Teaching old dogs new tricks

My favorite story about new technology is about my mom. And yes, she’s a Luddite.

Just a few years ago, my mom was far away from the technology revolution. Though living in cosmopolitan new york, she still had many old-school sensibilities. I remember growing up when she needed help using the microwave. Or that she hated watching TV … partly because there is nothing good on TV but also because she did not know how to change the channel or control the volume.

My mom’s an artist and I guess it was her good fortune that both her sons became computer engineers.

My mom’s very smart and an entrepreneur … and she quickly realized the power of the internet. It could potentially save her hours of time. In the past, if she wanted to draw a dolphin, she’d go to the library to get a book on dolphins. But now, one can easily go to the Internet and get pictures. But my mom didn’t know how to use a computer so she’d rely on friends to print out pictures for her.

Then one day my mom got a cell phone and her world slowly started to change. She realized she could even make calls in the car. Both my brother and I had been trying to get her to get a mobile phone for a long time (with the repeated promises of telling her we’d call more often if she got one). But it wasn’t until she got one that she really realized the power of mobility.

Getting a computer was a bit harder.

Though she had a computer and internet connection in the house for a long time, my mother stayed away from the computer — completely scared of it. But after her sons nagged her for years, my mother finally decided to put her toe in the water and become a user. That was about a year ago.

I remember her first phone call to me:

“Auren … why aren’t the keys in alphabetical order?”

Good question! I realized that not only was she unfamiliar with the keyboard … she did not even know how to use a typewriter. She is an artist who likes to make things with her hands.

After explaining the history of QWERTY keyboards and the like, my mother finally settled into hunt and peck mode and me her first email. Success. Today she emails me all the time (realizing it is a much better medium to get a hold of me then the phone). And she’ll probably be the first one to emailing me about this blog post.

So a year ago (in 2004), my mother finally entered the 1980s.

Then, this summer (about 9 months later), my mom calls me … on Skype. That’s right, she skyped me. Some of her friends in Europe and her sister (who lives overseas) told my mom about it. Free is a great motivator.

So, no, my mom is still not a technology genius. But she is now a heavy user of mobile phones, email, and Skype and has moved decades in just a few short years.

Even in the scary world of technology, you can tech old dogs new tricks.

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