So, my dad bought a computer the other day for the household. A new desktop from Aldi. And I know what you’re thinking, “Can’t be any good if it came from Aldi,” but that’s not true, and it’s also not the point. The point is that it came with something few other computers (particularly desktops) come with: A manual. Now, to a computer “expert” like you or me, that may not seem like much but to someone whose never used a computer before or is unfamiliar with how to resolve issues, this is pretty handy. And it made me wonder, why don’t more computers come with a manual?
Usually when you buy a computer, specifically a desktop, it’s treated like your buying a package deal. You get a whole bunch of components that just happen to be together. They might include the manuals for each part but not for the computer as a whole. And worse than that, there’s no manual for the part you’re going to use most: the operating system. You’re expected to just nut it all out for yourself, which is, especially if you’re inexperience or unmotivated, quite difficult.
This computer, on the other hand, came with a paper manual that covered everything from how to set it up to what each of the buttons in the Start Menu do. It even covers things like how to uninstall programs, run Windows Updates and what a network is. It walks you through and helps you to understand how to do things from go to woe. Just imagine you were a grandmother in your 80s and your grandson bought you a computer. You’ve never used one before, so it’s totally unfamiliar to you. If you’re lucky, he’ll sit down with you, and explain it and you’ll remember it while he’s around, but probably forget after a little while. With this PC, you’ve got something to refer to so that you can come to understand it yourself, without the need for your grandson, and if you have a problem, you’ve got something to turn to. And if that’s not enough, you can call the support line where they claim they’ll offer help even past the warranty date of two years. The whole thing is perfect for anyone who wants understanding but simplicity.
So why don’t more computers come with an all-comprehensive manual? Well, it comes down to a few factors. For one thing, it’s seen as too expensive to print so much paper, when many users won’t actually use it. Instead a “user guide” is provided on a disc. What’s the point in providing information on how to use something in a place that can only be access if you don’t need the instructions? It’s like printing the directions for microwave popcorn on the inside of the bag, so you can only read them once you’ve popped the popcorn. If the PC’s custom built, you can’t really have a manual about how those specific part will work together because there are too many possible combinations. And even when it’s an “off-the-shelf” model, the company who’s selling it to you nearly never is responsible for all the parts inside. Thus, a manual would not only have to cover the different possible variations of that model, but also talk about components that aren’t even made by the “manufacturer”. And, of cause, the most contentious of these components is the operating system. In truth, the manufacturer has nothing to do with the operating system. Sure, they may slap on a custom skin so that it flashes their logo at every opportunity, but that doesn’t mean they have anything to do with how the rest of Windows is set up.
I feel that manufacturers have a sort of duty of care over a computer you buy from them. This means that they should be giving you the tools and resources that you need, or may need, to use the machine effectively, as well as to overcome issues or restore the PC back to its original state. Some manufacturers, like Dell, provide you with a disk of applications that you can use to reinstall preinstalled software and drivers, and a restore disk to repair or reinstall Windows should it get that bad. Others, like Medion, will provide a manual and phone support, should you need it. While other manufacturers, like Toshiba, have the gall to give you nothing. This is unacceptable, and in the long run hurts everyone because if the user can’t do something, they’re either going to waste everyone’s time trying to get help, or they’ll blame the manufacturer for the “faults” of the machine as the cause of their problems. If they’d been given the resources and tools that they should’ve been, at the end of the day, at least they’d know the right cause of their problems.
A wise man once told me “You shouldn’t use technology that don’t have, at least, a basic understanding of.” Manuals and similar resources are just a small ?thing? that can help to fill in some of the ignorance around technology, so that everyone can have a basic understanding and appreciation of what’s going on.
So, what did you think of that? Do you agree with the argument made here, or do you think the demise of the manual is founded? As always, if you have something to say, or would like to suggest a blog topic, feel free to tell me in the comments below, or on the Facebook fan page.
P.S. My Raspberry Pi has turned up already! It only took two weeks when they had said three! I haven’t had a chance to play with it yet, but once I get a handle for it, I’ll give you a rundown of what I think.
Your Friendly Neighbourhood
- NAS-tastic:The steps to prepare for setting up a NAS (nitemice.wordpress.com)
- Give Your Old, Slow, Overheating Laptop New Life and an Extreme Makeover [Laptops] (lifehacker.com)
- Medion Akoya E4060 D (MD8369) PC (blitzreview.com)
- Why I’m uninstalling Windows 8 (pcgamesn.com)