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Getting Granddad A Mac

A Sunday not too long ago I visited my granddad for his 89th birthday and he asked me to take a look at his computer again. Some ISP settings had changed and his Outlook Express e-mail client didn't fetch or send e-mail anymore. The lady at the support centre directed him to their webmail client, but that's just not as good.

My granddad had a very old Windows XP desktop tower with a small 15" display, doing no more than 1024x768, a 1GHz CPU and 384MB RAM. It took minutes to boot and sometimes minutes to open Internet Explorer windows. It was also very noisy. I've been wanting to get him a new computer for the past 3 years but he always told me it wasn't necessary. He found his computer good enough for what he needed to do with it. Personally I attribute his resistance to a new computer as fear for something new. He is 89 years old now and was 86 when I first talked to him about a new computer. People don't like change after a certain age. Young people find it incredible, but old people just do not easily learn anything new anymore.

Of course, the computer I had planned on buying him was a Mac. One might argue that getting someone a Mac, coming from Windows XP, would be too big of a change but think about it... How much different is going from Windows XP to Windows 7, or nowadays Windows 8? I dare to say the learning curve is just as big (with Windows 8 even more so) than going from XP to OS X 10.8.

For some reason I couldn't figure out how to get his e-mail client to fetch e-mail again. Innerly I got frustrated that everything took ages to accomplish and made the decision of getting him a new computer. I didn't tell him I was going to, he'd argue, again, it wasn't necessary. Sometimes you just have to tell people what to do and what to use because they don't know any better.

The next day after work I got him the cheapest iMac and called him up. I said: "Granddad, don't be upset, I just got you a new computer. I know in the past you told me not to get one but I think it's necessary. A computer should be fast, easy to understand, not need a whole desk just for itself and be noiseless. What time do you go to bed?"

It was 18:30 when I rang him up and he told me he usually didn't go to sleep before eleven so I said: "Good. I'll be there in an hour."

Unboxing the iMac was an experience, he expected a traditional desktop PC and was amazed:

"So we don't need this (big) keyboard an mouse anymore?" — "No."
"And this tower down here?" — "Nope."
"And these speakers?" — "Neither."
"The monitor can go as well?" — "Yep."

All those cables, gone. The keyboard was wired, his mouse was wired, the monitor had 2 wires, power and data, his speakers had wires to the back of the desktop tower, he had a USB hub because his old computer only had 2 ports, the tower had a power-cable as well and then there was the ethernet cable for Internet access. His Internet router was a wireless one but the computer didn't have a Wi-Fi card in it.

After unpacking I plugged in the one cable that comes with an iMac and turned on the computer. It frees up all those messy cables and in fact the whole computer table could go away. The iMac is so small it can just sit on his proper wooden "bureau" and take up no space other than the foot on which it stands.

After running through the install I set up Mail and iCloud for him and logged him into the iTunes Store and Mac App Store. I made it so that scrollbars always showed. In the past I always thought that Apple made the wrong choice of leaving us the choice to turn on scrollbars. It turns out they were right leaving the option, elderly don't quite grasp the disappearing scrollbars and lack the knack of knowing that there might be more content, even if a scrollbar isn't showing. I also removed unnecessary apps like System Preferences and Launchpad.

That evening I taught him three apps, which I placed next to Finder on the Dock: Safari, Mail and Contacts. (I'd install Pages and Numbers later) He was thrilled to find out there was no right-click, saying: "Oh, that is so much easier."

The next day I got an e-mail from him, telling me what he had done that day, checking the header of the mail I saw:

Mime-Version: 1.0 (Mac OS X Mail 6.2 \(1499\))

My 89 year old granddad had turned on his new iMac, opened Mail, composed a new e-mail and sent it. Success.