Buttons that I’ve never mentioned before

By | November 15, 2011
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In the Computers newsletter this month:
  • Buttons that I’ve never mentioned before
  • Why a well known British tea shop made a difference to how computers developed
  • Videos with captions – ideal if you struggle to hear

This weekend, I suddenly realised about something I’d never mentioned in this newsletter – a little set of buttons you often see on the web that I tend to ignore but that can be useful. So this issue it’s all about buttons, videos with captions and tea shops.

Share buttons On quite a lot of websites, you’ll see what are called “Share buttons”. You get them especially often on blogs (a kind of web diary that could be about any topic) but also on other websites.

They usually look like this:

or this

The idea is that they’re an easy way to tell your friends about whatever it is you’re looking at (and to give them the link directly to that page), in case you know someone who’d be interested.

For example, suppose I’m looking on a motorsport website and notice that the people who run the Silverstone Classic meeting are doing an event with all the classic racing cars in Plymouth and I think “Dad would be interested in this” (don’t get your hopes up if you’re a fan, I’m making this up as an example…). Or suppose I see news about a concert or a recipe I want to pass on to someone.

I could jot down all the details and tell him next time I speak to him on the phone. But I’d need the date, times, ticket prices, location – and Dad might want to know exactly what cars would be there and so on… chances are I’d miss something he wanted to know.

I could jot down the web address – but most web addresses tend to be long, with confusing symbols and numbers in.

But if I click on the share button that has an e, the word email or a picture of an envelope on it, it’ll automatically create an email for me with that web page as a link in the email. Then I can add a message saying “Saw this and thought you might be interested” and send it.

It’s not just email, either. If you use Facebook or Twitter or one of the other “keeping in touch” websites, you can click on the relevant button (it might have the name on or just “f” or “t”) and it’ll automatically let you add a link to the article you’re reading to your Facebook or twitter account, so your friends can see it there.

It’s not a world-changing bit of technology but it can be useful from time to time – and now at least you know what those funny buttons are if you see them!

Lyon’s Tea shops and the supercomputer – 50 years ago this Thursday
I once read a theory that part of the reason for the success of the British Empire was all the tea-drinking. Tea is a mild antiseptic so can help avoid stomach trouble when the drinking water isn’t very clear (but don’t rely on this when on holiday!)

So, the theory goes, during the industrial revolution, when hygiene was generally bad across Europe, the British coped with it better and had fewer people ill all the time, due to our tea habits.

I’m not sure how believable it is but it also turns out that the first commercial supoercomputer is down to, yes, you guessed it, tea.

The world’s first electronic business computer was not anything to do with Bill Gates (he wasn’t to be born for another 4 years). It wasn’t one of IBM’s mainframes. And it wasn’t even commissioned by a technology company.

It was commissioned by Lyon’s tea shops and its first job was 50 years ago this Thursday. It had to work out the cost of Lyon’s weekly distribution of supplies. Later on it also took on wages calculations.

A pretty significant moment in history – nowadays it’s hard to imagine business without computers being used somewhere. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not – but as with most things, if the people making the decisions do it right, then the computers make things better. If the people make the wrong decisions, then the computers just mean it can become an almighty mess even faster!

Videos with captions
I know there are some readers who are hard of hearing – and a few people have asked whether the sets of helpful videos we sell (Tame Your PCTame the InternetGet More from Your PC and Get More from the Internet) are available with captions.

Well, they very shortly will be. I’d hoped to have these available a while ago, but it’s taken longer than I’d hoped. Anyway, we’re now just putting the finishing touches to versions with captions and they’ll be available shortly – definitely before the end of the year.

More information next time but in the meantime you can still read more about the versions without captions (and if you like, order them) here (they cover Windows 7, Vista & XP):

www.helpfulbooks.co.uk/TameYourPCin6Lessons.htm (for the beginner PC & Internet courses)

www.helpfulbooks.co.uk/getmore.htm (for the not-quite-beginner courses)

(By the way if you already have the version without captions but could really do with the version with captions, I don’t want you to have to buy the new set as well – just email us once the new ones are out and we’ll sort something out)

Tim Wakeling

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