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Column: In technology, the best advice is to learn as you go
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

My dad works in computers. I can’t tell you exactly what he does now or what he did when I was growing up. Most recently, I think he did something related to modernization, at least that’s a word I’ve heard him toss around that I can actually understand. 

He was always able to fix my computer when I was younger — when I had one of those big fat monitors and a computer tower. I believe he even built a few computers, or at least tinkered with the insides.

I know a teensy bit about computers, thanks to him — enough that when our IT guy at The Times talks to me about “ipconfig” I have some vague idea of what to do and what that means. I also know there are two keys to fixing computers. One is to restart the machine. The other is to call the IT guy, and by the time he gets to your desk, the problem will have magically resolved itself. 

When my late grandmother called me for computer help, I could usually resolve the issue. She’d invariably click something in her email application that moved everything around. The fix was always something simple, but she was hard of hearing and only knew how to get her email and her Facebook. Fixing a simple problem remotely was a lot of yelling basic instructions through the phone and repeating myself five times. 

This past week, I was talking to my Dad over FaceTime trying to get him to click on the little button in his Web mail browser that would allow him to scroll up and down to view his emails.

He just started a new job with a fancy title that includes the word “mainframe.” His work computer was delivered to his house. It’s a MacBook Air.

“How do I restart a Mac?” he texted me.

He has never in his life had a Mac. He bought me an iMac a few Christmases ago, and I’m still surprised he did. 

I laughed, then I texted back: “I usually restart it through the menu.” Honestly, I Googled for other ways to restart it. I don’t have to restart it very often, and I am still more familiar with the Ctrl Alt Delete command of the PCs he raised me on.

Later that day he requested a Mac crash course. It wasn’t until the next morning that I had time to walk him through a few things. I’m not sure I actually helped at all. He had figured out some of it, and he’ll figure out the rest soon.

He’s always adapted with the changing technology. He’s often one of the first to get the next best gadget. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that if you learn it as you go, adapting isn’t that hard. My late grandmother did alright. I’m glad she figured out how to email her friends and family and later to find them on Facebook. I’m also glad Facebook was less of a political minefield in her day. 

My other grandmother, who is in her mid 90s, can also perform basic tasks on her computer as well as send text messages, make FaceTime calls and get herself an Uber.

My dad will likely always be a step ahead of me with technology. And my kids will catch up soon. My oldest can already make a slide show using his school computer. And my youngest knows how to find most of his favorite YouTubers on his school laptop and on our Google display. 

They also both know how to play the video games my dad enjoys playing on his TV. My dad will have to keep up with them, lest they spend another $50 on coins for said video game.

At their age, I was probably just playing Oregon Trail once a week in a computer lab full of colorful Macs.

Meanwhile, five days with his Mac, and my dad has been converted. “I love this thing,” he texted.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident. 

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