The Cyberspace Octogenarian

I would like to thank Marcus Webb for this wonderful story of when his father became a silver surfer in his 80’s:

‘In the 1990’s, when he was comfortably ensconced in his mid 80’s, my father announced that he was going to buy a computer. When asked what had put this whacky idea into his head he said that he had never opted out of life in his life and he did not intend to do so just because he had recently given up his driving licence (but not his passport). He recalled aged relations who, in his youth, had been terrified of the telephone. He had thought it ludicrous then, and he had no intention, at his age, of following in their wake with regard to computing.

A major market research exercise was then initiated, my part in which was to take Dad around endless computer shops and stores so that he could quiz the staff and pick their brains. Eventually he decided that the best buy was to be found by sending away for the machine. When it arrived our next task was to get him a computer desk and chair, sourced from a local bargain basement type establishment housed in a wartime munitions building. He rigged up the telephone line for internet connection, and by dint of an intricate setup of multipoint extension leads to power all the various elements of his ‘rig’ he installed it in the sitting/dining room of his 1 bedroomed retirement flat.

We also attended a beginner’s course in computing at evening classes at the local school. On numerous occasions if the computer’s behaviour became obstructive in Dad’s view, or if he got into a tangle with it, he would address it as one might an unruly dog and with a gruff expression of disapproval he would simply switch it off to show who was boss.

As Dad explored the world of the internet he became quite a dab hand at accessing information and he found it a great boon to use it for shopping for many articles, particularly those which were otherwise difficult to find and get home. During one of his forays with us to the South of France, he experienced the delights of a hammock. He knew that we were not too keen on his having such an article in the retirement complex where he lived ( a ground floor flat at the top of a middling steepish slope). He nevertheless went ahead and purchased a hammock over the internet. Our fears of him unbalancing as he struggled to escape the low slung model he had chosen and rolling down the slope out of control, doing goodness knows what damage to himself in the process, fortunately proved to be unfounded. However, he always had a stick handy so that he could lever himself up relatively safely. On another occasion he literally turned the tables on us when, courtesy of internet shopping, a large vehicle appeared unexpectedly at our house and delivered a complete set of teak outdoor furniture – as a surprise gift from him!

The potential of the web soon became apparent to him regarding tracing family connections. He had a faint memory of his Uncle Herbert, his mother’s brother, coming to see his family, and wondered if it had been something to do with the disruption of the First World War, as he knew that his uncle had emigrated to New Zealand, and he himself had been born in 1910. Before long, he had established contact with Herbert’s descendents in New Zealand. It transpired that the occasion he had remembered would have been in 1913, when Herbert and his family had emigrated- when Dad was just about 3 years old. Dad was quick to use the wonders of Interflora  for the ladies’ birthdays and one of my cousins and his wife came over to see him, while the son of another also dropped in to see Dad while he was in England.  The outcome for us was a magical trip to New Zealand a few years ago, when we met our cousins who, in true Kiwi fashion, made us feel like VIP’s. We brought back a video which Dad watched avidly, and emails flew back and forth for the rest of his life.

Another aspect of the web was utilized when he opened internet banking accounts, share dealing, and generally keeping an up to the minute eye on the financial world. But perhaps his favourite experience occurred one Christmas soon after he really got into online computing. Somehow, someone sent him an electronic Christmas card, which consisted of a bevy of undraped beauties, who jiggled their attributes to a jolly rendition of “Jingle Bells” ‘

Marcus Webb

I love it Marcus! Thanks for sharing wonderful memories of your dad.


About Diana Jackson

Author of 'The Healing Paths of Fife', Historical Romantic fiction ~ The Riduna Series set in 19th and early 20th Century a murder mystery ~ 'Murder, Now and Then' and two memoir. What links my books ~ history! Riduna on Twitter and on Facebook too!
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