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It's a cliche, but it's generally true that kids adopt computers faster than older people do. They don't have any fear that they might do something wrong and make the computer catch on fire, which seems to be in the back of the mind of every reluctant adult computer user. (I tell them and tell them that they can't make the computer catch on fire, but they just don't seem to believe it.) We've all heard the same story: "My kid (or grandkid) is a wiz with computers, but I can't figure them out."

So I'm always inspired when an older person belies the stereotype and jumps wholeheartedly into the technology. There's no reason computers shouldn't empower people of all ages. So I like to collect the opposite kind of stories: "Oh, this sixty-year-old grandmother's running her investment club's web site." Every time some older person gives me the "My grandkid" speech, I like to use these stories to show that they can use computers, too.

But this one... This one surprised even me. And inspired me.

Imagine you're a 60-year-old man. You've had a career you're proud of, but it doesn't seem to be going as well these days. Honestly, you could probably retire now, if you wanted to; but you're still active and still curious about the world around you. You're not ready for the pasture yet.

And then you see this computer; but it's a little different from the ones you've seen in business. It's one of those new-fangled microcomputers; only instead of the plain text screens on the IBM PCs around, this one has a bright, full-color screen with — flying toasters. This little Commodore Amiga is doing sophisticated computer animation.

Well, you've always had a fondness for animation, so you buy an Amiga. And while some Amiga users are just playing games with theirs, at the age of 60 you begin self-study in the art of computer animation. You never went to college, or anything; but you're bright and have been successful in your field, so you can figure this stuff out. You find it an amusing hobby, and you love it.

Fast forward almost 20 years. You're nearly 80. Your primary career has actually blossomed into a whole new phase, keeping you pretty busy. In fact, your last big gig ran an incredible eight years, beating your record for any job earlier in your career.

And yet still you've found time to keep up with computer animation. You've done some stuff to amuse yourself and your family, and people are pretty impressed. At an age when a lot of people think computers are just not for their generation, you harbor a dream to some day do an animated feature, or at least a Christmas special. Heck, you even have a professional animation credit to your name, having sold one special effects scene to the CBS show Diagnosis Murder.

Thanks to IP Maven Ron Coleman for accidentally leading me down this trail.
Posted on Saturday, November 15, 2008 4:23 PM Personal | Back to top

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