Old codgers CAN use computers!

A book I’ve not seen before is being offered on the Guardian website – Laptops for Seniors in Easy Steps. As someone who is only a birthday away from being officially a “senior”, I find this amazingly bloody patronising. Why can’t people of my generation be assumed to know what they’re doing, or where to get help if they don’t, without being targeted by books like this? Getting older doesn’t automatically mean getting dumber – I know people a lot younger than me who can’t get to grips with computers at all, just as I know others about the same age who shouldn’t be allowed to have anything more technical than a calculator or a typewriter.

I recall writing something in an earlier blog on this theme several years ago, and nothing has changed since – there’s still an apparently widespread belief that older people are, somehow, in need of special help. No we’re bloody not!

Look, it’s simple – some people can get their heads around computers with little or no difficulty, and some people can’t, just as some people are unable to program their VCRs or DVDRs (I recently set up a Freeview HDD recorder for someone younger than me who hadn’t a clue). Some people are simply technophobes, and this is not an age-related problem.

I have to confess, though, that a guy once said to me that he couldn’t use a computer because he was too old – he was a year younger than me! But that’s just him (and he’d never even tried to use one, he was scared of them), you can’t extrapolate from people like that and decide that everyone over a certain age is dumb enough to need their own special book.

When I got my first PC, I bought a copy of Windows 3.1 For Dummies… and never looked back and never had any problems with subsequent versions of Windows. I’d recommend the For Dummies books to anyone in need of help, whether it’s to get to grips with an operating system or a particular application. True, they do have the occasional duff writer, but most are excellent and, for the most part, the books assume no knowledge on the part of the reader – always a good thing.

I would, though, caution you against buying books like PCs for Dummies, because they’re out of date as soon as they’re published – get them from your local library instead (here in the UK, if they don’t have a book in stock, they’re obliged to get it for you).

But what’s with this age-targeted crap anyway? No-one would ever dream of publishing Computers for Women, or Laptops for Asians, for example – there’d be uproar – so why do they assume it’s OK to think older people need special help? It’s insulting.

By the way, I’d feel the same if this was Laptops for 30-somethings; age-targeted stuff like this is fundamentally wrong-headed, no matter what the age group, the obvious exception being children.

2 thoughts on “Old codgers CAN use computers!

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I see lots of these books and find them incredibly patronising. I’m ‘only’ 50, but I’ve taught myself most of what I know about computers; I run 2 blogs, maintain several websites, and use the computer for a whole range of things from shopping to spreadsheets. As you say, it’s more a case of being open to learning things than of being in a particular age group.

  2. Hi Kate,

    I see your comment is timed at 11.03 – very odd, as I was sitting in front of my PC then and it didn’t show up. It’s late appearing as I’ve been out for the day, and I’ve stopped letting comments appear un-moderated – too many psychos around.

    Just re-read the post – it seems rather more angry than I remember. Oh well. . .

    Something struck me when I was in the pub, earlier – some men, when they get older, seem to adopt a dress style that just screams “old fart” – as if, once their bus pass kicks in, they feel compelled to buy their clothes from Chums, or the beige rack at M&S, and think zip-fronted cardigans are cool. Think David Jason in a Touch of Frost, with his terrible beige anorak.

    I don’t understand it – it’s not as if these awful clothes are especially cheap, and they’re sure as hell not attractive, so why do they do it?

    I suppose, though, as so many old blokes lose their dress sense it’s probably no surprise that some people think they’ve lost their marbles as well, and would really like books with “senior” in the title. And, you know, the sad thing is, they probably would!

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