If you have horror stories about your parents trying to use a computer, this is the node for you. Here are mine.

Double Clicking: For months, my father could not grasp this concept. After explaining to him at some length about just WHY he had to double click, he spent weeks trying to master this. He'd click once, and then start to move the mouse on the second click. This would drag the icon he was trying to click on slightly, and I'd hear mumbled curses from the other room about the damn icons not staying in the same place.

Advice: Even though my mother knows nothing about computers, and I'm a Computer Science major in college with years of practical hands-on experience, she still tries to tell me how to use and fix my computer. Whenever I try to give her helpful advice if something breaks with her computer or she's trying to do something new, all I get is an earful of, "It's my computer, I'll do what I want." Of course, every time the computer breaks down, she comes running to me to magically fix it without even attempting to deal with it herself.

Learning: I've discussed this at length with my friends, and we've discovered a fundamental difference between how our generation uses new technology and the way that adults do. We go, "Cool! I don't know how to do that. Teach me how to do it?" My parents go, "ACK! I have no idea how to do that! You have to do it for me!" My parents usually won't even attempt to explore the computer or learn to do one damn thing without running to me for help first. Also, on the rare occasions they need to learn how to do something by themselves (usually out of necessity), they write everything down. Everything. The problem with this approach is that they believe every single program or thing they have to do is a totally different process. Ergo, firing up Netscape is radically different for them than firing up Internet Explorer, and thus a seperate and meticulous entry for both of them needs to be written. In doing this, they fail to understand the computer itself and how it really functions.

Getting a Computer In The First Place: For SEVENTEEN YEARS, my parents refused to buy me a computer. I even offered to pay for it with my own money, which I'd been saving up for exactly that purpose, and still they refused. When I actually proved that I NEEDED one to do my college applications and Westinghouse Science Talent Search research project, they finally broke down and graciously let me buy myself a computer. Fast forward one year. The summer before I leave for college, my parents buy themselves a computer so that they can have one when I go to school. They now claim that they couldn't live without one.
In Japan, the word "jouhou-jakusha" has recently become common.

Jouhou-Jakusha basically means old people (like myself) who can't get used to information technology, (unlike myself).

But there are many reasons for this.

For example, many older people have almost forgotten the romaji that they learned long ago in school. so they have trouble inputting Nihongo in romaji. As well, much computer technology such as click, cut/paste, delete, install, application, home page, address etc are mostly written in katakana.

Katakana is weird, romaji even weirder. The transliteration of Japanese words into Roman letters produces something that does not really represent how anything is actually said, let alone pronounced in different regions.

When I first introduced my mom to the computer, that was in 1994 or '95 I think, and she had trouble just playing Solitaire on Windows 95 which had just came out. It was depressing. I was only ten years old, and she would call me at a friends house to come home and help her turn on "this dag-blasted contraption."

Last summer I introduced her to the whole concept of the internet. Unsurprisingly, it took her by storm. She spent most of her time using Ask Jeeves to visit craft sites while I sat on the couch reading everyone's favorite Stephen Hawking book. One day, I was busy with my nose buried in a book, when I heard a gasp. My mom turned to me and said, "Aimee! There's a huge error!" It turns out that she had seen one of those Ask Jeeves banner ads that looks like a Windows error pop-up. The humor of it all was that the message said, "Warning! Your computer is too boring!" She took this seriously and didn't understand why I thought this was so funny.

I have had similar experiences with my parents, except for one thing, my dad acually learns stuff, tinkers, and reads the online help. When he asks for help it is rest assured that he has at least tryed the function for himself, and hit a point where he just doesn't know what is supposed to happen next. I can give him vague instructions that would apply to most any program (unless it is ultra specific) like typing a URL into a web browser. He is getting handy with Office and Photoshop. He started out on Punch Card driven machines back in the 60's.

My mom on the other hand, is another story. I am surprised she hasn't killed herself using her computer. I can give her exact instructions, and she will not follow them. Single Click the X up in the very upper right hand corner of the screen, allllll the way up in the corner. And she will sit there utterly perplexed as to what to do. Move the mouse around for a little bit, and after explaining it to her a few times, it will dawn on her that i wanted her to click the X up in the right hand corner of the screen.

My favorite is the whole idea of the task bar. "To get to a program that is covered up by another, like here where netscape is covering up aol (pointing at her screen), you have to go down here to the task bar, and click on the bar for the program you want. Now you try, you want AOL up right?" Now, it seems to me that a lemming would be able to follow these instructions. This is one of those time when it will dawn on her that at some point i told her to single click the X. "Up here?" (Very excited) "nononono.." "Where did netscape go?" (in a mildly downtroden voice) Until she realizes that now AOL is the foremost thing on her screen. I can show her things step by step, and she won't even listen to me. But whatever, i get money and favours out of it, especially when big things go wrong. grin.

tftv256: Hehe about your dad using a UNIX machine. However, you let your dad sit at a #? I know he seems mostly harmless, but there is the possibility...
My father didn’t suck with computers, but my mother certainly did.

My father didn’t discover computers until late in life. He was almost 50 when I bought him an Atari Space Invaders game that he could hook up to his TV. He didn’t think much of the game, but he could see, oh, yes, he could see the possibilities, the promise of what was to come. And after that, he bought every computerized gadget, game, and whatnot he could get his hands on, including a TRS-80.

Much later, when he bought his first 286, he turned into a geek. It was impossible to tear him away from his computer. He hauled it to work (they didn’t have one) and he hauled it home at the end of the day in the trunk of his BMW. Within a year, he was writing code.

My mother lamented her fate as a “computer widow.” She harangued him endlessly about how they never spent time together playing scrabble, how they never talked anymore. He was a very sweet man, and not at all immune to her sentiments. So he gave her unhappiness careful consideration and bought her a computerized Singer sewing machine.


She had a low tolerance for gadgets, gizmos, and instruction manuals and this machine sewed neither forward nor back unless you spoke its language. She almost threw it into a swimming pool in frustration at one point. But over time, she learned how to make it do what she wanted it to do, albeit a bit roughly for a computerized sewing machine. So, for a while, there was relative peace.

That is, until he died unexpectedly, in the middle of the night, following a thoroughly satisfying programming day and a good home-cooked meal.

As it turned out, he’d written a program for the Canadian Department of External affairs. A couple of days after he died, two officials came to my mother’s home and confiscated not only the program, but the computer as well. Later I tried to pursue this, but without success.And thereafter I couldn't mention the word "computer" without evoking my mother's anger. And I understood that.

In any event

I have inherited both my father’s love of computers and my mother’s sewing machine (which I sometimes use - what a great sewing machine), along with a fascination with code, and a hatred of manuals and governmental bodies.

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