Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I sometimes get really frustrated with my Dad. Even though I take pride in the fact that my Dad is one of the only really "old" people (he will be sixty-five this coming fall) to be able to use the a word processor on a regular basis, backup his files, search and sort his eMail, copy and paste information from the internet, and other stuff which will boggle other senior citizens from our particular cultural heritage (and he learned it pretty late, too; only about 12 years ago for word processing and two years ago for sufing the net), my Dad still manages to frustrate me over things which I have since taken for granted as a given or obvious.

For instance, my Dad was a pretty skillful WordPerfect 5.1 user—he can layout a page using that DOS program as if he was using a high-end page layout software like MS Publisher or the good ol' Pagemaker programs. Very skillful. Yet, when I upgraded to WordPerfect 6.1 after an install of Windows 3.1 (yes, this was some years ago), he went bananas. Why? I not only had to "re-educate" him on the nuances of a fully graphical and WYSIWYG interface but also to reconfigure the keyboard layout in the original WPDOS system, that is, the original keyboard layout of the DOS program. Because I had to use that program with my Dad at home, I had to continue using that original layout, inspite of the more recent and (in my opinion) better keyboard layouts that are available.

This repeated itself for versions 10 and 12—I've had to make trips to his office just so I can "configure" the software for his use; he can't ever use it out of the box.

Recently, I've tried convincing him to switch eMail providers, from Hotmail (with its pitiful 2MB inbox and interface) to Gmail (which gives 2 Gigabytes for free). Since he is a Yale alumni and is provided with a lifelong email address, he can essentially change eMail providers whenever and wherever but still having his old eMail address (which is an @aya.yale.edu).

But he won't. Why? Because he can't "understand" that new Gmail. It doesn't matter that Hotmail has a more cluttered interface than Gmail. It doesn't matter if Hotmail's filing system is chaotic compared to the elegance of Gmail. It doesn't matter that even with the differences, those differences aren't much when it comes to functionality—there's an inbox, there's a "compose" link, etc.



Still, I will see that he makes the change. When his office computer, for some reason, cannot run his beloved WordPerfect, he reluctantly learned (on his own) how to use Microsoft Word. True, MS Word is severely limited in a lot of things that WordPerfect excels at, and there are plenty of things my Dad was unable to do in MS Word that he used to previously in WordPerfect... but that's beside the point. He learned on his own.

So, I will transfer the connection of his Yale eMail from Hotmail to Gmail, and he can learn the hard and traumatic way—the way, it seems, that he learns new things best.

I've always wondered at that. My Dad has, in his youth, consistently tested at an IQ of 152, which is much higher than anyone I know (although I know that there are higher IQ scores). Yet, when it comes to "things new" he seems to be just like one of us, bumbling and craving for the old comfort of familiar things. Dad has been taught for as long as he can remember that there is just one "correct" way to do things, and maybe that's the reason why, for him, interfaces should not change. So, inspite of the IQ, thanks to the way education is done here in the Philippines, where there is only "one correct way" and that teachers are always right, he cannot get beyond his limitation and accept that there are new ways to do old things.

Still, he has that IQ (which I have hoped for years that I had). Maybe he will surprise me if once I cut him loose. Maybe I've been holding him back by "helping" him too often.