Saturday, February 18, 2012

You've Got the Power

I did something today I've never done before. I walked my 70-year old mother through her first on-line shopping experience. I'll spare you all the gory details, but just picture this: I have the computer; she has the need for new pants. We're on the phone together and she knows nothing about websites, on-line shopping, or the number of the specific Levi's she wants to purchase. So, as I try to find the perfect pair of pants for my gray-haired momma who is under 95 pounds and stands 5-foot, 1-inch, including her cow-lick, I’m also trying to help her understand the art of on-line shopping. We successfully found the jeans of her dreams and I got them for 25% off and free shipping. But I digress.

This experience prompted me to post about it on Facebook which elicited a rather interesting and lengthy conversation with some friends about the lack of techno- know-how of our aging parents.

 I thought about my own journey with technology. Before I graduated from high school 20 years ago, I learned to type on a typewriter. College afforded a little more technology but computers were basically fancy word processors, to use one you went and waited your turn in the lab, and I didn’t even have an email account.

 Since starting this journey of writing, I’ve learned to cut and paste—on a screen, not with art supplies, post a review, send a fax, create and update a blog, post a status update and a tweet, and a slew of other things that seem commonplace today.

 And I’ll likely learn new things, things that haven’t even been thought of yet. And I’ll do it because it is my job. Just as a surgeon needs to comprehend his instruments or a chef needs to know his recipes, I must make it my business to master my business.

 There are a few ways you can learn technology even when you feel like you’ve just stepped from the pages of Stone Age Today.

Ø  Read books, study on-line, or ask questions. Use the knowledge gained by others to your own advantage.
Ø  Take classes at the local community college, library, or computer store. Often they're free or inexpensive.
Ø  Ask a teenager. Chances are whatever new-fangled thing you need to learn, he or she already knows and will teach you in exchange for food.

 So, I’m curious. Are you letting lack of technology know-how hold you back or are you on the cutting edge of all things geek? What do you do when faced when learning something new? How do you stay current in this ever-changing world?

Nikki Studebaker Barcus


  1. I, too, learned to type (not keyboard) on an IBM Selectric typewriter in high school. It is by far the handiest class I ever took, because I use that skill every day. My early article submission went out by snail mail with a SASE, and that's how all writers submitted in those days.

    If I had refused to go with the flow and still cranked out articles on the IBM typewriter and submitted by mail, the majority of editors wouldn't take me seriously these days. In most professions (with the possible exception of ditch-digging), there comes a time when you must upgrade yourself to match the current way of doing things. Refusing to do so can render yourself an irrelevant relic of the past. We may not enjoy the constantly changing learning curve, if we want to write for publication, then that is part of the price to pay.

    1. Well said, Rick and I'm impressed that you know the name of the typewriter. :) I agree whole-heartedly, but it seems things are changing so fast it is difficult and sometimes scary to keep up. And regarding ditch-digging, my husband and I just had a conversation about how, even though they know use plastic tubing, it is still called a "tile".

  2. I developed a few good sources of books to read on the technology I use (The Missing Manual series). I also picked 4 top websites on my technology to use and check them most often.

  3. I can actually boast -- I learned how to type in Jr. High!

    On technology, I'm kind of on the fence. I'm up on somethings but tend to be a dinosaur on others. For example, we're recent to having cell phones.

    Here's what scares me about technology. What happens if something happens to the power grid and we lose all access to the internet or things like that? I think Terri Blackstock has a series about that possibility. I mean, how many of us can survive without a microwave? We've made some gains, but we may not be aware of what we've lost to make those gains.

    Okay, I'll get off my soapbox!


  4. Good info., thoughts, and questions, gentlemen. Some thinking and some more studying left to do for this one.

  5. Nikki,

    My brother is only four years younger than me, but I can tell he's far more advanced in technology. And it's amazing what four and five year old kids know! As you, I see it as my job, so I need to stay as current as I can. :)