New College Students Not Understanding Nested Folders

A couple of days ago I read this surprising article. What is probably second nature to all of us who have been using computers for 15-20 years or more seems to escape the understanding of younger generations who grew up using a search to find everything.

What does this mean for future users of KiCad and other EDA?


Fascinating read!

Yet another Generational Gap.

What is the bet that “Kicad 8” gets renamed “Kiswamp 1” ? :slightly_smiling_face:

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I’ve always disliked my newfangled phone thing.

It does not have a decent keyboard, the screen is much to small to do (almost) anything useful and indeed, it does such a “good” job of hiding directories that I do not know where the photo’s are I make on that thing or other files. I once had a bunch of .pdf files on it, and they appeared on some kind of bookshelf.
Every time I put the thing in my PC I have to go searching 3 or more directory levels deep to find anything that even resembles a directory I’ve made myself.

But because of the small screen and lack of keyboard I’ve given up on using it for almost anything other then a phone.

I’ve also got an E-book thing. Several years ago I dumped some downloads on it with some 80.000 books and it uses it’s own database to organize things, though I can relate to some directory structure I put on it myself. I find the thing also unusable for pdf files such as datasheets. the “reflow” does not work good enough (.pdf is a horrible file format for e-books), and the thing is much too slow to find something quickly.


Well, I have a cure for the finding files issue. However, I have no experience with either e-books nor with smartphones. I prefer .pdf files for technical papers, reports, recipes, and downloaded files in general. I mainly read them, but can write them too.

So what is your recommended cure? Eliminate e-books and smartphones?

My cure is the one I used during the last decade of the 20th century. Sit down with a computer running linux and review the first 24 chapters of Open Computing Unix Unbound by Harley Hahn, published by Osborne McGraw-Hill of Berkeley, CA © 1994,skipping chapters 11, 12, 20, and 21 which cover, respectively, the C-shell, the Korn shell, vi, and emacs. Create and organize your own files on your own computer using what you learn from the book.


Oh, no… I have been a power supply and circuit designer since 1975 but when it comes to computers and programming, I am pretty much a dumb user. Most of your terms…I draw a blank; no idea. But I have always used folders (“directories”) since I started using an IBM PC and DOS in the 1980s. The computer was part of a Bode analysis plotting system. It also ran Wordstar and (maybe Visicalc?)

Many teenage students seem to have a general problem with the concept of appropriate storage for anything tbh. My daughter’s bedroom floor seems to be a repository of clothes, books, food wrappers, sports kit and make-up. The concept of clothes in a wardrobe and books on a shelf seems alien. I’m told they grow out of it …


Apple – you know, the big one who pretends to innovate – once tried to change the world and get rid of the user visible folder structure altogether by having metadata and search. It didn’t succeed on desktop or laptop computers. But maybe smartphones are different enough. On the other hand, smartphones mostly don’t have user files other than what’s managed by each app separately, and file collaboration between apps tends also happen without one generic mechanism so that the user chooses some app-specific actions. The choices are limited. Kids have learned that, but don’t know how to use Real Computers.

Why? :slight_smile:

Did they ever add a decent text editor to that os?

Yes, you missed what Russ wrote just before emacs. :laughing:

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Each generation is dumber than the previous. Stromatolites were the most intelligent life form in the history of the earth. :rofl:


The first time I learned about directories I was pretty amazed. I was probably 10 years old or younger. The concept of putting storage spaces into storage spaces, and putting big storage spaces into small storage spaces was an amazing concept. Just like the Tardis, where a whole spaceship is hidden in a phone box, and then multiple levels deep.

If each generation was getting dumber, then that would be food for the conspiracy paranoia who thinks governments put stuff though our food to make us dumb and meek.

A much more logical explanation is that if you’ve only interacted with your phone or other device that stores data “somewhere”, you’re not confronted with where and how that data is stored. You just start the application, and your data is there. I started with the small home computers and later DOS, and those were just not workable without knowing something about directory structures.

But in these modern days…
I don’t know how trustworthy that “verge” website is. For all I know it’s a completely bonkers story just to generate add revenue with clickbait.


It is not that these students are not smart, it’s that these concepts are no longer relevant to general purpose computing for a lot of people. Running what we would think of as a “real” operating system, where some amount of understanding of filesystems and folders is required, is rapidly becoming specialty computing, not general-purpose computing. Students outside certain fields such as engineering can easily get by entirely without this type of computing environment: between iOS, Android, Chrome OS, and all the productivity software that only runs in a web browser, you may go through primary school and never see a traditional OS unless you happen to be one of those kids who is naturally interested in programming / understanding computers under the hood.

I think this just means that colleges offering engineering/science programs are going to have to add some kind of “intro to how computers actually work” course, that you can test out of like intro mathematics courses. etc.


I have been reading “The Verge” almost daily for years. I have never found any of their reports to be “baloney”. (All news media make errors; I am not considering that.) I believe it to be a reputable website presenting news by journalists. I think they are owned by Vox media which is often quoted by National Public Radio (USA).

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For me Android smartphone is workable without knowing the directory structure until I connect it to PC USB and want to copy photos from there (using file manager).
Once, when I paid for my car insurance, the lady said that if I install an application, I will get a 5% discount. Then I can uninstall it right away. She claimed that she could install it quickly for me.
I installed something on my phone only once and it was done by copying the installation from my computer and running it in a file browser (which my brother installed for me - as a must have). I don’t have an account in the Google Store or whatever it is called. I handed the phone to her - she failed. She was surprised that nothing works for me, which works for everyone :slight_smile:
I specifically use my smartphone - if I forget to charge the battery on Saturday (I charge it once a week), somewhere around Wednesday the phone will ask for charging.

qu1ck’s question was a joke about emacs.

When I started running DOS and Windows 2.0 on my own PC , I never learned to like the two old editors from the 1970’s because they don’t work with the arrow keys and the Home and End keys and the PageUp and PageDown keys on the ubiquitous IBM PC-compatible AT keyboard (at least ubiquitous in the late 20th century). From that point on, I regarded them as obsolete and clumsy.

A couple of decades later, I did find a shell-compatible editor known today as “nice editor” or ne for short. I use it every day. Its “programmable key” feature impressed me. It also has built-in AI to recognize syntactical constructs in special files such as HTML and C – beginning and end tags, curly braces and such. This can be handy if you’re a programmer.

I chose to learn the BASH shell because it was the most popular one, and on the worldwide web I found far more shells written in BASH than in the other shell languages. I have not yet felt any need or desire to translate any shell written in another shell language into BASH.

Unless the battery is dead.

Holy smokes. It is true that I am semi-retired. But I listen to a lot of podcasts. If I am outdoors I can run the battery down to 30% in 6 hours (I guess.) Piotr we can all see that you are genuine and not phone-y. (phony) :slight_smile:

On OSX the file explorer is called… “Finder”… enough said.

In my opinion the situation has a lot more to do with the education system than it does the students. How is it that students can be in college level courses and not have a basic understanding of computers? And often teachers have rather bizarre ways of trying to explain basic concepts. Even when I went to school the teacher’s explanation left a lot to be desired. Even to this day I work with university graduates who lack an understanding of the basics. In one case using pointers in C and expecting them to magically point somewhere useful without allocating any memory. In another case a lack of understanding of IP and MAC addresses. And he had the initials “Dr.” in front of his name. Although his PhD was in physics he also had a BEng in “Industrial Computing”.