We finally got a new computer for my Dad.  His old one, which was more than 10 years old, was slow and generally horrible, and I decided it was finally a quality of life issue: it was just too painful to check e-mail; plus it would randomly turn itself off…

The new one is an “All-in-one”, which turns out to mean the computer itself is part of the monitor. Technology, it’s amazing.  It was about $310… there was a $330 one too, and the sales guy won some honesty points for admitting that there was no difference between them.


What he needs, basically

Dad is struggling manfully to adapt to the new system.  You don’t fully recognize, till you set up a system for a 94-year-old, how much computers do to confuse 94-year-olds.  Such as:

  • Changing everything for no apparent reason. You can drive a car from 2004 with no difficulty, but developers think that everything must be done differently. I got him a copy of Word, and it’s like Martian Alien Word all of a sudden. The File menu goes to a completely different screen… whose idea was that? The basic needs for editing a document hasn’t changed, but they’ve messed around horribly with the interface.
  • Pop-ups from virus checkers and the computer manufacturer; required updates from Windows. All things that make the computer do unexpected things he doesn’t know how to respond to. Some of them show (shudder) the Metro screen.
  • Windows is better at keeping programs working than the Mac, but still, his old photo software doesn’t work on the new machine. Fortunately Windows itself is able to get pictures off his camera. (I will probably have to do this for him, but that’s OK– I wasn’t sure it’d work at all.)
  • Not enough options for large type. I switched to a larger Windows font, but it’s still pretty small for him.

This probably makes him sound worse off than he is. He’s a smart guy; in his ’80s, when he got the old computer, he read up on it and figured it out. But it takes him extra time to learn new things, even seemingly simple things like “the favorites menu now lives on the right side of the window.”  We recently got him watching DVDs on the computer, and he’s figured it out except that he never remembers that space bar will start/stop the show.

I’m aware that there are “old-people computers” that supposedly simplify the main tasks old folks want to do. But even those would be basically a new operating system he’d have to learn, plus I don’t know if he could open his old Word documents. Plus they’re kind of expensive.

Anyway, my point is, if you’re young enough, this amount of learning new things is not bad, and can even be fun and exciting. When you’re my Dad’s age, novelty for the sake of novelty is just baffling; it’d be better if things just worked as they always did, only faster.