What I did learn from my parents is that computers are not something to be feared; that if you have a problem or don’t know how to do something, to go ahead and dive in and try to do it yourself, because it’s probably not that complicated.
Maybe more importantly, I learned that it’s never too late in life to discover a passion. It was their interest in computers that sent my mom and dad back to school, and subsequently launched entirely new careers for each of them. My dad transformed from a farmer to a multimedia systems analyst, which meant nothing to me at the time but I now understand was no mean feat. He landed a job at the state Employment Department, where he was part of a team that programmed touchscreen kiosks to help people find jobs. I actually found my first job through one of his kiosks — but that’s a story for another day.
And my mom, who had left college as an undergrad without getting her degree, went back to college, only to get hired as a support tech before she could even finish her program. When people call the newspaper looking for help with our website, or are unsure about how to attach a file to an email message, I find myself echoing the calm and cheerful tones I heard my mom use when answering a support call from home. (And yes, the first question she would often ask was, “Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?”)
My parents are still infected by the computer bug. After years of toiling in the land of PCs, they went back to their first love and are now an all-Apple household. Classic early adopters, they were on the waiting list to get the first iPhones and iPads, and have passed along their “outdated” models to my sister and me over the years (which is the only reason I now have an iPad).
Me? I’m somewhere in the middle between my tech-savvy folks and those people on the phone who aren’t sure what an email attachment is. And I’m OK with that. With any luck, my mom and dad are, too.
EMILY F. POPEK is assistant editor of The Daily Star. Contact her at email@example.com.