Grandparents and iPhones

ERIC LIM/New University

For every grandparent with an iPhone, there are countless others who only know of Apple as a type of pie filling. My maternal grandparents have little in common, aside from a European ancestry and their current status as members of the octogenarian club. My grandmother is a hairdresser, a wonderful baker and a devout Lutheran, while my grandfather is a retired engineer who keeps to himself, speaks a handful of languages and stays up-to-date with Rush Limbaugh.

Of all the ways their differences are illustrated, one that stands out the most is their opposing ability to adjust to the whirlwind of technological advances that occurred during their lifetime. It just goes to show that maybe it’s not the changing times, but one’s personality that allows for the acceptance or ignorance of technology.

My grandfather “Skypes” weekly with a friend from his home country of Estonia and is a wiz at uploading pictures as attachments to distant relatives. Conversely, my grandmother still squeals with fascination upon the printing of a picture off of Google Images (a task she would be unable to complete herself).

Of course, my grandfather has had several technological mishaps as well. He just received his first cell phone as a gift for his 88th birthday and my dad jokingly called the pre-programmed phone as my grandfather unwrapped it. From the box, a cheesy default jingle rang out, accompanied by a vibration that gave my grandfather a befuddled, slightly frightened expression.

“Papa, it’s a cellular phone!” my grandmother exclaimed, pointing to the box with pride. She’s had a cell phone for a few years now, but she is still unable to check her voice mail, or abbreviate “cellular,” for that matter.

Once my grandfather realized what he’d been given, out came the instruction manual and he knew how to send picture messages by the end of the night.

Technology has changed so rapidly since the early 20th century, that it’s surprising how well many people have adapted to it. My grandfather was born in 1923 — the year of sound film and the first electric television. In 1928, my grandmother was born, alongside the electric dry shaver and, amusingly enough, sliced bread. They married in 1953, the same year that the ultrasound was invented, and they celebrated their fourth anniversary the year the satellite was first used.

Instant noodles, now a college diet staple, weren’t developed until 1958, the year my parents were born, and Spandex didn’t arrive until the following year. In 1961, digital photography was developed (though digital cameras weren’t sold until the mid-70s), and the first video game console, the Magnavox Odyssey, arrived in 1968. Karaoke wasn’t invented until 1971 and Xerox PARC used the very first personal computer in 1973.

Before 1979, there was no such thing as a Walkman, but by 1982, people could listen to their recently invented compact discs anywhere and record home videos on their new camcorder.

Even in our lifetime as students, so much has changed. In 1990, the World Wide Web was invented and the first webcam came out in 1991.

I remember the year my family got our first computer, and as my dad worked for Pioneer in the 90s, I can recall the short-lived days of the Laserdisc player. I even remember learning cursive in elementary school on account of the then-fact that you “write all your essays in cursive in high school” (my second grade teacher stressed this ad nauseam) only to have my own laptop before my junior year was through.

While I have a fairly good grasp on computers and general technology, I, like my grandmother, will never be the computer junkie that my boyfriend is.

While he’s always itching to reprogram his SmartPhone, I’m just glad I can text. I’m sure I could learn the ins and outs of each new electronic gadget, but that’s not where my hobbies or natural interests lie.

I may tease my grandmother now, but I predict that when I’m 83, I’ll be just like her. A few months ago, my mom had to pry the VCR and an ancient Denise Austin workout video from my grandmother’s hands to teach her how to use a DVD player.

My grandfather, hungry for high definition like so many other technology buffs, just got a Blu-ray player.