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Helping My Mom Slide Technologically Backwards

We leave you with a tale of a person's first computer, and her desire to get rid of the thing! - Ed.

Being in my late 20's, I am a member of the first generation of people that grew up with computers in pretty much all aspects of my life. I've witnessed and adapted to many new trends: Apple II's quirky ability to lock up when the 5 1/4" floppy got dusty, the introduction of a CD ROM drive to school computers and the widespread use of the Internet in homes and beyond. That makes me the first person many family members and older friends turn to for computer help.

About six years ago, I built a computer for my mom out of bargain computer parts found around the house and online. I was pretty thrilled as I didn't spend much on it and, while it was a little slow due to bargain RAM and processor selections, it ran pretty well. My mom had taken a few computer courses at the local community college and had gotten used to Windows 98 on their prehistoric computers, so I thought loading Windows 98 on the computer before giving it to her for her birthday would be the best choice. I was wrong. I became the 24-hour computer helpdesk and dial up Internet support.

Windows 98 played its role nicely, allowing her to get online and type up letters to print and mail (email was not her strong suit) and play solitaire, seeming to not need my computer help at the beginning. Also true to its role, however, Windows 98 started to throw blue screen exception errors occasionally which frightened my 50-something mother who thought this was indicative of having done something illegal and that the cops were on their way. She called me at work or late at night with a panic in her voice that told me she was sweating. I tried telling her that it was no big deal and that I'd look at it the next time I made the 60-mile trek to her house but that did little to soothe her jitters. She would start reading the numbers of the exception error off, expecting me to be able to write it down and immediately diagnose the problem.

To be fair, I wasn't as diligent as I should've been in researching the problem. I was in my early 20's and Mom's computer problems weren't high on my priority list. I did ask a few friends, who essentially confirmed my beliefs that perhaps something more robust than Windows 98 should be installed, and I offered to take the computer home one Christmas. My mom misunderstood my intention to take it home to fix it and instead thought I was taking it home for good. She sighed and grabbed my arm and said, "Oh my God, thank you. That thing was no end to stress for me". So my final part in providing computer help was taking the thing home. Although I do provide helpdesk services today, looking up phone numbers that she finds on her caller ID that she doesn't recognize and looking for ink ribbons for her Brother electric typewriter, which she now uses for writing holiday letters.


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Tags: computer, help, mom, retrocomputing, technology, windows

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