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What do you call a person who cannot learn to use computers?

I have been trying to learn them for over 15 years and just cannot. I have been doing an online course to try and teach myself but I just do not get it. I just cannot do what I'm meant to learn; it's not sinking in at all.

I call myself a ___.

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    At what level are you failing to use a computer? You are obviously not completely incapable because you have posted on English Language and Usage Stack Exchange. I used to work in IT support and had to deal with people with many levels of ability and I suspect that you are quite competent at a basic level but are struggling to get beyond that, am I correct?
    – BoldBen
    Oct 24, 2022 at 7:01
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    @WeatherVane My reading of the question is that the questioner is looking for a term for someone who is incapable of becoming tech-savvy. A person with no exposure to or training in computing is not rech-savvy but, if they have the ability to learn the skills, they will become tech-savvy. The questioner claims not to have the ability to gain the skills.
    – BoldBen
    Oct 24, 2022 at 7:17
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    One wonders how someone can "do an online course" without using a computer. I guess certain TVs will play Youtube videos for you?
    – GEdgar
    Oct 24, 2022 at 8:05
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    Seems like it may be a duplicate of Is there a word for "people who are computer illiterate"?
    – Laurel
    Oct 24, 2022 at 15:25
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    When I was in the biz such a person was known as a "manager".
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 24, 2022 at 18:37

4 Answers 4

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Technologically challenged is a term often used for people who are having a hard time learning to use technological stuff. Computer-challenged is a more specific term used for someone having a hard time learning to use computers. Here is a relevant example I've found:

The stereotype of the computer-challenged boomer is so prevalent that many employers will make that assumption about you unless you prove to them that you are different.

Finding a Job After 50: Reinvent Yourself for the 21st Century by Jeanette Woodward

It differs from terms like technologically impaired and technologically inept as these terms indicate that the person has no clue on how to use technology. Technologically illiterate or computer illiterate are stronger terms also where the person may have never tried learning to use technology or computers.

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  • At basic user level there is not much technology involved in having computers do some work; it's all rather a matter of logic, pure common sense in fact.
    – LPH
    Oct 24, 2022 at 8:01
  • @LPH There can be different levels of how computer-challenged a person is, of course.
    – ermanen
    Oct 24, 2022 at 8:06
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    Is the spelling "illeterate" supposed to be ironic? Oct 24, 2022 at 14:51
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    @TobySpeight Haha could be. Double ironically, the word was spelled as illeterate in 1500s-1600s. Anyway, I don't use a spellchecker and I often don't proofread so it is easy to find typos. You can always suggest edits or edit if you have the rights.
    – ermanen
    Oct 24, 2022 at 14:59
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Someone who fears or dislikes technology — often because they can't use it — is called a technophobe.

And someone who fears or dislikes computers specifically is called a computerphobe.

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    That seem to put emphasis on different aspect - one can be an expert in computers but dislike/afraid of them. Similarly to how you can know everything about spiders but still afraid of them. OP looks for "unable to learn" aspect. Oct 25, 2022 at 0:49
  • I'd say that "one can be an expert in computers but dislike/afraid of them" would (eventually) describe most career IT professionals :)
    – flibwib
    Oct 25, 2022 at 4:49
  • True! However, although their literal meaning isn't an exact match, in common usage that's pretty much how I hear those terms used.
    – gidds
    Oct 25, 2022 at 9:13
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You could (in my opinion, unfairly) describe yourself as:

Superannuated

  1. Retired because of age or infirmity
  2. Too old for use, work, service, or a position
  3. Antiquated or obsolete

Collins Dictionary: Superannuated

While it doesn't specifically address computers or an inability to learn, it does capture the general feeling of "being unable to adapt to modern technology".

For what it's worth, I don't believe this does apply to you. If you have a look at this study on the distribution of computing skill, being able to get here and ask a question would put you as at least a level one (which would put you ahead of ~40% of adults in OECD countries), maybe the lower end of level two. Having a desire to learn goes a very long way...

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  • I don' think suggestion fits the question. Nothing in the question mentions being too old to understand computers. Oct 25, 2022 at 6:04
  • It's not an age thing. I have seen a person in their 30's become unable to do their job after an application update changed the user interface. They had never developed a mental model of the computer / the work they were doing, and instead treated it as a series of mouse and keyboard inputs to be performed by rote. Once that series of steps broke they were effectively paralysed until someone walked them through the new interface a few times and helped them develop an annotated user guide with the new steps.
    – flibwib
    Oct 25, 2022 at 6:19
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As this learning problem is specific to the skill of using computers, it is probably not a learning disability, and it is rather of the sort often met with, such as the plight of people that can't ever seem to become familiar enough with mathematical concepts or the spelling of their language, for instance. There is really no one-word term that refers to those people and multi-word terms will be many, and could be complicated.

  • a person with no affinity for computer lore
  • a person allergic to the use of computers (jocular way of putting this idea)
  • a person to whom computer literacy is hermetic
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    Whatever it is you mean by your third example, I advise not using the word "hermetic". That word is known in the phrase "hermetic seal" (meaning "airtight seal"). Using it the way you have will confuse people.
    – Rosie F
    Oct 24, 2022 at 7:31
  • @RosieF I'm aware of the literal meaning, but you appear to be right in one way: the figurative meaning might be used in reverse. It is found both ways though: "The majority of companies seem to remain hermetic to the technological and social changes of recent years as far as human resources are concerned.". ( ref.)
    – LPH
    Oct 24, 2022 at 7:46
  • The term "hermetic" comes from "Hermes (Trismegistos)" and "hermetically sealed" refers to the alchemist procedure to create the philosophers stone. (see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermes_Trismegistus)
    – bakunin
    Oct 24, 2022 at 8:08
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    And why do you think not being able to spell (which is often very closely related to dyslexia) is not a learning disability? Dyslexia certainly is. Oct 24, 2022 at 16:47
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    Dyslexia can run in families, and in some cases, some members of these families have merely an inability to spell, while others have sever language problems. So inability to spell can indeed be some innate learning problem, i.e., a mild learning disability, which IGoogling) I see would probably clinically be labeled a "learning disorder". My point is that inability to spell is often caused by an innate handicap (although a mild one), and not just something like not paying attention in class. Oct 24, 2022 at 18:06

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