Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Now, which is the copy and paste button again?

Did you ever try to explain the intricacies of the Web to a parent - or even just the basics?

Oy gevalt.

About ten years ago, I gave my mom an old computer. It was still working fine, but I was getting a new one, and she had been wanting to go on line, so it seemed like a good idea.

She lives in Connecticut and has Cablevision for TV, but didn't want to deal with them for the Internet, and, frankly, wouldn't be using it that much, so was happy to just sign up with MSN, which was offering, at the time, a monthly dial-up package for $12.95. (It's gradually went up to $22.95).

Like AOL, it's pretty user-friendly, and a good way to get acquainted with the Web if you're not really a heavy surfer.

Of course, whenever I was up there visiting and jumped on to check my email or read The Times, I would be pulling my hair out at how slow it was. 56K - Jeezus!

I would whine that I didn't know how she could stand it. It was so slow, so frustrating. (I get frustrated pretty easy, in case you haven't figured that out by now.) But she said she never really used it that much - sent emails once in a while, IM'd with her sister in the U.K., looked at some shopping or recipe sites, so it was fast enough for her.

Apparently the looking-at-porn gene skipped a generation.

Anyway, that old computer finally shuffled off to the big hard drive in the sky, so she bought a new one yesterday. In fact, it's actually better than mine, now, damn her. And I said, ok, that's it, you're not wasting this on dial-up, you have to get a high-speed connection.

She still didn't want to deal with Cablevision for the Web, but her local phone company is AT&T, and they offer a 3Mbps DSL service for $17 a month. Perfect. Not as fast as a cable modem, but still many times faster than the dial-up and yet six bucks a month cheaper.

But she's been spoiled by being caught in that comforting MSN time warp for the last decade, so the fun was just getting started.

People, I just got back to the city a little while ago from setting up her new system, and my head is ready to explode.

First of all, now she just has to turn on her computer and she's instantly logged on to the Net, which you would think is actually easier than having to click the little MSN butterfly icon to log on - but, no, that threw her.

But now she has to open an Internet Explorer browser instead of being brought to the MSN home page. (I was actually going to download the Firefox browser, which I love, it's so much superior to Explorer, but I knew better than to try to explain the whole tabs thing to her. Maybe later.)

Anyway, instead of the friendly MSN home page with a little envelope icon to get to her emails, she has to open an Explorer browser and go to her mail program. (AT&T offers email with their service, of course, but I told her to ignore that, and I set her up with a Gmail account).

Well, the mail became a whole issue in itself:

Mom: So I can't just click on an envelope to see my mail?

Me: Well, no, there is no “envelope” now, but just open a browser and...

Mom: A what?

Me: Uh, click on the little E in the circle, there on the desktop, that opens a browser window.

Mom: What's that?

Me: Well, a browser is what lets you read the Web pages.

Mom: I didn't have to do that with MSN.

Me: Well, no, they basically used a built-in, stripped-down version of IE.

Mom: What's that?

Me: Internet Explorer.

Mom: Oh.

Me: Anyway, open the browser and then just go to your Gmail account to see your emails. See, I put Gmail right at the top of your favorites.

Mom: But on MSN my email was always there at the top of the home page with the little envelope.

Me: Well, yes, but this is just as good, plus now if you change IPs again...

Mom: What's that?

Me: Internet Provider. Anyway, if you decide to go back to MSN or even switch to Cablevision, you will still have your Gmail name. This will stay with you all the time.

Mom: So I can only have my email page open? I can't look at other Web pages?

Me: Well, sure. Just open a browser for your Gmail, then minimize it and...

Mom: How do you do that?

Me: Click the little dash on the top right of the screen, up by the X and that other symbol (I didn't even know how to describe that middle one) and that will minimize the browser window you have open, and then just open another browser to go on and see whatever other Web pages you want. And that way your Gmail will still be open in the background.

Mom: Well, when I had MSN, it would signal when I had a new mail if I was on another page.

Me: (Pausing to let stomach acid stop churning) Ok, ok, I will download the Gmail notifier, which signals when you get a new mail.

Mom: (Doubtfully) All right.

Anyway, it went on like this for about half an hour. Suffice it to say, I needed a double J&C by the end of the session. And mom was able to nag me about drinking on a Tuesday night.

Good times for all.


Not a hipster said...

Ugh. That reminds me of when I was trying to help my MIL set up AOL for her. We chose AOL because it was the least confusing for her, and gold help her, the woman is afraid of machines. I even had to make the phine call pretending to be her so they could set it up.

So I showed her how to sign on. Easy, right? I spent about ten minutes showing her how to type in a screen name and password.

And as never fails, we went to a bar when we left her house that night.

I feel for you, JBK. I really do.

Anonymous said...

lol that reminds me of when I tried to teach my mother the difference between the internet and being on AOL. "Well AOL is a way to get on the internet but it's not the internet itself, it's just part of it." I just gave up after a while:)

Anonymous said...

I have to admit I showed my mom the joys of the internet via my old computer in 99 and now she is rebuilding hard drives and motherboards and I have NO IDEA what else. She is reading cyber geek sites and pc pitstop and what is what drives me really insane is when she calls and is like "honey did you know that if you connect your x to you y and spin around three times and clean it- your machine will be much more capable" or something to that effect... she scares me now more than ever oh and by the way she doens't know how to cut and paste thats the beauty of it.

Anonymous said...

That's pretty funny anonymous. But you're sort of lucky. My mom still doesnt know how to defrag the hard drive or even delete cookies to speed up her computer and I've showed her 100 times! If I remeber I try to do it for her once a year or it would just never get done.

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