News and events Blogs Stuart Struggles In A Digital Era As an older Unpaid Carer I am often in trouble with digital technology. Younger people wonder why I am so far out of touch but I tell them that when I went to school there were no computers so I could not learn about them. I did not even have a calculator. In a Maths class one day I was reprimanded by the teacher for trying to use a slide rule. “Work it out long-hand,” he yelled, “And show the workings in the margin.” I never did master that slide rule. Now everything is computerised, digital, on-line, automated, Smart...but what about the not-so-smart user? Over the years I often tried to dip my toe in, learn something, catch up a bit. Sadly, it only served to remind me that I am trailing further behind as the systems continue to accelerate away from me. If I ask for help from a young technocrat they solve the problem in a blink with a flurry of keystrokes. I learn nothing. I have to make them stand out of reach of the keyboard with their hands in their pockets while coaching me to press the correct buttons. Strangely, they often find this impossible. Things they normally do without thinking, suddenly become difficult when they have to explain them slowly. Or maybe it was me pressing the wrong key! Our electrical equipment used to be powered via a round-pin mains plug with a thicker pin for the earth and thinner for live and neutral. Then we were switched to square-pin plugs and obliged to rewire our homes and offices. What was that about? As time rolled on the range of cables and connectors got more complex. Do you need DIN, Phono, Scart, USB, HDMI? The list is endless. “No need to worry with this unit,” the sales assistant told me. “It is wireless.” Wireless? My grandparents had one of those on top of their china cabinet. It was only switched on for an hour each evening to hear the BBC News and a short story. “Be careful with that!” grandma would shout. “And don’t get the flex in a knot.” Meanwhile the laptop screams at me about Cookies. Do I want to accept them or manage them? I wish I knew. If I hit the “Help” button I have trouble trying to formulate a question in the appropriate jargon. Then the reply is in a totally alien language. “Was this answer useful?” a mystery person asks. I say “No,” but they get upset and quickly go away. It might help if I had an operator’s manual but modern equipment never includes one. If I pluck up the courage to ask for such a document I get the smug response. “Full instructions are contained inside the device.” But what if I cannot get inside the device? Or even switch it on? Another feature of the digital world is the use of virtual assistants. Amazon have Alexa and Microsoft offer Cortana. Unpaid carers and their people in need have another long established system. The version in service in our house is called..... ASK STUART!