Oldies, arise!

Like most Oldies, I have been reluctant to embrace new technology – especially electronics such as the mobile and the computer. But I have benefited in combating my reluctance with the aid of those more in the know: my children.

The first of my four came when I was twenty-nine and the last when I was forty-eight. I don’t think my last missed out too much by having a middle-aged dad though, since I was running the Physique & Figurama gym at Derry’s Cross and so was much more physically active than most men my age. I even think he may have gained a little by having a dad whose temper had been calmed by the years. But still, he wouldn’t let me move towards that ‘dark night’ of old age gracefully. He would tell me if my sartorial tastes let him down and he pressed me in matters hi-tech.

While writing my book I used to write the first draft each day in longhand before I turned to typing it in the second draft. My youngest was aghast at such an antiquarian approach, reproaching me by saying that he wouldn’t be surprised to find me at it one day with a quill! So the laptop it had to be, and the last two thirds of the book saw the longhand disappear.

What made my initial approach so nonsensical was that, having worked in journalism in my early life, I knew how to touch-type. But it mustn’t seem that the boy was always having a go at me, for there was always a point to his complaints. And another of his moans was the way I refused to take advantage of new technologies like the mobile.

I only used it for its most basic functions; I didn’t even know how to add new phone entries! I will admit that I was cross at myself for being such a shrinking violet in coming to grips with its many possibilities. But by the time my third upgrade came along I decided to do something about it. I would make it my toy, and every time I had a few minutes to kill I would use them to try to get to grips with it. In no time at all I had got my head round its more complex functions, such as its calendar and camera. It wasn’t so difficult and I got to understand why all the youngsters (numbers of whom I suspected were denser even than myself!) managed so well.

Another ‘hi-tech’ area my boy encouraged me to get into was digitisation: converting all my old analogue memories, including my increasingly tatty 50-year-old scrapbook, into digital files and folders on a computer.

It saddened me to see how faded and scruffy my scrapbook pages and images had become; but by digitising them – which even included restoring images to their former glory – I had preserved them for eternity. And what’s more, my youngest uploaded the digital scrapbook to the internet so now all my friends and family can access it via this blog – another fine 21st century communication tool he has encouraged me to embrace.

VHS tapes, cassettes, photos and other analogue mementos are just as vulnerable to age as you and I. But while our shift from analogue to digital technologies certainly isn’t good news for E.T. (since digital TV signals are much weaker and aerials broadcasting them are typically pointed towards Earth rather than outer space), we Earthlings are now able to preserve our precious family memories as though they were set in aspic.

So all you oldies out there – who managed so well in your day with such a bewildering range of challenging electronics – should know that you can still cut the mustard, if you’re minded to. It’s just a state of mind. All you have to do is go for it! You might even surprise yourself as I did.

About tomhmackenzie

Born Derek James Craig in 1939, I was stripped of my identity and renamed Thomas Humphreys in the Foundling Hospital's last intake of illegitimate children. After leaving the hospital at 15, I managed to find work in a Fleet Street press agency before being called up for National Service with the 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars who were, at that time, engaged with the IRA in Northern Ireland. Following my spell in the Army, I sought out and located my biological parents at age 20. I then became Thomas Humphrey Mackenzie and formed the closest of relationships with my parents for the rest of their lives. All this formed the basis of my book, The Last Foundling (Pan Macmillan), which went on to become an international best seller.

Posted on December 11, 2011, in miscellaneous, technology, UK and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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