Because this is the Absolute Beginner’s 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 much better than they used to be.)

But scary? Definitely not.

Computers aren’t scary because there’s nothing they can do to hurt you (unless you drop your notebook PC on your foot, that is). 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 beneficial—to you, anyway.

Many people think that they’re scared of computers because they’re unfamiliar with them. But that ...

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