Monthly Archives: January 2014

It takes is a clear eye and a steady finger

ipad_2_1 IBM-PCPeople often find the idea of learning computers an awesome task.  At the same time the majority of children have no problem using computers.  It is possible that there has been a sudden shift in intelligence levels in the population, from one generation to the next, but it is highly unlikely.

Perhaps the difficulty is historic. In the early days of computing, developers were so pleased to have attained functionality that litte attention was given to how difficut or how easy it was for a person to use.  The focus was on the computer system and its results, and less so on the user interface.  People undertook extensive training to learn to work as computer operators.

The people I trained on the computer courses in Ballyferriter in the early eighties had to learn a series of DOS and CP/M commands in order to do tasks such as word processing, copying files spreadsheets amongst other applications.

Since we moved away from command operated computers to mouse and touch operated computers using a computer, pad or smartphone has moved closer to being intuitive and this will continue as the learning curve flattens out.

So maybe the attittude about computers being difficult to use is based on the prior knowledge that “computers are difficult to use, you press one button and you can delete everything”.

In fact, computers can be painstaking to use, they can be frustrating to use but the basic use of a computer requires three skills, the ability to read, the ability to move the mouse and the ability to click.  For word processing and other writing you will be quicker if you can type, but you can still do it, one finger at a time. Pads and smartphones and some computers now have even done away with the mouse , removing at least one skill from the required set.

Even the most experienced computer user will still use these basic skills. The extra knowledge they have, is a knowledge of systems.  Everything in a computer is a system, the operating system, the word processing system, the email system and so on.

Each and every application on a computer or a mobile phone is a system.  They way to become proficient is to learn the system. To use the system, you read the screen, and start an action by clicking the mouse or in the case of touch screens, pressing the screen.

There are millions of systems and each and everyone of them is being updated constantly to keep abreast of security risks. To become proficient will require practice but with a steady eye,  and a sturdy finger you can steer your way through.









I didn’t buy those chocolates, I printed them


japan_real_face_mask-05Just when we thought that Christmas sweets were a thing of the past and the New Year’s resolutions are ready to reshape our lives a company in America has started to print chocolates.   This is no run of the mill printer, they are being printed using a 3D printer.


3D printing or Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) describes a group of technologies that are used to fabricate physical objects directly from CAD(Computer Aided Design) data sources. The first 3D printer was invented 30 years ago and it has been used by the automotive industry since that time for producing parts.  In more recent years, the use of 3D printing has expanded greatly with some people suggesting in 5 years time that people will have 3D printers in their own homes.  Potentially, if the handle of your fridge were to break a new part could be printed, possibly you could print out a cake tin of the correct size if you did not have one, or even a large pot for boiling large items.


More significantly 3D printing is already changing the quality of peoples’ lives.  There is the heart warming story of Emma in the States who was born with a condition that didn’t allow her to use her arms, any aids available were developed for adults and were too heavy for her.  The doctors involved in her treatment used a 3D printer to fabricate a custom designed exoskelton which has altered her life completely.  The exoskeleton which sits like a jacket on her shoulders has changed her life by providing her with strength and mobility, which are under her control.  As she grows and if any part of the exoskeleton breaks they print out a new part.

In 3D chocolate printing, chocolate is melted, tempered and deposited like a printer printing a 2D image onto paper. The process is repeated layer-by-layer to form a solid 3D chocolate product that is defined by a 3D computer design. There is a company in Japan offering 3D face printing at a small cost of just over $5,000, with reprints available at just over 1,000 dollars.

The future options are only limited by imagination and the material available.  At present there is development work being done on developing Graphene as a material for 3D printing, Graphene is the strongest known material in the world. Wouldn’t it be very handy for Kerry County Council now if they had this technology to print replacement road and bridge parts.