He’s/She’s doing “computer work.”

December 18, 2008 | By | 5 Replies More

Isn’t it time that we do away with the sentence, “He/She is doing computer work?”  It made sense 20 years ago, when everyone was spending inordinate amounts of time trying to get their computers to work at all.  But now we use our computers to actually accomplish an amazing variety of specific tasks, such as:

Writing a novel

Reading magazines.

Composing Music or mixing down a multi-part composition

Attending a lecture.

Writing letters to friends.

Buying or selling securities.

Using voice recognition software.

Researching government corruption.

Preparing for a speech.

Participating in a video-conference

Designing brochures.

Shopping for a new coat or a new house.

Processing photos.

Engaging in public advocacy.

Publishing an article.

Attending a college class.

I was an adult before most of this could be done on a home computere (I was born in 1956), but I still hear people saying, as shorthand, “She’s doing computer work,” as though people only do one kind of thing while sitting in front of a computer.   Time to strike that kind of antiquated talk from our language, right?

We have the same sort of problem when people describe the career of someone as “He/she works with computers.”  Maybe 20 years ago it meant something specific enough, but it doesn’t mean much of anything these days.  In fact, it’s hard to think of any job that doesn’t involve the use of computers.


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Category: Language

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    But, "working on the computer" is such a great way to let people think you are composing something for the ages (or at least for a client) while you are shopping or trying to solve The Impossible Quiz.

  2. Ahem! Erich, did you forget one?!? Editing a video, perhaps??

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Mike: I did leave video editing off the list. My apologies, Mr. Video Editor. Maybe my subconscious caused me to leave it off because, now that I've tried some video editing, I realize how incredibly much work it is to do it well. This topic reminds me that I have a couple raw videos waiting to be edited.

  4. Erika Price says:

    There's really no such thing as a "computer expert" anymore, either. Someone who can set up a network for you is very different from someone who can develop a new program to help you sift through qualitative data, which is very different from someone who can put together a sleek web 2.0 website for you. Computers can do a wide variety of "work" these days, and their many components entail a wide range of different skills.

    That can also create trouble for the person branded as "tech-savvy" just because he knows how to replace a hard drive. Small-time tweaks do not a C++ certification make.

  5. Dan Klarmann says:

    Erika, What about those of us who've done all those things? I've designed microprocessor chips in VLSI, built a computer and a game machine from chips on a breadboard, replaced about every part of many designs of PC's and laptops, constructed networks using several brands of netware, written system level utilities, scripts, utilities, and complete software systems in many different languages on PC's from DOS 2.0 through Vista, and have been developing websites since 1995. I also designed and built industrial automation robots for a while; hardware, software, user interface, and communications. I enjoy sites like http://hackaday.com that plays with such things as a hobby, and have read every issue of the Journal of the Association of Computing Machinery for 24 years.

    Would I qualify as one of those computer experts who don't exist? Maybe you're just imagining me 😉

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