2009-10-15 / Sam Bari

Logizomechanophobia: The fear of computers impacts lives

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

According to Gadgetopia, a geek and gearhead website, a large percentage of the world’s population is deathly afraid of computers and their capabilities.

Known by a number of names, the condition’s official name is “logizomechanophobia,” or “fear of computers.” The problem often significantly impacts the quality of life for some individuals.

A Gadgetopia spokesman said that the condition has also been known to cause panic attacks and keep people apart from loved ones and business associates.

Symptoms typically include shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea and overall feelings of dread, although everyone experiences computer phobia in their own way and may experience different symptoms.

I don’t know what the big deal is; I know guys who have worse symptoms when they discover that they’re down to their last two beers and the stores are closed.

Nonetheless, fear of computers is a real thing, although the fears generally originate from misinformation and are unwarranted. Those of us who work with computers on a regular basis have an understanding of their capabilities and applications.

Those who perceive computers as mystifying foreign objects, over which they have no control, often resist involvement with computers or anything that is computerized – again because of misconceptions.

A woman in the Midwest actually purchased a microwave oven and called the store as soon as she arrived at home and took it out of the box.

“Where is my computer?” she asked.

“The computer is in the microwave,” the clerk replied.

“I am looking in the microwave now, and there is no computer inside,” the woman insisted.

Although frustrated, the clerk did his best to explain that the microwave was run by microprocessors that are located behind the buttons on the control panel.

“Whenever you press a button to set the clock, control the power or set the cooking time, you are using the built-in computer,” the clerk said.

“The microwave I have now does that,” the woman shot back.

“Yes,” the clerk agreed. “All microwave ovens are computerized. The computers are singletask microprocessors programmed specifically to run microwave ovens.”

“What you’re tryin’ to tell me is that I can’t send e-mail, or shop on the Internet with this computer,” the woman said, her annoyance evident in her voice.

“That’s correct,” the clerk said. “It isn’t that kind of computer.”

“Then I don’t need it. You should tell people that they’re not getting a real computer,” the woman insisted. The store refunded her money and the woman went away thinking that the merchant was falsely advertising his products.

Ask any appliance dealer and you will hear similar frustrating stories. One clerk said, “If they don’t understand that their appliance is run by a built-in computer, they think that ‘computerized’ means they can run the device with their home computer.”

He went on to say that he has had several people who purchased everything from dishwashers to washers, dryers and stoves, call and complain that no instructions were included explaining how to run their appliance from their computer. He said that at first he was dumbfounded and had diffi- culty maintaining his composure to keep from laughing.

“It sounded so absurd, I didn’t know what to say,” he said. “It didn’t dawn on me until it happened several times, that many people, through no fault of their own, have no idea of how computers

work.” One man went into a car dealership and said to the salesman, “I’ve been a mechanic all my life and I like to do the maintenance and work on my cars myself. I want to buy a car that doesn’t have any computers. I repair cars, not computers.”

The salesman promptly told him to go to an antique car dealer then, because cars have come equipped with at least diagnostic computers for more than a quarter of a century.

The man said, “My wife has a computer. Can’t I just hook it up to the car and do the same thing? Why do I have to buy another computer just because the car comes with one? I don’t need more than one.”

Again, the salesman was rendered speechless.

Fortunately, the number of older people slipping through the cracks who did not participate in the advent of the computer age is dwindling. When your children come home from school excited about computer class, be grateful. Unfortunately, they are being trained to embrace the computer age while they live in a system they can’t understand.

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