I came across this story about someone who is boycotting Amazon. The Amazon part of the story isn't what caught my attention though- it was this bit;

I got out a pen, paper and calculator and, going through my Amazon history, I totted up everything I had spent. It came to an eye-watering total. Over the past eight years, I have spent £4,279 on Amazon.

(Worth noting that she had just mentioned the Microsoft Office package that she bought from Amazon for university.)


  • She went through her Amazon history – presumably on a computer, which it is reasonable to assume also had a copy of Excel running on it,
  • Wrote down the cost of each order with a pen and paper,
  • Put each one of those numbers into a calculator
  • Got totals for her overall Amazon spending, as well as subtotals for certian months and years (quoted in the article.)

To me, this seems crazy. Surely it would have been quicker to copy/paste those numbers into a spreadsheet, where she could have then quickly totted up her total spending, and done any additional analysis that she wanted to. (From the article, it seems that she did some further analysis – concluding that she spent £4,279 in total over 8 years, and that although "a small amount of the total was DVDs and computer equipment […] the vast bulk — £4,000-worth — was spent on books..)

This is exactly what I was talking about when I wrote about using a computer, when I talked about different types of computer users;

1. The Computer as electronic paper. You put your numbers into a spreadsheet, but still do the calculations with a calculator. In other words, you see a spreadsheet as a table of numbers – which it is – but don't understand why a spreadsheet is anything more than just a table. (Similarly, you might not see much of a difference between a word processor and an electrical typewriter.)

What I wanted to point out here was a few things;

  • Just in case you live in a highly technical/'computer-literate' environment where everyone is an expert, this is an example of a "Type 1" computer user in the real world.
  • This is someone who clearly owns a computer of their own, and also had a need for Microsoft Office software for their university degree. (The article doesn't mention whether she graduated – it isn't relevant to the story – but she does appear to have spent a few years at university, and now holds a job as a Commissioning Editor at the Daily Mail.) This certainly implies someone with a good level of intelligence, not to mention being highly literate, who probably uses a computer every single day of her professional life.
  • Given her profession, I imagine that the word processor/electric typewriter comparison doesn't really apply here.