How do normal people manage when their computers go wrong?

I’ve written elsewhere (https://se9book.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/designing-for-failure/) about my Mac mail problems and this got me thinking about how folks who aren’t computer experts cope. When things go wrong, it’s OK for people like me who are software professionals and understand words like ‘cache’ and ‘reboot’. But what about ordinary people who don’t know and don’t care about how software is organised and who are constantly baffled by the fact that their computers behave in idiosyncratic ways. How do they cope – expensive helplines or helpful friends and relatives I guess? Or do they just put up with things and think that this is how it has to be?

Really, as software engineers, we have to do better, It’s not just about making our software more dependable but also thinking about how we communicate with the users of our systems and help them when things go wrong.

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