My Mom Reviews the iPad, Her First Computer

By  |  Monday, March 28, 2011 at 8:35 am

I’ve often wondered why people who use their PCs for basic stuff–like checking e-mail and browsing the Web — are required to buy hardware that’s far more powerful than what they really require. With that power comes the complexity of operating systems preloaded with applications and utilities that many people will never use, making PCs unapproachable for people who aren’t tech savvy.

That’s all changing–first, with the introduction of netbooks, and now even more so with the iPad. Apple’s tablet brings appliance-like simplicity to light computing needs, and brought my mother, who is in her early 60s and had never used a computer before, onto the Web. I’ve documented her fresh perspective on the iPad in this interview.

–David Worthington

David: What was your expectation of what using a computer or iPad would be like before you used it, and has your opinion changed now that you’ve used one?

Mom: I was intrigued listening to people talking about what you can do with one. Now that I’ve used one, I’m still intrigued–being that I’m still a novice–with all of the information that you can get and what’s out there. My expectation is high –in a good way.

David: Would you suggest the iPad to other people who may be intimidated by using a computer?

Mom: Yes, I would, because I was. Once you get onto it, it’s pretty easy.

David: Has your experience made you more eager to delve into it and learn more?

Mom: Yeah. I’m doing more and more of that lately. I’m learning from my mistakes, and beginning to use Google.

David: What do you like about it?

Mom: That I have an e-mail address – you know. ‘Cause that’s the first thing [people] ask you: ‘What’s your e-mail address?’ So now, that makes me feel that I’m part of something–and then I feel that I can see and do more things now than I did before, because I didn’t have it a computer.

David: How about the iPad itself? Are there any particular apps you like or anything about it or how it works?

Mom: Well, I like it when I can go just push the e-mail, and then it goes to it real fast. I don’t know if a computer does that or not ’cause I don’t have anything to compare it to.

The Facebook [app], you know, I go to it, but I mean I don’t really use it. But now I can see that it doesn’t give you everything that you get when you’re online or whatever.

David: Compared to the Web site?

Mom: Yeah. To the website. You don’t get everything on [the app]. I didn’t realize that at first. But now that I have it that I can go to the website I see more on the website. Not that I really care that much.

David: Do you like any of the other apps?

Mom: The weather is good.

David: Have you tried to find more apps in the App Store?

Mom: I did by accident. It was like ‘what is that?’ Three [update notifications] were on the screen. I thought – what are they? The App Store?

So, I was able to go it, and one of [the updates] was for CNN, and then the other was for the Weather Channel.

David: Oh, to update them.

(David notes: I had installed several third-party apps onto the iPad while setting it up for her including CNN news, Facebook, and the Weather Channel.)

David: So you’re getting the newest versions of the apps, and you don’t need to do anything. ‘It just comes up.’

Mom: It comes up, and it says if you want to [update one] or if you want all three of them. Then the other day one was YouTube or something. I had to tap that I had read this thing, which I don’t do.

David: A [software] license disclosure.

Have you been able to locate apps that you would like through that same feature–when you hit App Store? Is there anything that interested you?

Mom: I haven’t really looked.

David: So, you’re just using what’s preloaded on there.

Mom: Yeah.

David: Okay. Is there anything about how the iPad works? Say, the home button for instance. Do you think that button makes it easier or more difficult to operate?

Mom: Well — it’s easy for me, but I have nothing to compare it to. If I get myself into a situation that I can’t get out of pushing the [app’s] buttons, I just push the home button and then turn it off.

David: What — if anything–is still confusing to you, or you think could work better?

Mom: Well, it’s too touchy. Even though I’m better with it now… if you happen just to move your hand or something, you know, then all of a sudden you’re out of what you’re in. That’s bad I think.

David: Like how you accidentally Liked Suzanne Somers on Facebook.

Mom: Yes. I don’t even know how I did that.

David: Okay. Out of these particular apps, the browser, or e-mail, is there anything about those that you think could be better? Or is it a matter of learning to use them and your experience level?

Mom: It’s just learning to use them for me. It’s because I don’t have any experience with a computer. So, it’s it’s as if I had a computer in front of me. I have to learn what’s in front of me and go with that.

David: What could have Apple have done better to help you understand how to use this?

Mom: I really don’t know because I’m getting it from looking at the [interface] things and all. I don’t know, because I sort of pick up on things fast.

David: You do. You were using it yourself on the first day and sending e-mails.

Mom: Yeah. I need hands on more so than reading. You know, I can listen to somebody, but it’s hands on with me. When I froze up that time I was able to [reboot] it over the phone.

David: Facebook froze up, and it caused a problem.

Mom: Yeah. It freezes up on here. That’s frozen on me about three or four times with no particular reason.

David: What we did was to tap the home button twice so you would have multi-tasking and kill the application.

Mom: I had to reboot it, too.

David: Yes, you did that.

Mom: Two more times–after I talked to you.

David: So, it’s the apps that are causing you the most problems.

Mom: Yeah.

David: Facebook in particular.

Mom: The e-mail is fine. I haven’t had a problem with that, but it’s the Facebook one that freezes all the time.

David: Okay. Do you have any last thoughts?

Mom: I like it. It’s small. It’s fast. I’m learning. I’m out there, you know, in the world now, more so than I was before. It’s a good tool, but as I said I don’t know…from what I hear from other people, they prefer the computer to this. I can’t compare. But, you know, I do like it.

David: Okay, that’s it. Thank you, mom.


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129 Comments For This Post

  1. Dave Says:

    My mom asked my if she should get an iPad for her first computer. I asked her if he wanted to use email, the web browser, listen to music, or watch movies/tv shows on it and she said no so that was that

  2. Mike Says:

    So what does she do on her computer?

  3. apmeyer Says:

    I was going to ask the same thing.

  4. Jonathan Says:


  5. Derek Says:

    "There's an app for that"

  6. Kyle Says:

    Never used a computer, can't look for apps and yet this sentence is spoken:

    I don’t know, because I sort of pick up on things fast.


  7. Harry McCracken Says:

    I dunno–there are such people as smart, quick-witted folks who aren't computer users. They're a tiny minority, granted, but I know some of 'em myself.


  8. NRBS Says:

    There are millions of smart, intelligent grown-ups who are simply far to busy getting on with their lives to bother learning anything beyond sending email and surfing the web, or using the pre-installed office applications at their work.

    Just because someone hasn't used, or doesn't know how to use a computer doesn't make them less quick to learn new skills – my father, for example, knew how to fly a fighter jet before he knew how to send an email… He still doesn't know how to actually set up an email account – but that is because it is of no interest to him, and like so many people, he doesn't care about the magic that happens in the background, any more than he cares how a telephone exchange works.

  9. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Most Windows users have never installed or updated a 3rd party native application. Mrs. Worthington was able to update her 3rd party apps almost by accident. A friend will recommend an app to her at some point and she will install it.

    Your snide nerd attitude is exactly why the PC industry is going away. Kiss it goodbye.

  10. jeremy Says:

    Kyle, I think you've missed the point somewhat – she's explored things that are interesting to her. The iPad has enough to keep her engaged before she's even looked into the App Store. She's not "learning" as much as "exploring" – and yes, that means the interesting things first. For her, someone who's never used a computer before that's email before the App Store. I'm sure you'd be different, you'd probably dive into the App Store first, downloading games, applications and adding them. She on the other hand wants to use the system to communicate, and explore the Web.

    What she means is what she's been interested to do she's found quite easy.

  11. Fanfoot Says:

    Nice. I hope someone else is being just as nice to your mother right now.

  12. Gordon Says:


    The beauty of this statement is not in its merits as an objective self-assessment, it's that using the device imbues her with confidence. I've helped many of my elders use their first PCs. Even with direct supervision and lessons, most of them come away from the experience demoralized and spent, feeling quite stupid actually.

    When the time comes, either by curiosity or by the urging of a friend, to try something new on the device, e.g., download an app, David's Mom will just do it. She won't be afraid that she's going to break the device or get a virus or not be able to figure it out. And she won't wait for David to do it for her or to be by her side as she gives it a try.

  13. Jj Van de Hoef Says:

    Great post. Really interesting to see how a "normal" person works with this kind of tech. Sort of makes me wonder if apps are really that essential for mainstream succes. My parents are the same with their macs, they use the basic word processing, mailing and browsing apps and thats it.

  14. The_Heraclitus Says:

    I got my mother a good laptop (that cost a lot less than an iPad) and quickly showed her how to use it. Good thing too as she ended up using it for stuff that the iPad can't really accomplish. But, I can see that for a small minority of people, spending more to get something a bit easier to use can be a good thing.

  15. James Says:

    What did she use it for that the iPad cannot do?

  16. Tonio Says:

    I'm not sure where I can get a "good laptop" for "a lot less than an iPad" but I'd love to find out. I know where I can get a crappy laptop that will cost me hours and hours of tech support down the road for a bit less than an iPad, maybe that's what you meant.

  17. Jeff Odd Says:

    That statement comes across as a bit elitist. I know lots of people who own $300 to $500 notebooks that have never required tech support and had no problem at all, which is what I suspect is the most common scenario.

    The iPad is a great device, and I want to buy one, but let's not pretend that everything else is useless because of it.

  18. David Says:

    If you know lots of people running netbooks that had no problems at all, then you know lots of people not running Windows.

  19. David Says:

    My iPad cost $500. There is NO way you got a good laptop that cost a lot less. Why do trolls feel the need to exaggerate?

  20. David Says:

    Oh, I've looked, There is a lot of junk out there and clearly the junk appeals to you. Enjoy.

  21. lin2log Says:

    Funny how you don't mention even ONE of those supposed things "that the iPad can't really accomplish" and that a MOM could actually need to do.

    Troll much?

  22. Lig Riv Says:

    Like – watch Hulu? Just saying…. Is it really that hard to find something doable on a netbook and not doable on an iPad?

  23. lin2log Says:

    Like – GET ISWIFTER for iPad??! Duuuuuh. Or the upcoming Hulu app??

    Yeah, and HULU is THEE first thing my mom *screams* for (and all those "never ever used a computer before"-mom's, which this is about btw, double-duuuh) when she hits the net… just like YOURS, no doubt. You couldn't possibly be (brainlessly) projecting the least bit, right? Neeeeeeew…

    Stay on-topic much?

  24. lin2log Says:

    Sorry, the EXISTING Hulu app!!! (my duh)

    No idea how someone can make such a stupid claim without taking the five seconds that it takes to search the App Store FIRST. *facepalm*

  25. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Hooking up her USB camera so she could skype with her grandkids & taking her digital cams card and putting it into the ipad. I guess iPad owners just don't have the IQ…

  26. Matt K Says:

    You realize that iPad 2 has cameras, don't you? And as long as her camera uses SD cards, she can get an SD card reader for downloading photos.

  27. Matt Says:

    A minority of people? You do know that *you8 are the minority, right? That outside of business purchasing, the iPad is selling faster than any other computing device, and that tablet computing is the fastest growing industry in tech?

  28. jsd Says:

    there isn't even a facebook app for iPad so I don't know why she's having so much trouble. Using the iPhone one in pixel-doubled mode maybe? Just go to the facebook website in Safari… it works pretty well. (Although I actually prefer using Flipboard to deal with Facebook now. It's very nice.)

  29. Merciel Says:

    It might be one of the unofficial iPad apps. I've tried a few and some of them are buggy.

  30. Sam Says:

    There are several facebook apps for the iPad. Not from the Facebook company, but written by third parties and which bring native controls to the app. I prefer them to the site, although the site renders nicely on the iPad.

  31. David Worthington Says:

    @jsd she was using the Facebook app, but now prefers to use Safari.

  32. @mactelligent Says:

    Hi David,
    This review of the iPad by your Mom, is the best one I've read in quite some time. I liked it so much I posted it on my blog:

    Having worked in technology – both for Apple and Pixar – I often forget the perspective and insights of a first time Mac user. The article was both informative and refreshing.

  33. John Says:

    I'd also like to know what she ended up using it for.

  34. David Worthington Says:

    she primarily browses the Web and checks her e-mail. I may send her gift cards for ebooks as well.

  35. tee Says:

    Would like to see if she does one of the free one-on-one training classes at Apple and how much faster she picks up on using the App store and other features on the iPad after that.

    My mom is about this same age and used the Apple classes for her Mac a few years ago to get up to speed on software. She recently started asking if she should get an iPad and I think it would be good. Absolutely less tech support from me than if she got a Wintel laptop.

  36. @kawika Says:

    Harry, I'm curious which app your mother is using for Facebook. Is it just the official Facebook app for the iPhone and iPod touch, or are you using a third-party app designed specifically for the iPad. Great to hear real words from a real person. I bet it would be a kick to watch people behind a one-way mirror try various computing products for the first time and see where they get stuck.

  37. Tim Says:

    You know, I couldn't help but hear these words in my own Mom's voice… Unfortunately she is no longer with us but she often expressed similar ideas. I would buy her an iPad in an instant. I truly believe she would use it though while she was alive she would never touch any of my computers for fear of "messing them up".

    On iPad 2 launch day I was in line with an elderly Korean couple who were buying an iPad for themselves. They had a Mac for years (I think their Son set it up for them) but hardly ever used it because of the intimidation factor and the fact the didn't like to bother their Son who lived 1000 miles away. The iPad they were convinced would be easier and more "focused" for their needs. Of course I determined their old Mac wouldn't run iTunes 10 so I asked the Apple Employees to set everything up for them, including an iTunes account and when I met them an hour later they were delighted to be headed home with a configured machine. Apple certainly needs to remove the need for a PC/Mac to setup an iPad.

    Oh, one more thing, to all of you that still have a Mom… call her 🙂


  38. Hauke Says:

    Hey Tim – just called my Mom, who also loves her iPad. Thanks for the very important reminder and interesting commentary on the iPad 2 launch!

  39. mikebass Says:

    My dad is 66 and was using a hand-me-down Mac to get on the web and check his e-mail. He's seen me show my 5-year-old niece how to use my iPad. Now he's asking if I'd sell it to him so I can buy an iPad 2.

    I think it would be good for him. The only thing I'm worried about is the resolution… him being able to see the screen… but after reading this piece I think he'll be okay.

  40. David Says:

    whoops. pressed wrong button. sorry.

  41. Capnbob Says:

    My dad is 79 and could barely one finger peck at an old iBook to use google (rather than ask my mum to look things up for him). I got him an iPad and suddenly it's 'his computer'. He is now surfing web sites, using apps, catching up shows on BBC iPlayer and sending letters to the editor. Still one finger pecking but that is fine on the iPad. He uses it about 2hrs per day.
    It's a miracle!

  42. MooseDesign Says:

    Now if Apple could sever the ties with the computer altogether by not having to sync through iTunes, then their post-PC vision would be complete. However, with that albatross, the concept of an experience truly unburdened by remnants of the PC world remains to be attained.

    Did she do any of the setup at all? I know you mentioned you had pre-installed some apps… but I'm curious to know how how the day-to-day interface with the actual computer colors the experience or are you the gatekeeper? Does she sync the iPad herself?

  43. David Worthington Says:

    i: I set it up and worked with her on Christmas day. She's been on her own since then barring a single phone call.

    ii. It is only synced to my laptop when I'm home. She just uses it like an Internet appliance.

  44. MooseDesign Says:

    Very cool! I wonder if my own mother might be able to go for almost 4 months and just a single phone call… about the iPad. 😉

  45. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    There are plenty of standalone iPad users. Apple will activate your iPad in-store.

  46. George Says:

    I'm guessing that server farm in NC will be used to allow iPads to be free of PC tethering yet still be backed up online. People forget that the PC/Mac tether is the backup system (something Apple wanted to be automatic) and they couldn't dump that until the server farm was ready. $20 a year for a cloud-based iPad.

  47. MooseDesign Says:

    Yeah, I'm aware of that…Totally my own technical insecurities here, but not being able to backup or update the OS would preclude that option for me. Still, if Apple included an iDutiful Son unit with each purchase I'm sure it would suffice.

  48. Ed Oswald Says:

    Love it dave — knowing your mom, it sounds like her too actually. But at least you're bringing her into the digital age!

  49. Ben Says:

    Awesome post. My mother also got an iPad for home computer use (a downgrade from a MacBook Pro) and she's much happier with less features.

  50. Keith Says:

    Apple has excellent videos about how to use the built-in apps for the iPad.

    I got one for my 60+ year old parents, and my brother shares his iPad with his 3 and 5 year old kids. It’s a great consume product for people of any age.

    Techies might scoff at people who don’t know how to use computers, but numbers don’t lie: Apple sold 14.8 million iPads in 2010. That doesn’t sound like a tiny minority to me.

  51. LizardLiquer Says:

    Congratulations to your Mom, David. Do you do the "mother shipping" of the iPad? To my understanding, the iModules need a mothership to do most all of the backup and restoring and all. So if she never had or used a computer is the reason for my questions.

  52. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Even if he gave his mother a Windows PC, she would not be backing it up or upgrading the OS.

  53. Rachel Says:

    My aunt had no computer for years and years, and was actually starting to feel isolated; her painting class always sent out schedule changes and such via e-mail, and she didn't have e-mail so she didn't stay in the loop unless someone else remembered to call her and let her know.

    I got her an iPad 3G before the unlimited data plan went away. She doesn't even have cable or DSL, but she can use her iPad at home via 3G (or use WiFi when she's in a coffeeshop, or at my parents' house or mine) and send e-mail, check the news, and so many other things. She's already very handy with it, and it was a lot less hassle overall than signing her up for broadband, getting WiFi set up, getting her a little laptop and everything else would have been.

  54. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Brilliant example of jumping ahead a generation to catch up.

  55. Simone Manganelli Says:

    The most hilarious thing about this review is that the review text just doesn't show up when you visit this page on the iPad. Website fail.

  56. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    It is working for me.

  57. Chris Says:

    And I'm having no problems either.

  58. Makea Says:

    Shows up fine here on my iPad.

  59. Jago Says:

    Fine on mine….?

  60. Lee McGuirw Says:

    and mine.

  61. David Says:

    Working for me on my iPad.

  62. @gonzopancho Says:

    And mine

  63. Iosweeky Says:

    And mine…

  64. Quad4B Says:

    It depends which Pad version you're using. In fact, from your problem I'd have to say you're on the XoomPad or perhaps the Galaxy TabPad version. My iPad version works just fine.

  65. Andre Friedmann Says:

    Fascinating story, David.
    At the risk of hijacking your good thread, here’s a question this reader is pondering:
    True or false: it is no longer possible for people who live in advanced western societies to claim simultaneously that they’ve never used a computer and are quick learners.
    If true, when did that happen? If false, will that happen and when?

  66. David Says:

    Yes. There were doctors, mathematicians, and generally sharp people before computers. Knowing, for example, Unix command line arguments do not necessarily make you smart.

  67. meat on sticks Says:

    "True or false: it is no longer possible for people who live in advanced western societies to claim simultaneously that they've never used a computer and are quick learners."

    false. and frighteningly smug, in a rich world where gobs of us are functionally illiterate and innumerate by circumstance.

    "If false, will that happen and when?"

    ubiquity requires almost nothing of the user except a desire to get the information or accomplish the task.

  68. Tom Dibble Says:

    False. And, no, will not happen (in the current definition of "computer"). "Quick learner" does not equal nor imply "curious about personal computers".

    I'm assuming that by "computer" you mean a Windows or Mac PC. It's incredibly hard to really never have used a computer in the more general sense, and I'm fairly certain the author's mother has indeed used computers before in her life. Even owned them. And, if you narrow the definition of "computer" down to that, I think that what will happen is that the "quick learners who just don't want to spend their time, however quick, on learning how to talk to a computer" will still be around, and the "computer" will evolve to meet their needs instead.

    It's not just old people, either. There are young people who are completely into games and gadgetry who don't feel the need to plumb the depths of a laptop.

  69. Warren Says:

    I got my folks to switch to OSX after their PC tanked last year. The learning curve involved mostly their getting used to having a single systemwide menu bar instead of per-window menus.

    They’re not even remotely interested in any kind of tablet at the moment (iOS or otherwise), which I find interesting. They seem to prefer the complexity!

  70. @GlennF Says:

    Very lovely piece. The iPad makes the technology disappear, so you have to find the use case first. A friend's dad was entirely uninterested in an iPad she and her siblings got him and their mother until they showed him how to bring up old car races on YouTube. Now, you can't get it away from him.

  71. @gonzopancho Says:

    Oh man. Now I have to find an NHRA app for my dad.

  72. David Says:

    I gave my mom (62 years old at that time) an iPod touch 2 years ago. I installed Skype and some games, created some web sites bookmarks and setup an email account. Now, she could write Chinese email to me at any time. She could call me (at USA) using Skype from Canada. She paid her bills using Safari with web banking URL. Check supermarkets' flyers online. Buy/Sell stocks through web banking. She loves it and the only complaint is that the screen is too small for her eyes. I am still waiting for her iPad 2 to arrive for replacing her iPod touch.

  73. Grace Says:

    Which program is your mom using to write ton you in Chinese? Would love to get my mom something that she could use to communicate with her relatives in Taiwan.

  74. @ask Says:

    The wonder of "soft" keyboards; they can be changed to fit the user and application!

    In the "Keyboard" settings (under "General") you can enable a variety of keyboards, including several Chinese variants. I use it for switching between English (US) and Danish keyboards. At least for those languages, it also changes the spell check dictionary.

  75. @pwthornton Says:

    I'm intrigued to hear that your Mom has never used a computer before this, but you ended up writing about technology? That's fascinating. How did you end up getting into this?

  76. David Worthington Says:

    We always had a computer in the house. My first was a Commodore. We started programming in LOGO when I was in 4th grade, and I was a techy ever since. CIS was my undergrad major at one point.

  77. David Says:

    Why so strange? My mother never went to college and didn't use a computer. I have a BS in Computer Science and have many PCs including this iPad.

  78. KiltBear Says:

    My mother is 84, she has been using her first computer, an iMac G5 for about 8 years. Believe me, I am looking forward to getting her on an iPad 2, especially since her retirement community is going WiFi all over the place. An iPad2, a stand, and a keyboard. Goodbye to almost every support issue I've had to deal with. (I hope)

  79. @diskgrinder Says:

    I got my dad (68) an iPod touch about a year and a half ago. With zero tech support from me until 6 months ago when we went to PC World and he bought an iPad. 6 months later he's asking me whether he should upgrade to iPad 2 "because Infinity Blade is better"

  80. Lee Says:

    Thats awesome. I can't stop laughing.

  81. meat on sticks Says:

    drawing from my elderly parental unit's experience, her circle of friends would count a few things against tablets:

    1) can't view flash widgets people email you (ok get real, only idiots buy grandma a xoom)
    2) can't videochat (zombie complaint). also: why did skype log out?
    3) slow typing, in a weird body position (big problem)
    4) can't keep extended hand steady enough to operate interface
    5) charging is easy to forget, tiny charging attachment is annoying (docks might be better)
    6) wifi isn't as dependable as ethernet (or cordless phones or tv remotes)
    7) feel left out when friends share malware stories
    8) can't just leave windows open. also: i clicked a link and watched the movie, um, where'd the email go?
    9) no desktop to put things
    10) volume is too low, earbuds are annoying

  82. Rick Says:

    One more thing, and I promise this isn't a self promotion, since I'm guessing none of you live near me. I used to work Apple Retail and actually started a business where I help folks just like your mom learn how to use a Mac or iPad. I go into the quiet and comfort of their own home and teach them about apps, email, and the internet. Typically, these folks are turned off by the hassle of an Apple Retail Store. This article is another example of the need that's out there!

  83. Paul Says:

    David, can you talk about the WiFi setup at her house, how you went about doing this specifically? I know a couple of people who would really get on well with an iPad, but I'd need to set up an AirPort Express for them to get online. I know there's no computer at her house, so to set that up did you take your computer over (and any time there's an iOS update, she'd have to bring the iPad to you so you can dock and update it via your computer)?

    That's the one area about iPads that I wish was different…that they were a bit more of a standalone, self-contained device. Think about it…for the very people who would benefit from them post (newcomers, first-timers, etc.) probably aren't going to have a computer (and WiFi) already in their house (otherwise, what's the point). I wish the iPad would come, out of the box, ready to be used without connecting to a host computer (if one chose to do so). And that Apple included an AirPort setup utility within the Settings.

    Just curious how you approach these particular tasks…

  84. David Says:

    Hi Paul, I went to my mom's house to setup the wifi router (d-link) with my computer. I could remotely control her router from my home at USA if I need to. I found that AirPort Express/Extreme is much easier if you also have a MobileMe account. You can manage all AirPort routers on the Internet as long as they all have the same MobileMe account.

    My mom won't update the iOS and she needs to wait for me to come over and do that with my computer. However, she could update apps through App Store.

  85. NormM Says:

    The tech support hassle for an iPad seems pretty minimal compared to a PC. Buy the 3G version to avoid any need to set up WiFi. Use mobileme if you care about calendar and bookmark sync/backup, and if the user produces any documents they can keep a copy in their email. A PC is really only required to update the OS, and that can happen a couple of times a year (or never!), taking the iPad to your place or bringing a laptop to the iPad.

  86. davezatz Says:

    How old is mom and does she have WiFi or a 3G connection?

    I've been thinking of replacing my mom's "real" computer with an iPad at some point – her top three uses are email, web surfing, and Scrabble. The iPad would cover that. Not sure how/where she'd scan the old photos and letters she's started archiving though. Hm.

  87. David Worthington Says:

    it's a WiFi only iPad. She probably wouldn't like me sharing her exact age. 🙂

  88. The CW Says:

    My folks are 83 and 84 and they use the iPad almost exclusively now. The beauty of it is that I don't have to show them everything. Much of the interface is discoverable.

  89. ldb Says:

    My mom just turned 70, and loves her iPad. And she's never once asked if it's single- or dual-core!

  90. Paul Says:

    Thanks for the response. I would be doing a similar thing on my end. I was just wanting to hear how someone else would've gone about it, to make sure I wasn't totally out to lunch.

    Yeah, the iOS updates are few and far between, and the apps can be done directly, so I suppose, once the WiFi router is set up, it should be easy enough for someone (especially if I can do some remote monitoring/troubleshooting, as needed).

  91. Windmill Says:

    Great post. My mom is exactly the same. What about in twenty years time when the vast majority of people will have spent their working lives using a computer?

    Ease of use will matter, sure. But in the same way? I wonder where human interface research will take us with this demographic shift?

  92. Lee Says:

    My mom (64) just purchased and iPad 2 yesterday because she was tired of borrowing my son's iPad to play angry birds. I asked her if the iPad 2 seemed much faster than the iPad 1. She said, "The birds seem to fly at the same speed, but I think the pigs are smarter".

    She just called (in the middle of typing this), to let me know that there is a new game called "ChickenBalls" that is better than angry birds. I have a feeling that iTunes gift cards will be the new christmas gift of choice.

  93. nangka Says:

    the pigs have the dual cores to evade them birds!! lollll….

  94. lin2log Says:

    totally LOLed on that one… "the pigs are smarter"… brilliant…

  95. Wiseguy Says:

    Humor aside, you do have a fair point. The iPad is great for many people, but it's certainly not perfect for everyone. And that's fine. It's just that the way you presented this point was a bit sensationalist.

  96. Fanfoot Says:

    @Wiseguy, when you say 'you' here, who are you talking to? You think that David's post is sensationalist? Seriously, in what way? Or are you talking to somebody else?

  97. Wiseguy Says:

    No, not at all! It's in regard to the comment to which I'm replying (the one by The_Heraclitus). Now that the comment chain is so long, it's probably hard to see that it was a reply to a comment, not to the root article.

  98. Wiseguy Says:

    You're free to disagree with what he said or be offended by how he said it, but resorting to insult slinging is plainly disrespectful and useless. Take the high ground; don't stoop well below his level.

  99. Yos Says:

    I like the concept : interview your mom. Good idea, so sweet 🙂

  100. Rip Says:

    "I’ve often wondered why people who use their PCs for basic stuff–like checking e-mail and browsing the Web — are required to buy hardware that’s far more powerful than what they really require." iPad is in the same category.

  101. David Worthington Says:

    yes, you are technically correct. the iPad is significantly more powerful than computers that took people to the moon.

  102. windguide Says:

    I guess sometimes I take for granted how easy it is for me to use a computer. It puts things into perspective, doesn't it?

  103. Sharon Says:

    Soooo reminds me of my mom. She got her first netbook a year ago, at age 69. Now she Skypes, emails (gmail), is active on Facebook (since a couple months), does stuff in word (and even uses the track-changes to work on documents with other people!) and can send attachments. And that after decades of being afraid of computers. Now she even thinks that other women her age that don't want to use a computer are 'stupid' b/c they are afraid of it. And she hates it when others her age only check their email once a week….

    It's so funny to follow the progress our mom's make — and I am proud of her! Maybe as proud as she was when I came home from school, age 6, making progress in reading…..

  104. Eugenia Says:

    I got my mom (56yo) a Linux netbook last June. It runs Ubuntu 10.04 and it works well enough. She only needs GTalk, Skype, and a web browser (and email via the Gmail web interface). She never used a computer in her life (or a smartphone) before last June.

    A desktop OS is more complicated than iOS, but she has managed to learn how to do the basic things she needs to do to get in touch with me online, and reading local news. She still has major problems with getting her head around copy/paste, saving and retrieving files, and going to web site addresses manually (she navigates only via bookmarks and links within the visited pages). She also can’t work with digital images via the digicam’s SD card and Nautilus. She once just removed the SD card and Linux corrupted the FAT32 fs on it and lost her pictures, just because she didn’t “eject” the SD card first. These are the kinds of things that she needs the OS to do better for her.

    I’m thinking to get her an iPad too when this netbook dies, not before that though… She manages well-enough for now. An iPad with better cameras and possibly an SD card slot will be her next step though.

  105. David Worthington Says:

    there's an SD card accessory for the iPad.

  106. @gonzopancho Says:

    You must not love your mother if you make her use Linux 🙂

  107. Tim Says:

    I'd love to buy my parents an iPad, but it's really designed around the "peripheral for a Mac/PC" concept still. When you open the box, you need to plug it into your Mac/PC before you can even start using it. There's a number of things you can only do in iTunes and then sync across, rather than doing on the iPad itself — upgrades, for one, but not only that. And you can only do backups, AFAICT, by syncing.

    So it's basically only a "buy for my parents" option if I'm also willing to buy them a computer, too, or bring my own laptop over there and maintain it for them. That's unfortunate, because I know they'd love it, and there's nothing about the hardware or software that inherently requires a Mac/PC mothership. I don't think they'd love also having to maintain a cheap Mac/PC for it, and I know I wouldn't love maintaining that for them (especially as I live in a different city).

    You're right that it's not ideal to make people buy computer hardware they don't want or need. When Apple makes an iPad that can live on its own, they'll sell tens of millions to all the people who don't want to buy computers at all.

  108. @gonzopancho Says:

    What do you think that huge datacenter in NC is for?

    Why do you think WWDC is all about software this year?

    iOS 5, baby!

  109. Eugenia Says:

    >there’s an SD card accessory for the iPad.

    I know, but I rather have it on-board.

    Also, I forgot to write above that my mom’s netbook cost $250, while the iPad costs $500 (+50 for the optional SD reader). So for now my mom is set with the Linux netbook. But the better usability of the iPad will come to play when that netbook is to be replaced, but not before that.

  110. fanfoot Says:

    Really great post Dave, and while I've been thinking the same thing about how the iPad can really bring a bunch of people into the web that would otherwise be too intimidated by computers, its still refreshing and helpful to read this first person account regardless. Thanks for posting this!

  111. Smitty Says:

    I'm 56, and my almost-85-year-old mother has used a PC for about 5 years now. She is excited to get my wife's four-year-old MAcBook this MAy for her birthday, because she's really excited about being on the same platform as her grandkids. (Most are Macs now.) I'm curious how someone in the US in their early 60's missed the last 25 years of computing. She has never had a computer to use before? Really? That's sad.

  112. pnoble Says:

    Wonderful post. Can't wait to see the next wave of adoption as iOS 5 removes the need (I'm quite sure) for a computer as a starting point. I think Apple will maintain near iPod level market dominance since their incredible attention to the user experience will be so important to those who are not 'computer literate', including the very young and those who missed out on the computer era. We are truly at the dawn of the post-computer era with Apple leading the way.

    PS: written on my iPad 2. I find myself getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of text input automation on my Mac!

  113. Chuck B Says:

    I recently purchased a macbook air for a 67 year old. With its large SSD and reasonable power, I find it as convenient as my ipad for everything other than editing photos, movies, and large word files, for which I prefer my 27 inch imac. My mom can't seem to get the hang of the new ipad beyond looking at photos and facetime, but she is 100, and doesn't care to surf the net.

  114. Kathi F Says:

    My 75 year old mother uses the original iPad. She likes Facebook, Netflix, email, uploading and sharing pictures, solitaire and angry birds. She has learned how to cut and paste a few times. She doesn't get the concept of synching. She can get lost pretty easily if something out of the ordinary happens. She wants to be able to print. According to my father, who wants nothing to do with any technology, she's on it all the time.

  115. nickwoodworking Says:

    David: Like how you accidentally Liked Suzanne Somers on Facebook.


  116. Gib Wallis Says:

    Interesting how trying to elicit a positive response about the home button's ease of use prompts her to say that she will also turn off her iPad. And that managing multi-tasking seems too difficult. And that it crashes a lot — more than she even calls her son about.

    Saying she's a fast learner was funny and charming.

  117. Ken Says:

    My mom started out with a nice Compaq 15" notebook. She used about 4 times to look up lottery numbers and to review the front page of the Asbury Park Press. That's it! 2 years later I got her the ipad and she does a lot more like using pageonce to check out her bills, The press again of course and the lottery. Now though, I can Skype her and she reads the news in CNN and so on. She likes it but is still somewhat intimidated by it. My mom is 82.

  118. buzzIT Says:

    wow..good one. I want to give it to my mom and see what happens 🙂

  119. David Says:

    That's funny. Why do people need more powerful PC's. I sit here waiting for the page to refresh….waiting….waiting….as my PC seemly is working hard to load all the background stuff on this webpage. I try to scrol down…..still have to wait….scroll down now…..nope page is not loaded yet. Can't my PC's graphics card handle webpage. It seems not. Somehow only my CPU is involved and my PC is about 5 years old. You would think a dual core AMD X2 4200 with 4GB of RAM with 1GB Nvidia graphics card would be enough . It isn't. Shoot I need a new PC to browse the internet.. Have you every tried going to Apple's website. I don't know why but their webpages really slow my PC down. Of course I also have Kasperski running in the background properly checking every script in the webpage to make sure there is no malware. I'm sure that contributes to it being slow. Otherwise my PC is fine. It seems webpages are becomming so bloated you need a newer PC to browse them. I can also use my iPad but it isn't exactly speedy either.

  120. Bob Says:

    We gave my father an iPad for his 85th birthday. We had to set up a WiFi network in his home, but that was it. He learned to use it very quickly and loves it. He does not like using headphones with it, preferring to use the speaker on the iPad. He loves YouTube. I have tried to show him how to watch network news videos on it, but he hasn't made that a habit. As for email, it is perfect. He lives 180 miles away, so I'm not able to make sure he upgrades his apps. But I would say it is an unqualified success.

  121. Amy Says:

    Today, my sister gave our mom her first computer, an iPad. It will be interesting to see how this pans out for my 73 year old mom.

  122. VegasChris Says:

    The iPad is NOT a computer — it's an internet appliance. If not for the internet, an iPad would be useless — this is a huge point that needs to be considered. I can do a ton of difficult and highly complex work on my laptop in the middle of the desert if I choose to. I can create and store huge files that are limited only by disk space, not memory capacity. Not so with an iPad.

    Apple has always had great marketing. It's extremely adept in making the consumer see its devices with only one eye open. Contrary to what everyone likes to believe, a Mac IS a PC as PC is short for Personal Computer irrespective of the OS that's installed on it. Can not a PC run UNIX as well?

    How many different hardware configurations can a Mac OS run on? Answer: Only the hardware produced by Apple.

    How many different hardware configurations can Windows or UNIX run on? Answer: An indeterminable amount.

    How many stores can offer Apple hardware at a discount? Answer: None.

  123. david Says:

    What the hell? The iPad's not a computer, silly blogger!

  124. Robert Says:

    I am the same age as your mother. I have been using a computer since the late 1970s (though, obviously, not the same one). Most of my friends are my age. I don't know anyone who lives on earth, is in their sixties and knows so little or has so little experience with computers as your mother.

    Secondly, I find the Facebook story bizarre. If your mother has never seen a computer before, how would she know about Facebook and even if you had explained it to her, why would she be even mildly interested in it? This would be like saying you know someone who has never seen a car before and then asked whether it is was turbocharged or not.

    Sorry, I just don't buy this.

  125. Dan Says:

    Fantastic Post: very interesting. I am fairely certain that you Mother represents a larger segment of the population that we think. I run a dev shop and had my team read your post with this message "Ask yourself if his mom could use what you just built…if the answer is "no" them start over'.

  126. Rob Says:

    There are at least two things which give me pause relative to buying an iPad for my 67 year old brother’s first computer. One is the relatively small screen size. I use a 20″ flat screen and will replace it next time with at least a 24″ one. My brother does not want or need a portable computer. He wants to wean himself from the large television/cable onto the internet

    Secondly, I can easily type over 60 words a minute, something which my brother can’t do, but which might be a hindrance for using the iPad to induce him to communicate through the written word. I suppose we could skype, instead.

    Other than those two drawbacks, the iPad is a marvelous piece of technology! I agree with VegasChris about the proprietary and cult-like Mac world. I’ve had a Dell workstation for ten years of trouble free service using Windows XP. Why do Mac people whine about poorly perfoming “PC” machines?

    Anyway, I like the Samsung Galaxy better that the iPad, but Mac cult is suing them in Europe. The whining goes on. They’re no different than the evil Microsoft.

  127. sanzer Says:

    While I am a bit of a geek for a 66-year-old (Mac only), I definitely know that there are people out there (mostly older than me) who don't know what "click" means so are clueless about "double click". While the iPad and similar devices (provided they can be set up and maintained by someone else's computer) is a good answer for home users, I'm not sure that a first time user stands a chance in the business world… I was impressed by the writer who said the Apple Store set it up for some customers who didn't have a home computer – seems that should be an offered service until (and if) they can become a stand-alone device.

  128. hana Says:

    great interview and fun read. Thanks!

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