Change : Anyone can do it (but they may need your help)

If you know me or have seen me speak at an event there is every chance you’ve heard me tell this story, if you haven’t then I hope you enjoy it and if you’ve had a similar experience then please do wade in on the comments as I’d love to hear about it.

Yes that’s my Mum! when she and my Dad finally retired properly I knew what was going to happen I just didn’t know when. They came round for dinner one evening about six months after their retirement and during our dinner conversation she turned to me and said ‘I’m bored’, now I’m not sure what I was supposed to do about this, but then she followed up by saying ‘This Interweb thing looks interesting’, I obviously replied ‘it’s called the Internet Mum’ and at that moment I made to the decision to buy her her first computer.

There was no one there to warn me of what would happen when you introduce someone that’s never used a computer in their life to technology at the age of 69, but what happened next I could never have expected. Here’s how it went…


  1. Matt,

    that´s a nice story and it reminds me of a lesson I learned when my Dad took his first steps into the world of computers: he had just retired at 65, and, as my mother had died just a year ago, was pretty alone in his life.

    However one day I was really busy and my dad called me with a question of which I was sure that I had already explained it to him. So my first reaction was “No, not now, I don´t have time for that”.
    But then my brother said something very true, that really struck me: “This man has taught you how to eat with a spoon and keep you mouth clean. And now you don´t find the time to work on his email?”

    So a step back and a look at the whole picture sometimes helps to put things into the right perspective.

    1. Matt,
      Your experience resonnated with me as well when my sister and I got a computer for my brother – at the age of 50, his first. He hadn’t asked for one. We felt it was a way to help him keep up on my mother’s doctor appointments as he was her primary care giver. During the first year I was tehnical and moral support. My brother is very artistic, inquisitive and resourceful. Within a year of getting this computer, he had purchased a high end digital camera, scanner, telescope with USB connectivity and restarted his photography hobby moving well beyond his 1980’s dark room experience. He has upgraded his computer several times to get the performance needed to support his photography. I often heard stories of googling some fact to settle a disagreement he was having with my mother. After the passing of my mother, he too scanned all photos to share with the family. He was also the first in the family to get a tablet. He now actively pursues many hobbies and is heavily involved in buying and selling camera equipment, records, and automobiles through eBay. His transformation was amazing. Computers opened up the world to him in ways my sister and I had never imagined.

      1. Wow! do you think he would ever have believed just how different his life would become when you bought him that first computer?

  2. Terrific story – have to say that Gregor’s and mine are so much alike! My father passed away 5 years ago this August, and my sister promptly bought my mom things to keep her busy, one being the dreaded laptop… I adore what your brother told you Gregor, because my mom hasn’t quite taken to the technology as Matt’s mother did.

    But finally she’s sending emails (albeit in all caps but baby steps) and the questions like, “My google is broken, how do I fix it?” and “There’s music on the computer and I can’t turn it off” have slowed down considerably. She even joined facebook about 6 months ago and just last week she told me she’d found an interesting story on my page from 2009 – oh boy…

    It’s funny, I remember working at DEC in my early 20s from a dumb terminal, and when you walked into our building you could see the servers we were using from behind the glass. And that internet thing! Wow wasn’t that something! You would think having been in technology for so long now I’d love the new gadgets out there and stand in line for the new iPhone – but alas, this smart phone is terribly mean and I miss my blackberry with actual buttons to press. So when my mom calls and tells me she lost her email account, I just smile and think of my 18 year old rolling his eyes at me and my lack of ability on my cell phone.

    Love this story Matt, glad you posted on SF and I found your blog 🙂

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