My Mother vs Technology - updated
I cannot hold this in any longer. I am on the verge of imploding. Now, I seldom reveal personal details about any of my family members on my blog, but my patience has now been beaten senseless and I need a good vent.
My Mother. And computers. Are not. A good mix.
It’s okay that she thinks that downloading and uploading are the same thing.
It’s okay that she doesn’t know there’s a difference between hardware and software. (“This software feels hot!”)
It’s okay that she thinks that 1000 bytes is “a lot of memory.”
It’s okay that she is unable to check her emails unless I locate the website, sign her in, and open the inbox for her.
It’s okay that she tries to plug the keyboard she bought in 1985 into the laptop she bought in 2005.
It’s okay that she thinks that touchpad size is correlated with the resolution size of all pictures stored on the computer.
It's okay that she just cannot recharge the mp3 player my sister gave her for Xmas, because she can never remember how to. (you plug it in)
It is also okay that she thinks that anything computery is therefore inherently valuable and that the bigger it is, the more valuable it must therefore be.
It is not quite as okay that she thinks that because she is the mother and I am the daughter, that anything she says about computers is right and anything I say is wrong.
I love my Mother very very much. And I have been told that I have the patience of a Saint. But I feel as if any Saint who was exposed to events such as these would renounce his god and spit on the lepers.
Before I get yelled at, I realise that the older generation are not as accustomed to computers as we are, and therefore cannot be expected to take to them so well. But before I go on, I must point out that my Mother works on a computer at work, and has done for decades. Please, gentle reader, bear this point in mind while you read my sorry tale of woe and sheer ‘I want to hit my head against this wall now’ frustration.
I feel these tales simply must be told. I have always said, ‘someone really needs to write a book about the things my Mum says about computers.’ and since I’m not the head of a publishing house, I’ll do the next best thing and chronicle it on the web instead. The following stories are all true and all unedited. What is to follow is a list of the top six most recent events which illustrate the special relationship (which I am forced to mediate) between my Mother and computers. I have arranged them in order of – as you eloquent internet denizens would say – sheer OMG factor.
Now, gentle reader, without further ado, here are the top six.
My Mother vs Technology # 6 – Msn
Setting – The Living Room. I am using Mum’s laptop, and she asks if she can use it to check her emails. I close down everything I am doing and sign out of msn. However, I forget to close msn and leave it on the screen. I hand her the computer.
Mum – “How do I sign into this?” (Mum has confused msn with sky emails and thinks her emails lie behind the msn sign-in page)
Me – (as the thought of my Mother loose on my msn account fills me with dread) You don’t sign into that, that’s msn, not sky emails. Just minimise it.”
Mum – “How do I do that?”
Me – “Never mind. Just close it.”
Mum – “How do I do that?”
Me – “Press the big red X.”
Mum – “Where is that?”
Me – “In the top right-hand corner.”
Here a look of utter confusion crosses Mum’s face. I run away.
Did I mention she uses a computer in her employment?
My Mother vs Technology # 5 – The Computer Hacker
Setting – The kitchen table, my house.
Introduction - I walk into the kitchen to find my Mother frowning over our phone bill. Apparently it is much higher than usual. I look at it and find this to be true.
Mum – “Our phone bill has gone up by a hundred and eight pounds. You need to stop sending emails.”
Me – “What?”
Mum – “You need to stop sending emails. It’s costing us money.”
Me – “Mum, emails don’t work like that.”
Mum – “Obviously they do, look at the phone bill, it’s huge! And that’s only happened since you started sending emails!”
Me – “Hotmail is free. I can guarantee you that is not why the phone bill has gone up.”
Mum – “Nothing in this life is free. Your emails are costing us money, don’t send any more.”
I get a small headache, and pick up the phone bill. I notice that the internet has been used when no one in our family is using it, for example, repeatedly for several hours in the middle of the night. I figure out that someone must have hacked into our account. I point this out.
Me – “Mum, someone is using our internet connection, look at these times. No one was using it at three in the morning. Someone is using our account.”
Mum – “That’s impossible, it’s hotmail.”
Me – “Mum, hotmail is a free service! I am not getting charged for it!”
Mum – “Alice, you’re so naïve. There’s no such thing as a philanthropist who is going to let you use the service for free. You’ve been tricked.”
Me – “…”
(for future reference, it is quite likely that the four accounts to follow this one will also end with me in stunned silence)
Conclusion – Someone was hacking into our account and costing us money. They did it in the middle of the night so we wouldn’t notice. This was continued until we changed internet providors.
Hotmail is still free.
My Mother vs Technology # 4 mp3s
The setting – Mum has requested I download her some albums and burn them onto a CD. I am perched in the hallway downloading The Eurythmics, when I discover that one of the files I have downloaded is corrupted. Mum walks in.
Mum – “How’s it going?”
Me – “It’s going well, one of the files is corrupt but I’ll find another one.”
Mum – “Ah yes, that’ll be because some of those old songs aren’t compatible with modern computers.” (here Mum is telling me that mp3s of songs that were released in the 80s will not be compatible with computers made in the 2000s. Yes. Mp3s have an age. A real tangible age, and they do deteriorate. Like records. What, you thought that mp3s and records were different things? Tch. Shame on you.
Me – “…” (stunned silence no 2)
My Mother vs Technology # 3 Photoshop
The setting – Mum discovers some photos on her computer that she has been looking for. After informing me that she had been looking for them for months (despite only having approximately twenty photos on the computer in total. I resisted the urge to ask whether she had been sifting through the hardware with her fingers) she asks me to burn them onto disc, so she can deliver them to our neighbour, who needs them for a book she is writing. Disc is delivered, neighbour is happy. The next morning, I sit at the table to eat breakfast, when neighbour walks in.
Neighbour – “The pictures are great, but four of them aren’t showing up, they just look like a instead.”
Mum – “That’s because it’s photoshop. It causes problems.” (Neither me, my Mum, nor my neighbour own photoshop. Here Mum has confused the drawing and photo-editing program with a regular windows folder. Yes. She hears photoshop, and literally thinks ‘a photo shop’ ie, a device for storing photos. And is trying to explain that this is the cause of the problem to my neighbour. Help me?)
Me – “Photoshop has nothing to do with it. It’s easy to fix, you just right click on it and open it with windows picture viewer.”
Neighbour – “Ah yes, I remember now. Thank you!”
Mum – “Alice will fix it!”
Neighbour – “No it’s okay, I unders-”
Mum – “She’ll fix it.”
Neighbour – “There’s no need, I know how to do it now, and I don’t want to interrupt her, she’s trying to have breakfast.”
Mum – “She’s happy to!” (Mum ignores my mutinous expression and half finished toast)
Neighbour – “But I don’t nee-”
Mum – “It’s no bother. Really! (Mum shoves me out the front door)
Conclusion – Mum has mistaken this tiny problem for an epic, large scale computer malfunction that no one but her can see, and believes that professional help is needed. I walked round to my neighbours house, pressed two buttons, breathed a bit, then went home.
My Mother vs Technology # 2 The Virus
The setting - A bedroom, our PC. The PC has slowed almost to a stop. This is due to the hard drive being too full to continue functioning. I attempt to explain this after Mum accuses me of breaking the computer.
Me - "The C Drive is completely full. It can't run when there's no memory left on it. We need to install more memory on it."
Mum - "It's a virus! You've infected it with a virus!"
Me - "No, I haven't. It's just too full to carry on. If you'll let me - "
Mum - "It's a virus!"
Me - "Look, it even says it on the screen. Here is a box saying 'The hard drive is full, functionality may be impaired. Please install more memory or delete unwanted files.'
Mum - "It's a virus! You don't understand, these things are tricky, you've done it and you don't even know."
Me - (meekly points to the huge box on screen saying 'The hard drive is full, functionality may be impaired. Please install more memory or delete unwanted files.')
Mum - "It's a virus!"
Me - *POINTPOINTPOINT*
Mum - "It's a virus."
Me - *massages temples*
Mum insists we pay to have a computer engineer come round to look at it. He arrives and switches on the computer.
Computer guy - "The hard drive is full."
Mum - "Oh."
Me - *waits for an apology*
I am still waiting.
My Mother vs Technology # 1 The Plug
The setting - As previously mentioned, my Mother believes that anything computer related is inherently valuable, and must be kept. And the bigger it is, the more so. This fact has resulted in us owning two huuuuuuge monitors from the early 90s (huge monitors, I mean huge – think “There will come a time when personal computers may be smaller than your house.” sort of era), two ancient keyboards, two ancient mice, two ancient printers, AND NOT ONE PC TO USE THEM ALL ON.
Ahem. Anyway, I finally convinced her that since we can’t use them and they stopped manufacturing those ones sometime in the last millennium, it would be space-efficient for us to take them to the tip. I have to use every muscle in my body just to lift one of the two monitors, but eventually I get them into the boot of the car. I also collect all the lone loose wires and plugs that she has accumulated that are no longer in use. As I am closing the boot, Mum stops me and removes a short black plug, with a large triangular socket. The plug has no purpose, it does not connect to anything in our house and looks as old as I am.
Me – “What are you doing?”
Mum – “Saving this.”
Me – “Why, what are you going to do with it?”
Wait for it
Wait for it
Wait for it
Mum – “It’s a perfectly useable plug.”
Me – “…” (Here I die a little inside, this time for real. I think one of my kidneys has stopped working.)
At that moment I wanted to grab the plug, bite it in two, and scream “It’s not useable now!!”
The conclusion – Mum believes that a plug, any plug, that is not dilapidated is useful and can be easily attached to and power any electronic device that you choose to use it on. Kettles? Laptops? MP3 players? TVs? We’ll just use this perfectly useable plug here, it’ll do them all.
Edit: New developments in the ongoing battle between my Mother and Technology.
The setting: Comet. Mum is going into an electronics shop to buy a new camera. I go with her and maintain a close watch on her activity, so as to ensure that she does not come home with a sandwich maker by mistake. While this is not impossible, my real concern is that a saleperson will find her and talk her into spending far too much on a camera that has more flashy accessories than she wants, needs, or understands.
Salesman - "This camera here is by Karl Zeiss."
Mum - "That's a good make."
Me - "Mum, neither you or I have ever heard of Karl Zeiss."
Mum - "No, but it sounds like a good make."
Me - *breathes*
Salesperson - "This camera here is by Sony, and is boasts 7 megapixels."
Mum - "Oh, that does sound good."
Me - "Mum, do you know what a pixel is?"
Mum - "No."
Me - *asks the salesperson to explain to her what a pixel is*
Mum - "Look at this one, for just £30 more this one has mp3 playability!"
Me - "You don't need that."
Mum - "But it's only £30 more, and I don't mind spending extra money to get a good camera."
Me - "You've already got an mp3 player! Your other daughter bought it for you at christmas and I spent two whole days loading your CDs onto it!"
Mum - "Oh, yes!" (had completely forgotten)
Me - "Wait." (here I get suspicious) "Do you know what an mp3 is?"
Mum - "No."
Me - (fantasises about being far away)