Lessons from my 83-year-old Uncle

By Sandra Clitter  

Do you ever have those moments of total clarity? Moments when you step back, look at something, and say ‘why didn’t I see that before’, or ‘why didn’t I think of that’, or whatever? Some people call them ‘Aha’ moments. Well, I recently had a two MAJOR ‘aha’ moments.

Let me set the stage. My uncle LOVES technology. Yup. You read correctly. He’s 83, but he never hesitates to try out something new gizmo or gadget. In fact, he dives in with both feet, so to speak.

This past fall, he decided that the DVR provided by the cable company didn’t really do all the things that he wanted it to do, so he went online, researched Tivo, called them up and ordered a Tivo box. When it arrived, he dismantled the existing configuration and inserted the Tivo box. His TV setup now allows him to record four different shows at one time – two on the Tivo, one on an old DVR, and one on an old VCR. All of them are set up with the gorgeous flat-screen TV that he purchased some five years ago – before most people had flat-screen TVs. Last year, he bought, and installed, a sound bar, so that he got stereo quality sound, rather than the weaselly sound that comes out of the TV speakers.

My uncle doesn’t call other people to do the installations. He doesn’t wait until someone shows up in the house who can do the installation. He just jumps right in and tries it. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, then he’ll begin researching from the point of the breakdown and try any suggestions that he comes across. Most of the time, he solves any issues himself.

His love of technology doesn’t stop with the A/V stuff. He has a computer network (which he installed) in his house, and 3 computers on which he works (one is a Netbook, one is a laptop, and one is a desktop). He has a proper backup system installed, so that he doesn’t lose his work.

He set up a website locally on his laptop to ‘try it out’. This wasn’t just static web-pages either, but a SQL driven website! Really!

He subscribes to PC World magazine, and reads it cover-to-cover the day it arrives. He saves them, so that if he needs to research something later, he’ll have the issues handy. If he can’t find it in the magazine, he’ll try online at pcworld.com or cnet.com.

OK, Sandy…get back to the ‘moment of clarity’. Actually, there were TWO moments of clarity.

The first: He asked me what I thought about digital book readers (e.g. Kindle, Nook, etc.). I told him that I wasn’t all that jazzed about them because I like the feel of a book in my hands. ‘Why are you asking?’, says I. ‘Oh, I’ve been researching them [this time Consumer Reports was the backbone of the research], and I’ve decided to get a Kindle’. WHAT!?!?! I don’t want to give up my paper books, and my 83-year-old Uncle is going to? Yikes.

The second: Before he starts any project, he READS THE DIRECTIONS!! What a concept! If the directions don’t come with the product, he’ll find them online and print them out. It’s amazing what reading the directions will do to make a project run smoothly. (I’m more of a ‘jump right in with both feet’ kind of person, and often have to backtrack to clear up issues I’ve created for myself).

My ‘aha’ moments?

1. That maybe I should be more willing to try out new technology before it becomes ‘old’ technology.
2. The next project I begin (regardless of what it is), I vow to actually READ the DIRECTIONS!!!

Take it from an 83-year-old…technology is something to be embraced!


  1. Leslie
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 7:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Amazing post, honest!

  2. Anonymous
    Posted January 24, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I enjoy seeing websites that understand the value of providing a prime resource for free. I truly loved reading your post. Thanks!

  3. Posted January 21, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink | Reply

    I am so excited to read that you, too, don’t read the directions. By any chance does this mean that you are sometimes click-happy, too?
    P.S. By the way, because I didn’t read your directions (in the beuatiful manual you wrote for us), I kind of screwed up something on the WYP website. What does your Uncle have to say about fessing up boo-boos??

    • Posted January 23, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

      LOL!!! Yes, there are certainly times when I do NOT read the directions…I try to make those times when I won’t do harm, but I can’t honestly say that I always succeed :-). Let me know your ‘boo-boo’ and I’ll help you correct! I’m sure that my uncle would approve of fessing up!

  4. Steve Bernish
    Posted January 21, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink | Reply

    Great story and a great lesson for all of us “know it alls”.

  5. Kathy Testa
    Posted January 20, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink | Reply

    Great advice!

  6. Posted January 17, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink | Reply

    Read directions? That is a novel concept. I try to teach it to my kids all the time, but when it comes to any new gadget I get, I typically skip over that part! Thanks for sharing Sandy!

    • Posted January 17, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink | Reply

      LOL!!! Thanks, Karen!! I know, I know…practice what we preach, right?!?!

  7. Posted January 16, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink | Reply

    The fun with an article like this is that we “see what we look for.” And at times we simply need to have our horizons widened so we can see more.

    Great piece about your uncle!

    Charlie Seymour Jr

    • Posted January 16, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink | Reply

      Oh, Charlie! You are soooo right. I’ve been spending more time with my uncle as of late, as he’s been ‘under the weather’, however, even that hasn’t deterred him from moving forward (“You have to move forward, or you die!” – wise words). After I wiped the shame from my face, I decided that it was an extremely valuable life lesson, and to use it ‘for good’ :-).

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  1. […] while ago I wrote about some lessons that I’d learned from my 83-year-old Uncle (check it out here). When last we visited, he was deciding between purchasing an iPad or a Kindle, or some other […]

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