"I don't know how to work this machine... Spending the nights alone, talking to yourself into an obvious Nazi machine. This is a Red China, Manchurian Candidate machine because I can't record anything, and when I do I automatically erase it."
attempts to use a tape recorder, Judy Garland Speaks
Technology is a very important aspect of modern life. From cellular phones to desktop computers to automated banking machines to cars, we have all kinds of mechanical and cybernetic gadgets that (at least for some of us) we can't imagine living without.
But there are some persons who just don't understand technology. The newer or more mainstream it is, the more likely it is that such persons will be left totally bamboozled by it.
This comes in two types:
Alice can't work her way around computers. Give her a cell-phone (especially of the very latest model), and she's clueless as to how it's supposed to work. Digital cameras leave her wondering how they're supposed to be used. She's bewildered by all the complicated technological stuff that others take for granted. If she makes an effort to use any technology despite her cluelessness (usually in an attempt to prove that she can in fact get the concept), very bad things happen
Bob has a basic understanding of how a computer is supposed to work (meaning he can browse through folders, surf the Internet, et cetera), but disassemble the parts and challenge him to put it back together, and he's stuck in a rut. He knows the fundamentals of using a cell-phone (you dial numbers and communicate with others), but the various additional functions have him lost, especially if it's a model he's not used to. He knows how to drive a car and the basic fundamentals behind it (press the gas to go and the brake to stop, use the steering wheel to direct the car), but he's stumped when it comes to pinpointing specific engine parts or knowing what wires go where.
In fiction, both types may be Played for Laughs
, depending on the character and the situation.
Compare Walking Techbane
, which may wind up being the
absolute worst-case scenario, and Evil Luddite
, who refuses to accept technology because of its perceived evil. Contrast Technopath
and Gadgeteer Genius
When this trope is applied to advertising (usually for Rule of Funny
), that's a form of Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Orihime Inoue of Bleach falls under Type 1. This is stated to be the reason why she doesn't own a cell-phone.
- Shouko from Baka Test is stated to be this by Yuuji.
- Isumi from Hayate the Combat Butler is type 1. Coupled with her lack of direction, she's been referred to as hopeless on several occasions.
- Nagato Yuki starts out this way in Haruhi Suzumiya. Odd since she's a Reality Warper genius space alien interface device.
- This is arguably Fridge Brilliance: she's used to (or designed by/for) such a high level of technology that working at lower levels is initially very difficult to get accustomed to. Sort of like how most people who know how to use a cigarette lighter would be lost when given tinder, steel and flint.
- Asahina Mikuru as well. She's from the future, where technology has become non-physical, so modern technology is nigh-incomprehensible to her at times. She's generally fairly competent with tech from her own era, though we don't see her use it much (most of the time it isn't obvious that she is using it).
- Several Magic-side characters in A Certain Magical Index.
- Mihoko from Saki, which leaves her at a disadvantage in the prefectural tournament, since she's unable to print out records on her opponents so that she can research their play styles. In the anime, even attempting to print out records resulted in her being wrapped in wires while the computers on the network sparked electricity. It's unclear, however, how much this applies to Saki herself, who doesn't own a cell phone, in stark contrast to other characters.
- Mechanismo, Empowered's team mate, was transformed into a robot by alien nanoviruses. The upshot of this is that he can't actually understand what his cyberware is telling him; it's not easy to find the option for English when your computer's in Xplipadtic or whatever. Subverts this as most of the time it's "pretty intuitive".
- Black Canary is absolutely useless when it comes to computers. During preparations for her wedding to Green Arrow, it was mentioned that she'd actually thrown a laptop out of a window after being unable to work it properly.
- Roger Fox of FoxTrot, is a type 2. He can work the basics of most tech, but anything more complex than that, particularly with computers, results in crashes or worse. This is a result of Flanderization since the 1980s, when computers weren't as ubiquitous as they currently are.
- In Flight: Shirou is incredibly inept with technology (he didn't even know what text messaging was). The sad part is that he is adept in comparison to most magi. Rin had no idea what a cellphone or computer was, making her worse than Shirou.
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe's Captain America can be seen like this to degree. When Iron Man needed him to describe an electronic service panel on the Helicarrier, Rogers is completely out of his depth. However, this is justified considering Rogers has just recently been defrosted out from 70 years of suspended animation and can't be expected to understand advanced technology, especially not in a way that an engineering genius like Stark would consider useful.
- Polly MacKenzie in The Inbetweeners 2 has trouble working the computer during her Skype sessions with Will, at one point unintentionally showing Will and his friends her cleavage through her botching of the camera angle.
- In Penguins of Madagascar, Dave invokes this when he tries to video chat with the North Wind.
- Nearly the entire wizarding world falls into this in Harry Potter. It's partly justified by the fact that even muggleborns only have an eleven-year-old's knowledge of muggle technology, but it still strains the suspension of disbelief at times.
- Shelby of the H.I.V.E. Series is actually very good with mechanical gadgets, as well as architecture and structural engineering. However, at one point she tries to hack into the school computer system. Professor Pike feels so sorry for her that he just gives her the files she's looking for on a flash drive and tells her not to bother trying to do that again.
- Giles De'Ath in Love And Death On Long Island is so reclusive that even though it's 1990, he's never heard of home video. When he does order a VCR, he doesn't realize that he also needs to order a television to plug it into. When he gets a television, he at first forgets to turn it on...
- Angel can use cell phones, but constantly struggles to understand their nuances, like voicemail. He also confuses computer terminology:
"They talk about me in the chatty rooms?"
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- Giles admits that he's technophobic, and when he discovers that the library of Sunnydale High 2.0 consists of nothing but computers, he's absolutely horrified.
- Kakistos preferred lighting his lairs with candles rather than electric lights, and had little interest in modern comforts that would easily enable him to establish a power base. This is the main reason Mr. Trick pulled a Screw This, I'm Outta Here!! when Buffy and Faith attacked.
- New Tricks has a gag like this every other episode (e.g. Brian setting up a twitter and having trouble with the wordcount limit).
- NCIS has Gibbs, who is poor with computers and sometimes insists on paper. Of course, when a blackout comes, he's the only person who can work an ancient copy machine...
- Castiel from Supernatural has a bit of this early on, as he isn't quite used to all the nuances of Earth. A pay phone confuses him quite a bit.
Castiel: The voice says I'm almost out of minutes.
- And, when someone tries to call him and it goes to voicemail:
Recording: Hello, you've reached:
Castiel: I don't understand - why do you want me to say my name? Hello? Hello? (*sound of mashing buttons*)
- Apparently John is one as well. Him sending the boys a text message in Season One - Asylum triggers this exchange:
Sam: You think Dad was texting us?
Dean: He's given us coordinates before.
Sam: The man can barely work a toaster, Dean.
- Dowager Countess Violet of Downton Abbey. Understandable for such an old person, but thrown into sharp relief by the fact that it's the tech of a hundred years ago that flummoxes her.
Violet: *after slipping* Heavens, what am I sitting on?
Matthew: Er... swivel... chair.
Violet: Oh, another modern brainwave?
Violet: Why does every day involve a fight with an American?
- Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden on JAG is clueless whenever computers are involved.
- Cyan from Final Fantasy VI is hopeless with machines. Sabin figures this out after Cyan tries to pilot a suit of Magitek armor without help, and Cyan freaks out when Sabin flips a random switch on the Doom Train without knowing what it does. In the World of Ruin, Cyan's hideout contains a book on machines, implying he's trying to get over this uselessness with technology. But, his Battle in the Center of the Mind features the party riding in Magitek armor as part of Cyan's nightmare, showing he hasn't made as much progress as he thinks he has.
- In The Walking Dead, Lee runs into Carley who is trying to get a radio to work. Lee quickly finds out that the radio needs batteries, but Carley has no idea what to look for, and asks him to find them. Upon being handed the batteries by Lee, she still can't get the radio to work. Lee then checks the radio again to find out that she has put the batteries in backwards, completely missing the instructions painted on the tray. It's not let go of in subsequent episodes.
- According to supplementary materials, Rin Tohsaka of Fate/stay night is this. In fact, most oldblood mages are. Mages tend to look down on modern technology, and generally have no clue how it works. This is ultimately taken Up to Eleven in one episode of Carnival Phantasm where Rin can't even figure out how to get a Blu-Ray Player to record a show.
- Tokiomi Tohsaka, Rin's father, had what amounted to a magical fax machine, and his studen Kirie Kotomine wondered if a normal fax wouldn't be more efficient. Irisviel von Einzbern is a little better, having been taught about modern tech by her husband Kiritsugi Emiya, in that she knows about it, but still fumbles with a cell phone and Drives Like Crazy.
- James Heller of Prototype 2, a killing machine who can kill thousands, meets his mortal enemy: a computer.
Heller: I'm at the computer, what do I press?
Guerra: First you need to —
Heller: I'm pressing the red button. Shit. Now the screen's all fucked up.
Guerra: Okay, press the alternate key. "A.L.T." Alternate —
Heller: Alt? There's no fucking alt. I got a fucking squiggly line key, I got a fucking key with a triangle on it — what the fuck kind of keyboard is this anyway?
- Made even worse by the fact it is explicitly stated that when he absorbs someone he takes all of their memories, but for some reason despite eating countless scientists he still can't work one.
- Tekken: Sergei Dragunov is a Badass and quiet Russian soldier, quick and efficient in battle. He is also shockingly awful when it comes to assembling robots, if his Tekken Tag Tournament 2 ending is anything to go by.
- Maya Fey from Ace Attorney is an interesting variation. She isn't completely hopeless with technology, as she has a cell phone which she knows how to operate, but when it comes to computers, she can't even turn the darn things on. She even laments it when she finds a computer while trying to escape her kidnapper in the second game: she notes she could send an e-mail to the police, but realizes she doesn't even know how to turn the thing on.
- Phoenix Wright is a Type 2; he can work a computer and do the basic functions, and he knows what a computer virus is (as shown in Trials and Tribulations), but little beyond that. When he gets a computer to do what he wants, there's generally a lot of luck involved.
- Evan of Everyman HYBRID is somewhere between Type 1 and Type 2. The only technology he seems to know how to use is anything involving Video Games. Anything else, forget it.
- The point of the Image Macro and/or Advice Dog spin-off "Technologically Impaired Duck."
- Occasionally appears on Not Always Right and its sister sites. It's even worse when the angry customer immediately assumes everyone in tech support must be a Walking Techfix and calls them "lazy/incompetent" when they can't fix their computers or cellphones (which often have completely unfixable problems, like the keyboard being covered in urine, or the inner circuits being smeared with butter)
- Jane Eyre of The Autobiography of Jane Eyre is an improbable vlogger. Not only is she camera-shy and has hard time talking to her audience, she's not very tech-savvy either. She claims it takes her forever to set her camera up and start recording. Sometimes she messes up audio or editing. She even sometimes happens to turn on her camera accidentally. All this adds a nice layer of realism and vloggy feel to this web series. Episode 13 had amazing glitches because her camera is old and broken. It was very spooky and very Gothic-novel-like.
- r/talesfromtechsupport is naturally full of these.
- Jackie Chan Adventures: Uncle doesn't understand devices such as faxes (he gets his facts from books), laptops (dismissing Jade's as a "magic waffle iron"), and the Internet. Ironically, however, he understands sending a spell through a phone, but not a piece of paper.
- Get two or more IT professionals in the same room together and you're guaranteed to hear a few stories about Type 1. Whether this counts as Truth in Television or not... Well, that kind of depends on the kind of IT professional you're talking to.
- Most of us have at least one (usually older) relative that's like this. With the relatively recent rise of modern computers, there are plenty of people who have been left behind in terms of technical knowledge.
- Type 2 is far more common than Type 1 and probably happens to everyone at some point, because it's both easier and far more commonly needed to know how to use a computer than how to assemble or repair one. Same for cars; even The Alleged Car is probably driven more often than it needs to be repaired.