My mom's iPad

I got my first computer in 1997, when I was 9.

In the years that followed, that PC and the ones that came after it became central to my life. I used a computer for all the regular stuff such as schoolwork, games and IM, as well as learning to play songs on my guitar and tinkering with web design. I later got my first Mac, got serious about programming and started making a career out of it.

Through a significant portion of my childhood and all of my teenage years, I spent countless hours in front of a computer (probably, a lot more than was healthy, which, combined with my intense guitar playing, got me a mild case of RSI by the time I was 17). For a long time, one person wasn’t very happy with this state of affairs: my mother.

My mom didn’t understand computers. More than that, she didn’t like them, or, in her words, she hated them. She repeatedly said she didn’t want to learn to use computers. She really didn’t want anything to do with them. Specially, she didn’t like the fact that I spent so much time using them.

Very slowly, she started to give in. Some of her friends started getting e-mail accounts, and eventually she decided she wanted one. For a while, she still would ask me or my dad to check it for her and type her messages. Then, I taught her how to use instant messaging, she started browsing for news, did some audio and video chat on Skype and got into Orkut (it used to be pretty popular in Brazil) and later, Facebook.

At this point, my mom was actually proud of what she could accomplish. So much so that I convinced her to stop typing all in caps by telling her that people who read it would think she wasn’t good with computers. I had been in college for a while, and she had the computer all for herself most of the time. Even when I was home, I’d use exclusively my MacBook. However, there was still the occasional problem. She still needed help with mail attachments, she didn’t manage files at all (most of her stuff was kept inside the same folder) and crappy Windows alerts would still freak her out from time to time. Also, introducing any new activity for her to do on the computer took a lot of getting used to: adding favourites for easy access, teaching how to navigate the often cluttered web pages and many other hassles. This was a slow process, which slowly took place through the course of almost 15 years.

Then, in 2011, I got an iPad 2.

I bought it for myself. But I barely used it. I showed it to my mother and she fell in love instantly. Needless to say, I had to go mostly without an iPad until I bought a new one. [1]

Fast forward to today, my mom uses the iPad for everything she previously used the PC for, and a lot more. She watches Brazilian soap operas on the web. She plays the occasional card game. She watches movies on Netflix and iTunes, which she figured out all on her own how to browse the catalogues and how to add subtitles to non Brazilian movies. More importantly, she enjoys herself a lot more. There is no frustration, no insecurity (“should I click Yes or Cancel?”). She is willing to experiment more and discovers something new regularly. It didn’t take her 10 years to get used to the iPad.

Yesterday, I introduced her to Duolingo. I created her an account, walked her through a lesson and handed her the iPad back. She is now learning English. She actually cheered when she completed her second lesson in a row, with no mistakes.

Pretty magical, indeed.[2]

  1. I recently bought an Apple TV, which almost suffered the same fate.  ↩

  2. I got inspired to write this after reading this beautiful piece by Shawn Blanc. You should definitely give it a read.  ↩