Saturday, April 14, 2012

Dad Is Online; Please Hide The Mouse

My dad, who is 72 years old, entered the modern-day world a few weeks ago by purchasing his first home computer.  Just a few years ago he got his first cell phone.  I guess it is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.

He retired at a young age in 1990 and ever experienced the Internet Revolution that swept in just as he was exiting the business world.  I wonder what it must have been like to be in a cryogenic-like, tech slumber for all these years and then to finally have the online world brought into your living room.  For two decades he knew about Web sites, e-mails, and downloads but never experienced them on a regular basis, firsthand.

In many ways his disconnect left him on the other side of a very big line drawn in the sand.  He fell behind the rest of the world and is now looking to catch up.  On the other hand, he was able to live free of viruses, spam, and the nagging demands of life lived online.

Would not being online now be similar to not having a TV set until 1973?  Actually, my dad did not get our first color television set until around 1980 or so, way past the time when such sets were mass produced.  Maybe there’s a pattern here?

My dad won’t get a Facebook page.  “Who’d want to see my profile?” he says.  I don’t think he’ll create a website but he did ask about creating a blog.  Next I know he’ll be tweeting.  I think my two dogs have a better chance at sending a Tweet than he does.

There were many times I wanted to use e-mail to send him a quick note rather than have to call him.  Though I can get away with that with most other people, I still need to pick up the phone with him.  Even now, he’s not online 24-7.  His cell phone is a flip phone with no digital plan.  If I email him today he might see it in a few days—if he doesn’t delete it accidentally.  He’ll soon be in a race with my seven-year-old son, Benjamin, to see who can do what on a computer.  My money is on youth.

Around the world there are still billions of people like my dad, off the grid and not hooked into the online world.  Even for those who are connected, they may have slow, limited, or censored access due to weak machines and strong governments.  It’ll be interesting to see the world of the Internet expand across the globe in the coming five to ten years.

My dad loves to write.  For him, the computer is a glorified typewriter that allows him to send out letters instantaneously.  He often writes to local newspapers, politicians, or police commissioners to seek justice or complain about something that needs public scrutiny.  He also likes to search for things online but he doesn’t just wander aimlessly, hoping to stumble upon a game or video or joke that will merely entertain him.

I tried to explain how attachments work, but without sitting down at a computer to demonstrate it was like an astronaut trying to explain how he commanded a spaceship.  It made me realize that the online world has its own vocabulary and own way of executing a task.  You can’t say “drag your mouse” or “click on the link”—you need to show it. 

A century from now people will read books that reference the online world of today and I suspect little of it will make sense.  There will be a lack of terminology and common experience by then.  Technology will evolve so fast, so often that there will be almost no resemblance between 2112 and 2012.

My dad just made a two-decade leap by getting online at home.  He’s probably only up to functioning at a 1997 level but we’ll get there.  And now I’ll be able to meet him online, as well as off.  Great, just when I thought I had my own space, even if its cyberspace, my dad will be there.  Welcome to the future, Dad. 

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s leading book publicity firm. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person

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