Wednesday, April 01, 2009

My Grandmother Was Geekier Than Your Grandmother!

My grandmother passed away peacefully yesterday at age ninety-six. As a member of a family of proud eccentrics, she was certainly a character. She was also quite geeky for her age--and for someone of any age, for that matter.

My grandmother read the news online. This gave her an opportunity to read the Danish newspapers in their entirety immediately rather than just getting the small weekly international edition by one of the Danish papers by mail a week later. She did, however, subscribe to the printed newspaper, but that was strictly for use by her dogs. Ironically, my grandmother was a journalist in her youth, and I can't imagine she would have wanted her own articles to receive that treatment.

Earlier, in her eighties, my grandmother had taken up the Internet and became involved in online forums. So far as we know, she never and an online affair--even after my grandfather passed away nine years ago--but maybe that just shows how much we know. She liked to share with the rest of the family the intrigue that took place between the participants in the online communities. My grandmother was among the early adopters of broadband. Before that, she had a second line for her AOL dial-up. Otherwise, her phone line would have been tied up too much. My grandmoter never expressed much nostalgia for her oldfashioned electric typewriter. She was, by the way, among the first to get an IBM Selectric back in the 1960s.

My grandmother was an avid photographer who enthusiastically switched to digital in her late 80s. It was a certain relief that she was now less dependent on those incompetent photo developers, most of whom failed to meet standards. Never mind about the old days when there wasn't much that could be done after the photo had been taken. My grandmother was a huge Photoshop enthusiast who liked to sharpen and otherwise alter her photos. Although she might have been able to teach these courses herself, my grandmother took a number of online photo courses. She worried a great deal about how many of her photos would be selected as a "Photo of the Week" from among those submitted by all students. She was usually hugely disappointed if only one or two of hers--as opposed to all the ones she submitted--were chosen. She was intensely aware--and highly critical--of her unworthy rivals. My grandmother did not subscribe to Photoshop Fanatic, but that probably has more to do with the reality that no such magazine exists than it does with lack of interest.

Over the years, my grandmother acquired a large number of cameras as new features emerged. Patience in waiting until the new models became available was not my grandmother's strong suit. Those online retailers not among the first to stock the newest cameras could forget about my grandmother's business. Many members of the family became the beneficiaries of the "obsolescence" of cameras acquired a year or two earlier. Still, the newer cameras frequently failed to meet expectations, becoming a disappointment.

My grandmother didn't bother with old fashioned paper invitations anymore. For her yearly birthday celebration, we were all invited by e-mail.

My grandmother did encounter certain computer frustrations. She was not shy about throwing files away. My mother would often receive very frustrated calls from my grandmother about computer malfunctions. It often turned out that my grandmother had dragged important program files into the waste basket, oblivious to any consequences this would have. As it turned out, of course, the consequences were usually minor since her daughter would come to bail her out. As a last resort, my grandmother also did have her laptop, but making do with a puny screen was somewhat of a comedown for someone accustomed to twenty-four inches.

Toward the end, my grandmother did acquire an iPod. You may wonder what held her back for so long. How, after all, can one be a true geek without an iPod, or at least some other respectable MP3 player such as Zune? Unfortunately, my grandmother never had great hearing even in her yournger days, so her interest in audio devices was limited. She did get an iPod when she was bedridden toward the end so that she could look at photos. Limited hearing might explain why my grandmother never used her cell phone much. Still, I have to admit that I have no satisfactory explanation why she never acquired a Blackberry or an iPhone with Internet features. Perhaps the buttons were just too small. Had this problem been overcome, she might very well have taken up texting.

Like it or not, my grandmother was geekier than your grandmother!