‘Tis the season for family homecomings, when young travelers arrive at the door of loved ones waiting with hugs, food, and a six- to 12-month backlog of technological complaints.
Sometime between the invention of the VCR and the proliferation of home computers, solving relatives’ IT problems became as much familial obligation for younger generations as the Christmas card photo. Actual tech qualifications are not relevant here. Were you born after 1970? Have you ever been seen using a smartphone or laptop? Good enough. Mom can’t get Siri to work, and now that’s your problem.
Crises I personally have been called in to troubleshoot include:
- a buggy word processor (Grandpa was using the space bar instead of the return key to go to a new line)
- a mysterious computer virus (It was the Windows dancing lines screensaver)
- emails that wouldn’t send (“Emails” turned out to Word document missives to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, typed on a computer with no internet connection)
But parents and other older relatives are not always the most gracious of pro bono clients. Earlier this month, developer and community organizer Ernie Hsiung published a collection of status updates chronicling an epic six-day Thanksgiving visit to his parents’ house. IT issues played a big role.
With the holidays looming, Quartz reached out to friends and family for stories of their favorite family IT requests.
From Linnea Lieberman (via Facebook):
“Everything I save is staying on the screen.”
“Mom, are you clicking save or save as wallpaper?”
She was clicking save as wallpaper. Every photo, email, document, etc. had turned her screen into a hilarious collage.
From an anonymous Quartz staffer:
My dad asked if an Apple account was the same as a Google account and then asked what system a TV show was “streamlining” on.
You don’t have to actually go home for the holidays to be called on as a de facto help desk. A Facebook commenter named Kathy shared:
I had set up my mother’s digital camera to automatically download the photos to her laptop when she connected the two. Foolproof, or so I thought. Some months later, the following phone conversation ensued:
Mom: “I can’t get the photos off the camera anymore.”
Me: “One end of the cable is plugged into your laptop and you’re plugging the other end into your camera, right?”
Me: “OK, what happens when you turn the camera on?”
Mom [sharp intake of breath]: “Turn it ON.”
And from a US expat in Rome, who also wishes to preserve her parents’ dignity:
Last night my phone was ringing so much at 3am that it fell off the bed stand. Turns out it was my parents, seven hours behind in the US, who left a message (aka a conversation between the two of them) that sounded like “Why are you calling Lauren?” “I’m not calling Lauren!” “Yes you are, you pushed on her contact and are calling her.” “Really? That’s what happens when you push on someone’s contact?” “Yes, now hang up.” “How do I do that?”
iPhones in the wrong hands are dangerous.