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Introduction

Introduction

Since this is the Absolute Beginners Guide to Computer Basics, let's start at the absolute beginning. Which is this:

Computers aren't supposed to be scary.

Intimidating, sometimes. Difficult to use, perhaps. Inherently unreliable, most definitely. (Although they're better than they used to be.)

But scary? Definitely not.

Computers aren't scary because there's nothing they can do to hurt you. And there's not much you can do to hurt them, either. It's kind of a wary coexistence between man and machine, but the relationship has the potential to be quite beneficial. To you, anyway.

A lot of people think that they're scared of computers because they think they're unfamiliar with them. But that isn't really true.

You see, even if you've never actually used a computer before, you've been exposed to computers and all they can do for at least the last 20 years or so. Whenever you make a deposit at your bank, you're working with computers. Whenever you make a purchase at a retail store, you're working with computers. Whenever you watch a television show, or read a newspaper article, or look at a picture in a magazine, you're working with computers.

That's because computers are used in all those applications. Somebody, somewhere, is working behind the scenes with a computer to manage your bank account.

In fact, it's hard to imagine, here at the dawn of the twenty-first century, how we ever got by without all those keyboards, mice, and monitors. (Or, for that matter, the Internet.)

However, just because computers have been around for awhile doesn't mean that everyone knows how to use them. It's not unusual to feel a little trepidation the first time you sit down in front of that intimidating monitor and keyboard. Which keys should you press? What do they mean by double-clicking the mouse? And what are all those little pictures onscreen?

As foreign as all this might seem at first, computers really aren't that hard to understand—or to use. You have to learn a few basic concepts, of course (all the pressing and clicking and whatnot), and it helps to understand exactly what part of the system does what. But once you get the hang of things, computers really are fairly easy to use.

Which, of course, is where this book comes in.

Absolute Beginner's Guide to Computer Basics, 2nd Edition, will help you figure out how to use your new computer system. You'll learn how computers work, how to connect all the pieces and parts together, and how to start using them. You'll learn about computer hardware and software, about Windows and operating systems, and about the Internet. And after you're comfortable with the basic concepts (which won't take too long, trust me), you'll learn how to actually do stuff.

You'll learn how to do useful stuff, like writing letters and balancing your checkbook and creating presentations. Fun stuff, like listening to music and watching movies and playing games. Online stuff, like searching for information and sending email and chatting with friends via instant messages. And essential stuff, like copying files and troubleshooting problems and protecting against thieves and hackers.

All you have to do is sit yourself down in front of your computer, try not to be scared (there's nothing to be scared of, really), and work your way through the chapters and activities in this book. And remember that computers aren't hard to use, they don't break easily, and they let you do all sorts of fun and useful stuff once you get the hang of them. Really!

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