards to run programs. My first Apple came in 1981. It was the only computer in our office.

It was just a dummy terminal to create a BASIC language program. We walked down the hall to the computer room to get the printout. The computer room was wall to wall, floor to ceiling computers. Most of our watches and cell phones have much more capability than the whole room had then.


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.