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IT and the Older Generation

By David Poole,

We have a guest editorial today as Steve is away on sabbatical.

My father is coming to the end of his eighth decade and one particular uncle is rattling through his nineth.

Both of their careers ended just before PCs became ubiquitous in the work place.  Their exposure to computers was limited to receiving green-bar listing paper reports summarising trading figures on a weekly and monthly basis. My father-in-law worked for the civil service and so was one step further removed from IT.  All this changed once they had retired.

While very much considering computers to be a necessary evil they each bought the first iMac and discovered email.  They all had an interest in photography but never quite managed getting beyond uploading photographs onto their respective hard disks.  Having done so they emailed the their holiday snaps to friends and family as huge attachments!

I would not like to guess how much time my sons spend using some form of connected technology.  It would be a quicker time to estimate the minutes they spend disconnected.  But why this disparity?  It is certainly not ability based.  My parents generation built supersonic transport using H2 pencils and slide rules, layed the groundwork for today's technological world and saw a revolution (sometimes literally) in the world around them.

I have got a glimmer of why this is as my attitude to technology has changied.  I no longer relish doing battle with the tech and as a side affect achieving a task that should have been my main focus.  I have so many demands on my time that I simply cannot afford any to spare on technological indulgences.  I don't want to be a slave to the tech, I want it to work for me and not the other way around.

So what happens if a piece of tech is built around the way someone wishes to interact with that tool rather than in making them change to fit the tool?  In my father's case he has surfed the internet more in the 3 months since he got an iPad than he had in all the years since he bought an iMac.  He loves the Kindle app and preaches to the converted on the merits of Amazon.  This is a man who hates shopping enthusing about a shop!  Annecdotal evidence would suggest that he is not unusual amongst his peers.

Far from looking at the older generation as being irrelevant to IT, perhaps we have a lot to learn from them?  As consumers perhaps they are the most relevant of all.

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