I’m proud of my mother. At 93 years of age, she decided to tackle a computer for the very first time. Her bruises are healing. She even has an email account. It’s been a struggle, but after only a week of practice, she’s already figured out how to turn on her computer. Until 3 months ago, she had never heard of email or Google or Facebook. She’d never surfed the web, never watched a YouTube video of a cat riding a roomba.
Today she sent me her very first email. She wrote, ”Dear Tim, I ma laerning ti sned emali but ti deos not thenw othew byrw kt wodh pcx; s93@m &m$k m1t8 btn%+. Love, mom”. What a beautiful message.
I appreciate that learning new technology comes more slowly to the elderly than, say, to an eight-year-old techno-dweeb raised with a cell phone surgically affixed to his thumbs. And it made me wonder: What sorts of new technology will be hard for me to comprehend when I’m my mother’s age?
I can only imagine the conversation with my future eight-year-old grandson as he patiently tries to explain to me how to use the everyday tech tools of his generation…
Grandson: Hey, Grandpa. I see you’re still having problems figuring out how to use some pretty basic devices. Didn’t you have jetpacks and 3-D printable holograms when you were growing up?
Me: Surprisingly, no, Nathan. Things were less complicated in the 1960s when I was your age. Back then, we had not yet invented iPads or cell phones. Heck, as I recall, we were all pretty stoked about the recent invention of the Etch A Sketch. Hard to imagine, but people used to read these contraptions called books. So, yes, I could use a little help with these modern day gadgets.
Grandson: What’s a book, Grandpa? You can tell me later. Let’s start with something easy. I see that your cyber-motronic dog Byte-Me has been stuck in standby mode for the past three hours.
Me: Yeah, he jumped up on my recliner and started barking incessantly. I yelled, “Shut Up!” Then suddenly he just froze, staring out the window like this.
Grandson: Grandpa, his voice protocol program went into hibernation mode. That’s because you didn’t yell, “shut up”. You yelled “shut DOWN!” So he power cycled down. Just reboot him by holding his front left paw down while right-clicking his pneumatic tail and pressing the sync capacitor button under his snout.
Me: The sync capaci – what?
Grandson: Never mind, Grandpa. I also see that your auto pod has a serious dent in it. How’d that happen?
Me: Oh you noticed, eh? Well, I had trouble putting it into hover mode and accidentally backed into that thingamajiggy over there at the Texaco station.
Grandson: You mean the photon refueling pump at the floating petro port? Seriously, dude, you should always leave your vehicle on auto pilot. You’re way too old to be air cruising on your own, Grandpa. Next time, remember. Just set the vector coordinates on the virtual dashboard to self-propulsion mode. Otherwise, you may end up forgetting where you parked, like you did last month, when we found it right where you left it – in the Sea of Tranquility – with its fission reactor running. Remember?
Me: How can I forget?
Grandson: Well, to be honest, Grandpa, you forget all the time. Speaking of ending up in the wrong place, how did you end up in Kazakhstan last Tuesday?
Me: Oh, that was a mistake. I was just trying to beam up to the grocery store for some ice cream…
Grandson: You mean the SRC – Sustenance Replenishment Center.
Me: Whatever you kids call it, yes. And, well, I’m not sure what I did, but somehow I ended up at a Starbucks in Kazakhstan. If you ask me, $425 for a double tall latte is a bit over-priced. But maybe I’m just old-fashioned.
Grandson: Focus, Grandpa! Kazakhstan!! How many times do we have to go over this? Never move the anti-neutrino altimeter setting beyond the green zone. That’s a five-mile radius around your home port. I can tell just by looking at your transporter’s gamma modality readout that once again you set it to Vector 11 – Vector 11, Grandpa!!! That’s a geo dispersion range of 15,000 miles. The last time you played with the settings, you wound up in a fishing village in Greenland. It took me almost an hour to tele-scan you home.
Me: How old did you say you are, Nathan?
Me: You don’t say. And sorry about that Greenland thing. I couldn’t read the buttons because I left my glasses downstairs in the antiparticle vortex portal – or maybe it was the bathroom. I forget.
Me: Thank you, Nathan. You’re a good boy. Oh, another thing. I still have trouble with the time travel whatchamacallit. What am I doing wrong?
Grandson: You mean the TTCA.
Grandson: Time Transport Cyclotron Accelerator. Did you remember to set the binary polarity on the transverse diffraction transponders to the proper half-duplex, parallel port configuration?
Me: Um, I have no idea what you just said.
Grandson: Grandpa, you really need to pay attention to these things. The last time you played around with the time transporter, you overshot your target date by 176 years. And you almost got blown up by a cannonball in the Battle of Gettysburg.
Me: Yeah, that was pretty careless, I admit it. Oh, Nathan, I have just one more question. And this one has me completely stumped.
Grandson: Go for it, Gramps.
Me: Could you show me how to get my clock to stop flashing 12:00?
Grandson: Sure. Let’s go over it one more time. First you press the Reset button and then move the minutes button like this….. Are you paying attention, Grandpa? Grandpa??!! …
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© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2014