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Poll Shows Brits Still Struggling With Technology

Gordon Kelly


If you're feeling a little overwhelmed by the rash of technology news to come out of CES last week don't worry. You're already reading this, which suggests you're a lot more clued up than most people...

A recent poll of 1,000 UK residents conducted by Lewis PR found that we're still a depressingly technophobic bunch at large and deserve to have our PCs and mobile phones ripped from our grasp. Highlights include:

  • 50 per cent were unable to identify Steve Jobs (10 per thought he was a trade union leader, 20 per cent a Division Two footballer and 20 per cent hadn't a clue)

  • 11 per cent could not name a social networking site

  • 25 per cent thought World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee was the head of MI5 (five per cent opted for Artic explorer, five per cent for the first British astronaut in space)

  • Six per cent thought a VHD - virtual hard disk - was a sexually transmitted disease

  • 10 per cent thought a wireless dongle was a sex toy

  • Four per cent considered phishing to be an angling method used by Eskimos
More positively 88 per cent knew who Bill Gates was, even if two per cent thought he was one of the Great Train robbers. Daftness aside, there is a serious point here.

"Technology is playing an increasingly dominant role in our lives but it is still striking how little is known about some of its key figures, gadgets and aspects," said Lewis PR's Eb Adeyeri. "Although many people knew the correct answers, a substantial minority had absolutely no idea. There is a digital divide in Britain between those who understand the importance of technology and those who are either not interested or frightened by it."

Lewis correctly concludes the use of geek speak needs to end with technology made clearer and more accessible to avoid frightening people away. After all, if this is how badly the UK does imagine the results in less established countries...

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to rob a train with Bill Gates.


Lewis PR


January 14, 2010, 5:33 am

"Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off rob a train with Bill Gates"

Don't worry, if you're going with Bill just wait by the side of the track till it crashes.

Oh very dear. I'll leave now.


January 14, 2010, 9:48 am

Hehe, thanks Life, I enjoyed that.

Those results aren't very surprising, and to be honest the questions turned out to be harder than I thought they'd be for the average person to get. In other words, as usual, polls and statistics mean nothing.

Oh, and if you you want to truly split your sides, go here: http://www.rinkworks.com/stupi...


January 14, 2010, 1:59 pm

There were two Americans and a couple of French girls in that video who's first language wasn't even English.... but it's not a surprising poll. Seeing the VHD acronym written on a tech related website I probably wouldn't have to think too hard to get "virtual hard disk". But if I was randomly asked it in the street I might not get it, that's not a simple one.

"Lewis correctly concludes the use of geek speak needs to end with technology made clearer and more accessible to avoid frightening people away."

I don't think people give a toss, making more (simpler) words for things and making more FAQ's probably won't do anything. I'd say that the onus should be on those who are ignorant to put the effort into learning, rather than for everyone else to change their language to cater to them. When in history has the dumbing down of anything been a positive step?

Besides, if anyone can come up with a more descriptive and accessible name for a hard disk (which is virtual).. then I'm sure the world would like to hear it. Maybe a "ghostspin-o-memoriser" ? How about a "talkabout-a-puterplace" for a "social network". Huh, I feel the world changing already.


January 14, 2010, 3:33 pm

The basic tenant in UK understanding is that any individual who understands technology is a Geek or has no life. For those of us that don't fit into those well drawn profiles well I suppose we can just laugh. I know we've had possibly the most technology obsessed/advanced decade in consumer history but we should also understand that this is creating a deep divide between the people who are comfortable with technology from those who are not. Plus that further subdivides into the those that understand the limits of technology from those that believe it can do everything it says on the box. Wow if I worked in a well sorted AV/technology retailer (and I don't mean Currys or PC World)I'd find the UK consumer rather odd to.


January 14, 2010, 3:42 pm

lol @ lifethroughalens!

I doubt someone not knowing who Steve Jobs is would affect their usage of an iPhone. People shouldn't need to know much about technology, for the vast majority it should simply make things better and easier without the need for a BSc in Computing.


January 14, 2010, 4:48 pm

"10 per cent thought a wireless dongle was a sex toy "

That cracked me up!

"Left a bit, no right a bit. That's it, now you've got my SSID!"


January 14, 2010, 4:54 pm

@gunholio: Superb!


January 14, 2010, 6:29 pm

I think the number of people who know who Steve Jobs is nothing short of miraculous - why would people know who the head of the company they may buy products from is? Most people wouldn't know the head of tesco/topshop or wherever.

As for VHD? Seriously, why would anyone outside of IT need to know that, not to mention as someone above mentioned, whenever a Three Letter Abbreviation is thrown at you out of context they are often rather mysterious. I don't see what the big deal is you don't need to know that much about the product you are buying - a more serious issue to look into would be shops trying to up-sell to a lot higher than people actually require.


January 14, 2010, 7:20 pm

I agree with Joe, in fact I was typing the exact same thing before my wireless router went mental, after which I had to type into my explorer page to get the settings and change the wireless channel cos its now overlapping with the neighbours one.

I also agree with jopey and his comically clever thing about dumbing down technology... WE SHOULDNT DO IT, PEOPLE NEED TO STOP BEING IDIOTS AND LEARN SOMETHING NEW. There is no excuse for a person who is not braindead to be technophobic, if anything I say make it MORE complicated to make some sort of computer tech savvy elite who could rule the tech world like the jedi council!


January 14, 2010, 7:52 pm

Still nothing on how little the average American knows about anything outside their little corner of the globe.


January 14, 2010, 9:08 pm

If i didn't naturally have an interest in knowing about technology and instantly pick up Acronyms, I would probably be a technophobe. I have a small relatively new interest in cameras, and learning all the techy stuff about them is exhausting because it doesn't come naturally.

I feel like a person learning Microsoft Word for the first time. Highlight word > Go to context menu> click copy > move cursor around using arrow keys > return to context menu > click paste > feel sense of achievement.


January 14, 2010, 9:19 pm

hey, I like the picture.... isn't that the picture used by Apple as a icon for PC servers?? ^^

the only thing I find diconcerting is people who don't know what phishing is. internet has now become so accessible that even those people will use it, probably without knowing the risks of the internet :/


January 15, 2010, 1:51 am

I'm surprised so many people know of the head of Apple. I guess it's because he gets on with journalists so they tend to talk about him a lot. How many British people know the head of ARM or even who they are?


January 15, 2010, 5:55 am

I think one thing the video shows is the generation gap, when talking about technology. Most of the people in it seemed to be over fifty, like my Dad, who also knows next to nothing about computers or technology.

I suppose it's just a consequence of being brought up before the computer revolution, and not a sign of ignorance. I'm just wondering if something will come around near the end of my lifetime (currently thirty), that will make me feel the same way they do about today's technology?

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