Life's journeys: Language, culture, communication

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My Dad’s gone digital

How the technology we take for granted can leave our parents clueless.

It was always a mystery to me how my Dad managed to be the CEO of a  large construction company right up to the turn of the 21st century while being completely computer-illiterate. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t just impartial to computers or indifferent to their “charms”.  He had an outright aversion to the stuff.

Truth be told, he did buy me a computer when I turned 21. He brought in his chief IT consultant and installed in my room this new and expensive PC which, besides being the devil’s contraption, also took up a hell of a lot of space. (We used to live in this communist-era apartment building and my room was a meager 10 square meters. But at least it was square, you know what I mean? I had friends whose rooms were downright trapezoidal…) Anyway, I was a real poet at the time and swore to myself I would never end up writing on that thing, that profane, inhuman device, where words became numbers. (Fast-forward to 2013… and boy, did I betray my own ideals!) But even though that computer has been there, in my room, for like 15 years, my father has never touched it. Until recently.

What’s happened? He’s retired, that’s what’s happened. Not only that, but he has an enlarged prostate, and he likes to make himself crazy reading apocalyptic scenarios on the web, which invariably end with the word “cancer”. He still adheres to the no-emails policy, and, until recently, he had my mother look up pages for him. But he is definitely branching out into new areas and conquering territory. Last evening, his car fan broke down, so now he’s frantic to get his hands on a new one, and he’s heard there are some to be found on the Internet.

My dad entering the age of pixels
My dad entering the age of pixels

So this 63-year-old tough guy with an incredibly well-rounded classical education, who knows all of Verdi’s operas by heart and who read the entire European canon of literature in his teenage years, calls me up to get instructions on how to “ask” Google for the object of his desire. This old-school connoisseur of communication etiquette and himself a writer of finesse then asks the sweetest, most genuine question any pair of postmodern ears has heard in a decade:

“… So, when I type my search, DO I ALSO HAVE TO PUT A QUESTION MARK?”



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