Baffled By Technology by
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I might have been a top software sales rep in my former life, but I never understood how to code or the underlying workings of the software. EVER! I could always call on a smart professional from my division for help going from the general to the specifics of how my company could help the prospective client’s needs. And if a client asked a question about the operating system, I’d run straight to those people, deep within our company, to get the question answered. As a former stage manager, follow-through was my strength.

Personal computing was new when I retired 32 years ago. Technology left me behind. When my husband gives me grief about my lack of understanding, I remind him that he was a math major (really Computer Science, but that major didn’t yet exist); I was Theatre Arts…we excel at using different parts of our brains, but compliment each other. And our children, who both work in AI, remind my husband that he is a DINOSAUR! Our daughter, who is masterful at setting up networks, even remotely, remains our tech guru.

I am flummoxed when I get up hours before my husband and the computer isn’t working. I’ll reboot the computer (my mantra: “if all else fails; reboot”). When that doesn’t work, I’m stuck. That did happen several days in a row recently. My husband went to the panel in the basement, worked his magic and POOF, we had Internet again. Finally, I told him to teach me. He now spends months longer on Martha’s Vineyard than I do and I need to know these things.

Last year, while he was there and I was here, he needed a tax document scanned. He had shown me once, years ago, but that didn’t help. Any educator will tell you that a person must experience it for themselves. This time, over the phone, he gave me step by step instructions, which I WROTE down. Now, I KNOW how to do it and use the function all the time.

For the Internet problem, I asked Dan to take me to the basement and SHOW me how to “power cycle” the router. I took a yellow sticky note and attached it to the device. One has to unplug the modem, unplug and press buttons on the router, everything must be done in a certain order. But now, at least, it is written down, so I will not be without the Internet while he is off golfing.

Since writing this story, that scenario happened, I followed the steps on the yellow sticky note (written out months earlier) and voilá, I had Internet again! You can just make out the yellow note in the Featured photo. We depend on technology these days. I’m trying to learn and not have to rely on someone else for help all the time.



Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Characterizations: been there, funny


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Thanks so much for essentially writing what could be my own story of battling with technology, Betsy. Indeed, the photo from your basement could have been taken in my basement.

    In particular, I think you’ve hit the key points for mastering — or at least not being victimized by — technology. First, 90% of problems can be remedied simply by re-booting. Second, the order in which one performs seemingly arbitrary repair steps is crucial. And third, once you have the “secret sauce” for fixing a problem, skip the digital and return to the analog. In other words, write it all down on a yellow Post-It and leave it near whatever may need to be fixed.

    As you note, voila!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, John. Yes, writing the necessary steps down to do the task help a lot! I found, when I went back early one morning, a few weeks ago to get the Internet up again, that I HAD forgotten what to do. Having that yellow Post-It absolutely saved me. And once I started the process, it all came back to me.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    Brilliant and very relatable story, Betsy. Before we moved, the mysterious stuff in our basement looked just like your featured image. I reply on the post-it method as well. For more complicated stuff, I have a folder in my computer full of directions and a binder with printed out directions. Still, I am at a loss if the reboot technique fails. I hate that I am so dependent on things I don’t know how to fix.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thank for the endorsement, Laurie. I suspect we all experience this at one point or another. Having that folder sounds like a good idea. My notes are scattered around (like when my son taught me to cut and paste, but I can never find that note). Putting the yellow Post-it “in situ” made so much sense for me, and of course, months later, came in really handy.

  3. Marian says:

    Love this story, Betsy. You have perfectly described why I miss manuals with step-by-step instructions. Now that I’ve assumed responsibility for rebooting modems and routers, along with TVs, I’ve pretty much memorized the processes. As much as I dislike Comcast, the procedures on the website work, and you can refresh the TVs from it. I feel privileged that our modem is upstairs in Dick’s office: no basements here in the Bay Area.

  4. Khati Hendry says:

    Absolutely write it down! And go through the process yourself. How many times have I had someone waltz in and click, click, voila, it’s done–and I have no clue how to do it myself. The hard lesson is that the easy route of letting someone else do it for you isn’t so easy in the long run.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      It doesn’t help if someone else does it for you, does it Khati? One only learns if you do it for yourself (then it sinks in). And it does help to write it down, so you can remember for the next time. I like the you phrase it: “the hard lesson is that the easy route of letting someone else do it for you isn’t so easy in the long run”. Perfect.

  5. Suzy says:

    Great story, Betsy, and I love the photo of your basement setup with the yellow post-it note. I totally agree with Khati about how annoying it is when someone does the “click, click, voila” routine. I always say, don’t do it for me, tell me how and let me do it myself. But writing down all the steps is a good idea too.

  6. Love the yellow sticky note Betsy!

    Tech is not my forte either, in fact we were gifted with an Apple TV which we never remember how to use. Maybe we can ask Vicki to walk us through it!

  7. I love the post-it method, Betsy, and use it myself…though mine inevitably end up with arrows and assorted notes which make them pretty much unreadable over time.

    I often worry about how dependent our user culture is on others to fix the things we literally depend on…electricity, control of our finances…well, you get the picture. It IS a little scary. Okay, a LOT scary.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I use post-it for everything, Barb. I have one on the bottom of this computer with the password to the streaming version of the exercise classes that I take. But…they must make sense otherwise you’ve defeated yourself.

      I had a discussion with Vicki recently. She said she was worried about me, if Dan died before me, because I am so dependent on him for all the tech stuff, even paying bill on line (which I don’t know how to do). I told her I’d hire someone to teach me all that stuff, but your point is well-taken. Many of us are entirely dependent on others for tech support and that IS scary!

  8. Probably yours is an almost universal experience, Betsy. Our paths to solutions may diverge but we’re treading the same ground. Yep. Reboot is magic. But ultimately as we find our way through the wilderness of modern technology we come to a deep understanding of why we have children. Tech support.

  9. Dave Ventre says:

    In defense of experts who have a hard time grasping how to instruct non-experts, it wasn’t until I was tasked with writing instructional manuals for various lab instruments that I realized how difficult it is for an expert to remember every small but necessary step in a process she does so often that it is now automatic.

  10. Wow, Betsy. If I had to confront that nest of wires in the basement, I’d run and hide for sure. May you become computer-savvy and save yourself from any cyber condescension!

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