Modern grandparents and great grandparents know a thing or two about the ‘web’ and have embraced the Digital Age with flying colors. Technology pioneers of the 20th century share how the Internet has affected their lives.
Today I interviewed my mother and father-in-law to learn more about how they use technology, particularly the Internet. Both of them were born in the mid 1940s and belong to a generation that grew up with home freezers, television, and space expeditions as major technological advances. When I suggested that I wanted to interview them about technology, they were excited and pleased to share how computers and the Internet specifically have changed their lives.
Terry and Sharon’s first computer was a Commodore 64 purchased in the 1980s and was primarily used for entertaining their children. Things have changed quite a bit since then and they are using their Dell Computer for a variety of leisure, ducational, and occupational activities. Sharon’s favorite activities include reading and sending email, reading articles on the Globe and Mail website, and gathering information about gardening, recipes, and health. My mother-in-law is also an avid writer and uses their computer to compile our quarterly family newsletter, incorporating articles and photographs submitted by relatives via email, connecting the extended family both online and offline through traditional means by sending off printed copies of the newsletter in the mail.
The computer has simplified the collaboration and editing processes immensely. Desktop publishing is as easy as copying and pasting text from an email into her newsletter template in Microsoft Word. Terry prefers to visit financial websites and blogs related to investment. One of his favorite blogs is BillCara.com, a blog that focuses on the stock market and enjoys a very popular following from people interested in buying and selling stocks. Yahoo! Finance is another favorite. The Yahoo! website keeps him logged in which is another element of the user experience that Terry appreciates.
For the past several years, Internet Explorer has been the browser of choice, but in recent days, they have made the switch to Firefox, an Internet browser that simplifies navigating the web to a formidable degree. Instead of saving their favorite home pages to their computer desktop, Firefox gives them the option to create ‘tabs’ or bookmarks on their navigation bar. They also installed a Google search bar in their Firefox navigation bar for easier access to the information that they seek.
When polled about their which search engine they prefer to use, the answer was unaminous: Google. Google, a search engine that has been online since 1998, is both familiar and trusted in their opinion. Terry and Sharon find that the search results are relevant to their needs and they don’t mind seeing the sponsored search results on the side, realizing that everything that is free to use comes with a cost, usually in the form of corporate advertising. When asked about what they didn’t like, pop-up ads and ads that took too long to load were at the top of the list.
The Internet has made a great impact on their everyday lives, bringing them closer to the people they love and making it easier to research, conduct business, and communicate with others. Sharon, whose background was in the field of nursing, has connected with a global community online that discusses blood types and diets associated with specific blood types. The Internet has enabled her to find a group of people who are interested in the same niche and has provided them with a forum to converse about health related issues.
Terry, whose background is financial and estate planning, uses the Internet to communicate with his clients from anywhere in the world. Current news, whether business or general, is conveniently available to him at the click of a mouse. Email is one of the most useful applications for Terry, particularly where work is concerned. Just this morning, he sat down at the desktop computer and emailed business clients in Kelowna, British Columbia, received their reply, and was able to email them back in the course of several minutes, something that would have been unheard of even a decade ago.
Although the computer has been a welcome addition to their home, certain elements of their everyday lives have remained untouched by newer technologies such as iTunes and handheld MP3 players. They have both listened to podcasts but don’t feel the need to subscribe. They key to gracious living is simplicity, and they have their boundaries set. In a day and age where most people can’t leave home, ride a bus, or do the dishes without their iPods, Terry and Sharon prefer quiet contemplation and conversation.
When asked what their next computer would be, both agreed that they would probably buy an Apple Computer. They really like the graphics on the Apple computers and are mainly interested in the user experience. The mere mention of iTunes, iPhoto, and other applications I really love were not factors in their decision to go with Apple. Again, it all came down to quality of product, user experience, and simplicity. Terry also mentioned that he would find a PDA (personal digital assistant) useful, such as a BlackBerry, or a handheld device that could play videos of corporate presentations and speeches.
It’s amazing how far technology has brought us and yet how much further it will take us. The new technologies that we experience today will be the same technologies that our children will take for granted. Our generation takes home freezers, television, and lunar missions for granted. The next will take computers, the Internet, and GPS sytems for granted. For those of you who have been pioneers of the 20th century, you have our sincere thanks and utmost respect. Without your adoption, embrace and support of these innovations, they would not have been possible. I publicly want to thank Sharon and Terry for sharing their experiences and wisdom with us. If you have something to share, please leave a comment!