Adventures in Computing with my 87-year-old Mother

Aug 20, 2020 at 11:00 am by Warlord720

My mother's computer was getting about as long in the tooth as she is. They have both been on this planet for a long, long time in respective human and PC years. They are both contrary, stubborn and have a mind of their own. They were well suited for each other over the years.

I'm not all that sure what my mother does on her computer, but she does it almost every day. I'm guessing living on the farm in the middle of nowhere does indeed get a bit tedious after all these years. It is her source of information and a few games like cards, solitaire, and mainly Mahjongg. Other than that, it sits there taking up space, but it is a daily source of diversion.

It seems she has been on i5 since they were first released. In fact, she has been on it long enough that this computer was made back when HP was one company. It was indeed time to get a new one, and we stuck with HP to get another i5 that was on sale. It had more memory and storage than she would ever need and of course... Windows 10, which would be new to her since the old PC was on Windows 7.

This would get her up-to-date and more secure even though she never banks and rarely shops online. I prepared for everything including bringing a thumb drive to move some old standalone .exe games like her favorite mahjongg game. 

There was, of course, one thing I completely forgot to prepare for and that was setting up Windows 10 for first-time use. In the past, this was a no-brainer that a trained monkey could do. While I have fought with Windows 10 many a time after an update, the setup of a new PC or fresh install used to be... notice I said used to be... one of the simplest tasks in the PC world. 

Not so anymore.

Glad I didn't leave it to my poor old mother to go through the setup herself. She would have been... as we say in this neck of the woods... a tad bit upset. And she just might have been more than a tad bit upset with me for leaving her to go through that mess.

To get things in context this was a new, HP-branded computer. Not a Whitebox and not a repair re-install. That alone complicates the process with bloatware and other unsavory items, so I was kind of expecting some bull crap but what I got left me totally frustrated and ready to storm the Microsoft campus in Washington state. Notwithstanding the fact that folks my age don't generally storm anything.

I'm not going to bore you with a play-by-play of the process, but I will tell you that I can't count the times I looked at my mother with the "WTF is Microsoft doing" look. Of course, Mom had no idea about the WTF, but I was seriously wondering who in their right mind thought this hoop-jumping, convoluted mess to get your PC ready to run setup was going to be anything other than a barn burner.

You couldn't script a Hollywood process that could do justice to the level of frustration I was feeling as went through screen after screen of do you want this, do you want that crap that mostly my mother didn't want.

The kicker was right out of the box. Requiring an email and password for a Microsoft account to activate your already purchased version! At 87 years old, I am lucky she even has email and no I don't want it in my account. Creating yet another account for this poor woman to keep up with was heartbreaking to say the least.

So... we cleared this amateur-hour hoop and proceeded to the professional hoop-jumping section where stamina, perseverance, and determination were required to not give one inch of data to Microsoft that she didn't have to give. She was as determined not to give it... as Microsoft was to get it... and I was caught in the crossfire.

We finally got to the desktop and that felt like we had climbed Mount Everest. I think we were even winded. Then came the realization that McAfee had to be removed and replaced with her favorite pirate-poker, Avast. It finally dawned on me that almost every question she asked of the "why this" and "what that" nature all involved money. Payment for placement.

I finally had to break it to her that the PC was not and probably never will be truly "hers" anymore and that was like throwing gas on the fire, which took a while to put out as I was more inflamed internally than she was externally.

Against all odds we got that sucker going. A former computer repair tech and an 87-year-old woman that will not be denied had pulled it off.  Now she is figuring out how to adapt to Windows 10, which at 87 can be a bit complicated. However, like my father, she is a daily computer user and has been for decades. With that said... she is now running Microsoft's flagship OS and all that brings with it.

May God bless her and strengthen her. She is going to need it.

M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years.  Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website


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