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“Eve, maybe you can help me,” pleaded my Aunt Azelda, slowly shaking her snowy mane. “They finally put in a computer station here at the senior center. I asked your nephew to get me started on the thing, but he just moved so fast. It’s second nature to him — he doesn’t know how to slow down and teach. But you, you’re…older.” I tried not to look hurt and promised Azelda I would look into getting her some help.

Doug Bush, owner of Computers Etc. Training Center in Miramar (858-578-9476, computersetcsoftwaretrainingcenter.com), was there for me. “We offer a range of classes for beginners, people who have never even touched a keyboard. A lot of people who come are in their 40s and 50s — they missed the computer revolution, and now they’re catching up. But I also get people ranging from 80 right on down to 11 or 12.

“We have eight computers here in the classroom, or people can bring their laptops. The classes are small — never more than eight people and usually fewer. Classes include a 30- to 35-page handout that gives step-by-step instructions. We find that half-day classes keep things from becoming a marathon, so they run throughout the week from either 9:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m.”

The most basic class is Beginning Computers. “Besides basic keyboard and mouse skills, we cover saving files, using the Internet, sending and receiving email, attaching a file — those sorts of things. Then comes Beginning Windows — Windows being the operating system that controls the interaction between the computer’s hardware and the software you install. It’s what lets you manipulate files. You learn about managing files, putting them in folders, and creating shortcut icons for your desktop. There’s also some basic word processing — things like making text bold or italicized.”

More advanced word-processing skills are covered in the three levels of Microsoft Word classes. “In Beginning Word, you cover formatting and saving files and things like inserting graphics into text documents. Intermediate Word will teach you to do page breaks and column setup and how to work with headers and footers. And in Advanced, we get into indexes and tables of contents and the creation of master documents and subdocuments.”

Post-class technical support is available, within reason. “If someone calls or emails within ten days of the class with a specific question, we’ll be happy to help. We’re a small operation, so we can’t offer a year of tech support the way some of the bigger guys can, but that’s why we’re less expensive.” All classes are $79.99. Private lessons at home, office, or classroom are also available for $45 an hour.

Tom at New Horizons Computer Learning Centers in Miramar (858-880-2200, newhorizons.com) said, “People who come to us already have some familiarity with things like the keyboard and mouse. We offer level-one classes in things like Word, Excel, and Microsoft Office. And we have more advanced classes covering things like website design. Classes run from nine to five with a one-hour break for lunch. The cost is $225. That gets you a book and an online access key. Everything you learn in class can be accessed online for up to six months — and during that time, you can take the class again as a refresher for no extra charge.”

Along with teaching in corporate and academic settings, Jerry Okey from MyPCTrainer.com offers personal computer tutoring. “I help in teaching everything from introduction to computers to Web 2.0, things like Twitter to desktop publishing. I also teach people how to use their toys — the video cameras, the BlackBerry, the MP3 players — and make them work with their computers. Often, customers will call with one specific thing — their printer isn’t working or they want to use Photoshop — and it will spread from there. I have students ranging in age from 5 to 75. Sometimes they’ll have an hour break at work, and I’ll come to them at their office. Sometimes they are more comfortable working with their computer at home. My minimum time is two hours at $30 an hour; after that, we can make a plan for maybe one hour a week or one hour a month.”

Continuing Education, San Diego Community District (sandiegocet.net) offers a variety of free computer classes, from basic to advanced, at campuses throughout the city. Computer labs are made available for use. You must be 18 or older with California residency to attend. Check class times and locations online and attend the first class to sign up. Enrollment is on a first-come, first-served basis.

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