Friday, December 03, 2004

sir, your daughter is a geek
It’s not often I get to display my geek credentials (for a start I don’t have all that many) but just occasionally TA and housemate C are otherwise engaged and I get to flex my geek muscles (is that an oxymoron?). Last night I performed an install by wire for my father, it was a uniquely bitter-sweet father-daughter moment.
Background: A month or so ago we gave my parents my old computer to replace my dad’s decrepit PC (we had upgraded my mum a year or more ago – her machine not the woman herself you understand). They recently bought a new printer for Mum and shunted the older one over to Dad’s machine.
Last night I rang for a chat. After a short preamble Dad said – sounding worried – that his printer had stopped working. The first hurdle was getting Dad to open the Word doc he was trying to print – he has yet to grasp the concept of saving a document in a particular folder/location. Finally he found the document he was looking for. The next hurdle was navigating XP’s tricksy menus – how was Dad to know that XP had ‘helpfully’ hidden the print option? Of course, the print dialogue box showed that he hadn’t actually installed the printer. Thank god for wizards, once we had located the control panel menu it was an easy enough process to follow.
So, why was this geek triumph so bitter at the same time as being sweet? In my Dad’s world view I’m supposed to call him wanting help (and I often do) this role reversal was deeply unsettling for him I could hear it in his voice. Perhaps he was thinking of his mother’s inability to use the telephone – that sense that the world has somehow passed you by and, hard as you try, you’ll never catch up with it again. My grandfather died long before I arrived but apparently he told the story of how as a boy he ran out into the garden to see for the very first time a plane in the sky. What a moment of awe and I imagine bewilderment.
I wonder what technology my generation will find too complex to learn and how soon we’ll become impossibly behind the times – to use IT terminology at what point do we become a legacy generation, still functioning but essentially useless? Interestingly enough, considering I work for an IT PR company that prides itself on how much the account staff know about the technologies they represent, the levels of software illiteracy are astounding. Worrying stuff.

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