The biggest complaints you here from geeks and advanced geeks are mostly related to end users. The low-brow Neanderthals of the cyberworld who populate a fairly large part of the digital foodchain. The bottom half that is. The ones who own a computer but don"t really know how it works. Who dabble around msn.com and believe it to be the allmighty start of the internet. For whom a Nigerian 104 scam seems true. The fodder for spammers, botnets and most of all the source of painfully simple or painfully complex questions. The ones who see top level geeks like either half-gods or commodities. The ones who barely dip their toe into the digital swimming pool we call cyberspace. Most geeks pull up their noses in disgust when a newbie like that steps up to them. Or they try desperately to help the "end-user" with his impossible questions. (mostly lacking the information required for us to solve or understand the problem) Yet they are abundant.
A few weeks ago, after endless coaching, prodding, teasing and luring .. I managed to create ANOTHER end user. My beloved uncle and aunt. Now a quick sidenote. My Uncle and my aunt (together with my grandmother) raised me for the biggest part of my life. And did so in a very special way. For one : They have a ton .. a TON of books. They are information hungry and love to delve into the depths of knowledge, yet are humble and never boast their intellect at others. But being raised by them as a kid .. "learning" and "knowledge" where paramount. For example : Where other kids read cartoons and watched crap on TV, my uncle used to sit with me on the couch with this big-ass atlas. He showed me maps of far away countries and told me what it was like there. We made imaginary voyages with the tip of our finger from Belgium to far away India by sliding over eastern Europe, Siberia and more while my uncle told me tales about the animals that lived there, the mountains, the snow and so forth.
My aunt with a big musical interest exposed my to all kinds of music. Playing it from an impressive record collection she exposed me to clarinet music, classical music, audio stories and cabaret. My Grandmother used to watch German school-tv with me, resulting in the fact that by the age of SIX i was able to speak a fair bit of German. So you see.. It was an ocean of knowledge I grew up in.
Now it was time to do something back, to expose my beloved aunt and uncle to the miracles of the internet. I had talked about it , showed them examples and made serious propaganda for the net. Highly conservative as they are the where a little hesitant but to my great pleasure they called me up a few weeks ago telling me to "go ahead and do the internet thin" for them.
So a week later they had their second hand laptop and a wifi broadband connection set up. I slowly eased them into the world of the net giving them an XP environment ( No Linux this time, cause I wanted them to learn in a standardised enviroment for whom their where plenty of books available so they could gather information at their own pace) It was wonderful to just sit there and explain. Although their questions where sometimes painfully simple to us, it was no problem for me to answer them patiently. After all these years I could give something back to them. Open up a whole new world to them and see them in awe and the endless pool of information that is so obvious to us every day.
But my greatest joy is seeing their interest, seeing my conservative aunt (who said : no computers for me) do her first Google search on her own. Seeing my uncle beam with pride as he enters his first url he saw in a paper somewhere and find this website about Kortrijk. And most importantly : Watching them grow ! Seeing them read through the books about windows they got, tentatively trying everything out one by one. .. and their joy and pride when they succeed.
They reminded me of the joy of technology. About how we take the net and all its extentions for granted. Bitch about it , complain, or even nag. Yet to them it is a wonderful new world. It reminded me of just how lucky we are to be a geek, and of how we should stop and contemplate the shear miracle that is the information age.
Pictures : Top : My aunt, Bottom : My uncle (the one in the middle)