Nerdifying my Pop

Life is full of ironies. For example, my Dad, a retired auto parts salesman who often teases me for my unhealthy obsession with gadgets and all things tech, has almost as many Apple products as me.

Is he the exception? I don’t think so. I think many times we view Apple products, and tech in general, as hitting two target markets: 1. The tech at heart (yours truly) and 2. those that use it as a status symbol. That may be a bit narrow, but I think we forget about other categories out there. For example, those that use it because it’s dead simple and enriches their life simply because of that.

My Dad’s first Apple product was a hand-me-down first generation iPod Shuffle. You know the one I’m talking about, right? It looked like a large USB thumb drive with a fashionable lanyard lid? In the summer he wears it around his neck each week while sporting some white and orange Skullcandy headphones we got him. Coolest pop on the block. We filled it with some Rolling Stones and Doo Wop music so all he had to do was hit play and mow to his heart’s content.

Upon retirement, he mentioned he would like to get a small netbook or device of some sort to be able to quickly check email (a new addition to his life) while he and my mom traveled around in their camping trailer. After much internal debate within our family if he would even be able to use the thing, we pooled our resources and got him a 16GB wifi iPad. I made the case that although it’s more expensive, he could use the iPad and its simple interface for not just email but to enrich his retirement more overall. For example, watching Netflix, crossword puzzles, reading books, even watching videos on how to restore his ‘55 Chevy while he works on it. A few months later, he says there isn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t use it. For a father that until then had maybe touched a computer for an hour of his life time, that’s saying something.

This Christmas, I came up with the idea of getting him an Apple TV. Again, there was debate if he would use it, but it was mainly internal with myself. I personally had mixed feelings about the new product, but when I mentally installed it in my Dad’s life, I could see him putting it to good use. He loved to watch movies and television, so to augment that for a mere $100 and a Netflix account was a no brainer. I showed him AirPlay, how to rent movies, etc., but I honestly doubt if he will ever use those features. A set top box promising to be the simplest experience of Netflix was all that was needed.

I suppose the moral of the story is to open our tech minds a bit and think beyond what you would use it for. I found myself pleasantly surprised when I thought of products I wanted, but just didn’t make sense to me, fit perfectly into the lifestyles of others. Now my Dad is talking about how he would like something to replace his old iPod shuffle to better enhance his gym work out. New iPod nano with built-in pedometer anyone? Oh, Steve Jobs, you’ve done it again.

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