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G-Chatting with Grandpa

By Sarah Klein

When it comes to technology, my dad is the family's go-to guy. In fact, upon moving away for college with my first laptop, he gave me a fake business card with his contact information and his title listed as "Tech Support". While he's sometimes baffled by our collective lack of knowledge, he is always willing to lend a hand to his technologically-challenged relatives.

Within that motley crew is one family member who can be forgiven for not being very tech-savvy: my 80-year-old grandfather. Considering when he was born, video-chatting with his grandchildren would never have crossed his mind. But in a true testament to his ability to learn new tricks, the family presented him with a brand-new wireless laptop for his birthday this summer.

Unsurprisingly, he's encountered some hitches along the way. At first he didn't understand how it could be wireless? Would surfing the Net still tie up his phone line? And how did the battery recharge? But as we explained the details and the perks—Web surfing in every room, longer battery life, freed-up phone lines—a smile crept across his face.

One of the first tasks for Papa, as we call him, was getting a Gmail account. This way, we argued, he could chat online with his many grandchildren who swear by everything Google. I had established a periodic e-mail relationship with Papa during my semester abroad. Then, he typed me choppy emails in all capitals that were full of blatant and often hilarious grammar and spelling mistakes. One of my favorites came in response to an update I had sent him about halfway through my semester:




Ever the jokester, his e-mails continue to be lighthearted and fun. While forwarding a particularly demeaning blond joke, he warned me not to become a blonde, and has sent me more than one reminder that milk is better for my health than beer!

But I can also tell he's learning more about his computer. He mentions discovering new features, like spell check, and how to toggle between open tabs. If he stumbles upon a new feature that confuses him, he tells me he plans on spending more time with my dad, his "back-up man," to better learn what it's for.

One slow morning, I noticed he was online and available to chat. Excited, I immediately said hello. No response. I tried again later, still with no avail. This weekend we got to visit in person and I asked him if he'd figured it out yet, or if he hadn't noticed the little box that popped up with my name in it. My brother chimed in that his messages were answered. "That's because I had my back-up man with me," Papa defended himself.

Progress might be slower than I expected but I'm extremely proud of his desire to learn about a world that is changing faster than he can keep up. One day very soon – and well before he turns 81 – I will find a way to G-Chat with my G-Pa.

Comment by richard papa klein, posted 10/5/2009, 9:20 AM:

great accurate article,but i still enjoy talking to the person vs. E-MAIL g-chat FORGET ABOUT IT,MY FINGERS HURT FROM TYPING
Comment by Harry Klein, posted 10/5/2009, 8:34 AM:

Your G-Pa is lucky to have such a Gr8 granddaughter willing to enGage him patiently online. Nice, heartwarming story
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