Silversurfer a Modern Day Insult?

Are you over 65 and have a bit of grey hair. Do you picture yourself at a steam-powered Personal Computer with a copy of the Which guide to computers scratching your head wondering what reboot means. Or are you one of those who has fully embraced the digital age. OK, so we are not as adept at social media as the <30 year old pushing their pride and joy in a pushchair whilst staring at their iPhone. Why do they do that! Is whatever they are looking at as interesting as keeping their baby safe.

Did you know that a company called MITS introduced their 8800 kit in 1975 which was reputed to be the first personal computer. You needed to assemble the PC with a soldering iron. I can recall my brother had a similar machine at about the same time. He carried it around in a wooden box. No injection moulded plastic case that the later all-in-one personal computers had. Well, I say all-in-one but you still needed a tape recorder and other peripherals to make it useful. But what you got was the ability to programme stuff. OK, it was BASIC, a high-level programming language, but it enabled you to do things like basic accounting programs.

My father, who was born at the start of World War 1, was a bit of a digital visionary and he saw very early that the impact that the computers would have on the individual such that he made sure that all his boys had a computer. He bought himself a BBC micro. I got a Commodore Vic 20 which was a less powerful machine but there were others. Who can forget the Spectrum ZX81 and the games like Crazy Kong? I suppose that the digital age in the home really took off as a result of the revolution in office technology. In computer departments of firms, the developers had been using early PCs for some time. These were started from floppy discs. Earlier than that programmers would have used dumb terminals to develop program code on the mainframe hosts. But when you had a PC on every office workers desk then these machines with Microsoft applications reduced in price to where the home computer user could get one.

So where did us seniors get their PC prowess and what was our motivation? I was not an early user. I worked in IT so the last thing I wanted to do was to sit in front of a computer when I got home. I suppose it was when a useful and affordable internet became available. For me at home, it was post-1989, probably about 1995. A PC from PC world (or whatever they were called then) a modem and an internet service from BT. The internet connection shared the phone line but did not allow phone calls at the same time. Do you remember continually dialling a family member that was always busy. ‘he must be on the Internet’

What a change it made. No more looking at Teletext to find a holiday. Route planning using ‘Route Map’ or whatever it was called. When was the last time you used an AA map book? I think you can still get them and although they have not been confined to vintage shops I doubt if it will be long. Now if you want to keep in touch with a post-65-year-old you are more likely to be given an email address rather than a phone number.

I think us seniors have really taken to personal computers (in the now most convenient form – tablets, phones) and one must remember how little training we have had. Schools have IT lessons, and IT Departments. Someone who is 65 now would have been born around 1954 and would have left school around 1972 when the only IT happened behind the bike sheds. Not many of us over 65s would be able to develop web applications but how many of the youngsters who are tweeting, instagramming and whatsapping are also able to do that.

I think ‘Silver Surfers’ is ageist, inappropriate and should be confined to history along with the other person related insults.

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