Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Last week, I gave my old laptop to my grandfather. He's never touched a computer before in his life, so I knew it wouldn't be easy for him to get to grips with it. I also knew, though, that the answers to so many of those little questions that crop up constantly could be answered with access to the internet.

These are the questions that go unanswered because they're too trivial to ask someone else to research, but they lead to so much more.

I installed Ubuntu 12.10 on the old machine, and set it to automatically login on startup. I disabled all the nagging alerts about system updates, and removed all the shortcuts from the dock apart from Firefox and OpenOffice.org Writer (as it turns out, explaining why a picture of a fox hugging the world means "the internet" can be quite difficult!)

After a few minutes of getting used to how a mouse works, I was amazed at how quickly he picked it up. We use it every day, but to my grandad the internet is the most awe-inspiring concept. Anything you might possibly want to learn about is available, in far more detail than you could ask for. Wikipedia is an incredible and effectively infinite resource, with endless pages containing "blue underlined words" pointing to yet more.

Seeing my grandad's amazement made me realise how incredible the internet is, and how strange it is that we take it completely for granted every day.

It's also a sign of how far things have moved on recently that I even considered installing Linux on a computer that would be used by anyone but a programmer or enthusiast -- much less a grandparent.

I feel extremely lucky to have been born at this point in history, where our lives are being changed on a near daily basis by advancements in technology, and I'm so glad to be part of it.

Welcome to the Internet, Grandad.