1. Arrow Keys
If you’ve ever seen your mom typing up a Word document, you may have noticed her taking twice as long, even if she has decent keyboarding skills. Why is that? Because, when she typed “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis” (yes, that’s a real word), she forgot the second “M.” So what does she do? She deletes the entire word, of course, and starts again from scratch! And no, she doesn’t highlight the selection, and press “delete.” That would be too rational. No, she taps the key one letter at a time until she’s back at the beginning, past the point where the spelling error occurred.
Besides, back in your parents’ day, messing up on a typewriter meant the same thing. You either had to start over, or bust out the Liquid Paper. Why is it, that they can’t figure out a better way to use a machine that has been used to take down government agencies? There are arrow keys and a mouse or trackpad available to your parents, and yet they won’t learn this simple “trick.” I use quotes, because it is not a trick at all. It’s what those buttons are for.
2. The Enter/Return Key
Try filling out an online form with your parents. I’ll ignore their refusal to use the “tab” key to skip to the next answer field, since that’s a bit advanced. According to TED, at least. After finishing a page, or even the entire application process, they insist on taking the mouse and fumbling to place their cursor on the “next” or “submit” button. The same thing tends to happen when a pop-up message appears, asking them to click “OK.” The button is already highlighted in blue, and is blinking at them–as if to say, “For the love of God, just press the ENTER button!” But this is all to no avail, as the middle-aged computer class they took back in ‘95 at the Gateway store likely told them that the keyboard is only for typing letters and numbers. Nothing else.
3. File Management
Quick, take a look at your dad’s desktop. It’s loaded with icons, isn’t it? And I don’t mean applications, or that one folder that his job made him keep there, because they need to ruin his operating system with an eight-year-old version of McAfee. There are everything from songs meant to be in his iTunes library, to pictures of the dog, to a Windows Media Video that he can’t even watch on his Mac (the free online file conversions are clearly out of his league). None of these files even have distinguishable names–just labels, like “IMG_58329.jpg,” and “www.yahoo.com/5998-jvdkso.htm.docx.”
Even the files that aren’t sitting on the desktop and wasting memory, are in hidden folders with internet downloads or automatically saved Photoshop projects that were never completed. Needless to say, there are no organized hierarchies of folders here. There aren’t even separate albums for pictures. Just one big pile of stuff that requires us to sift through everything to find that one of Great Uncle Murray from the bar mitzvah in Chicago.
And file extensions? What are those?
4. Efficient Google Searching
Most of us suck at Google. Aside from keeping track of their various web services, it can be tough to get the best results with the right word combinations. Still, we understand enough about how the internet works, that we keep our searches as short and straightforward as possible. But, while we search for that crappy 80’s spy movie by typing “val kilmer 1980s,” mom types “what was that one film with the guy who played batman later on, but didn’t age well?”
While she’s mindlessly entering these entire sentences, you sit with your face in your hands, and realize that your mother will never get how search engines work. Of course, you both should have gone to IMDB in the first place.
5. That, Yes, There’s Some Pretty Sickening Stuff on the Internet
Really? Your parents are surprised at the comments on YouTube? Have they heard half the things people in your age group say in front of other people? Surely, they remember the graffiti and bathroom wall art that was prevalent throughout their childhood. What makes them think a degree of anonymity wouldn’t be a pandora’s box for a bunch of sick trolling? Maybe you should do them a favor, and introduce them to 4chan for a couple minutes. It’ll only help them in the long run.
6. How Much Computers Cost
When you go to buy a computer with your dad, get ready for some disappointment. This isn’t a TV you’re buying. This is something that will determine what kind of places you’ll be able to work, what kinds of things you can make, and how connected you will be with society. No webcam? Say goodbye to any job that uses Skype for communicating. Insufficient memory? Forget about web development or movie editing. Your father is so much “better” than you at negotiating, however, that he thinks he can pull a fast one on the Geek Squad. “Only $280 for a netbook?” he’ll ask. “You don’t even realize how much money I just saved you! What’s that? There’s no disc drive? Well just use your old one, dammit! It still works fine!”
7. Usernames and Passwords Are Kind of Important. You Kind of Want to Remember Them.
All your life, your parents taught you to write down your homework assignments in a notebook, to put your clothes away neatly in a drawer, and to memorize your phone number. It’s quite interesting, then, that they consistently lose the passwords for their banking and electric company accounts. Didn’t your mom write it down? Of course she did. On the back of an envelope for junk mail. She probably threw it out with the Post-It note that had her IP address, or the index card with her Apple ID. Ask your dad why he doesn’t just keep a password-protected Excel spreadsheet with all of this information on it. “Because someone could hack into my computer and steal my social security number, that’s why!” First of all, kudos to your father for knowing what hacking is. Secondly, unless he’s working on his new post-modern existentialist novel at Starbuck’s, there is little chance of it happening to him, rather than one of the other 300 million Americans with a social security number.
8. Trusted Tech Brands Don’t Last as Long as Trusted Car Brands
Your grandparents drive a Buick. They don’t drive a Buick because they want to look old. In fact, they might not even realize that only old people drive Buicks. And if they do realize it, they probably think old people know better than to buy into all of that “safety rating” malarkey. No, they most likely drive this car because it was a quality product back in the day. It was just as sturdy and powerful as any other make in that era, and the brand still reminds them of high school prom. And hey, the company had a pretty good run.
But Buicks simply aren’t cool anymore. And when you look at tech brands, their life spans are exponentially quicker. You could probably count on one hand all of the major tech companies that are still growing. But remember, your parents still have Yahoo! e-mail accounts. They think apps are just a “fad” that’s going to die right along with that Beanie Babies hullabaloo. Your parents are still stuck in the baby boomer generation, where a product’s success comes from being built well, rather than its compatibility with other products. This is why your mom is asking you to check out that Lexmark printer, and the Kindle in the clearance bin.
9. How Menus Work
One technique that an architect might use when drawing blueprints, is taking his finger and navigating with it from one room to the next. This ensures that the inhabitants of the structure will be able to find their way around without getting lost or trapped. A good website or app will have the same quality. There will be a main menu, as well as back buttons on every other page. Before submitting or saving any settings, there will be at least some opportunities to cancel before making a commitment. These are some basic characteristics that we have become accustomed to with our mobile devices. Entire departments are devoted to making the process as easy as possible.
And yet, your parents always need your help to find the contact information on a website (“Did you try the…’Contact Us’ section?”), or to find “that page we were on a second ago.”
These people raised you.
10. Most of These Skills Can Be Learned Within Ten Seconds
Seriously. Google it, or watch a YouTube tutorial. You used to search through ten encyclopedias to find what you wanted. Now, you just have to type it in. Please stop asking me for help.
By Jeremy Rappaport
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