My Grandma Can Code Circles Around Your Dudebro

I am far from the first, or the last, person to talk about this, but, seriously, can we knock it off with the ‘hahaha grandmas using computers?’ jokes? Like, seriously? See also ‘hahaha moms using computers,’ which goes right in the same category. Because I’m really tired of seeing adult women framed as hapless victims of technology they are clearly too stupid to use, like they need to be guided through the process by knowledgeable young people, preferably dudes, whom we all know are the best at the teching, and therefore will be the ones to save a generation of bumbling old ladies from mistaking like using Internet Explorer and replying to Nigerian scams.

Here’s the thing, people.

One, you’re a bunch of sexist arsewads. You’re saying that an entire gender is incapable of dealing with technology, which is patently ridiculous, and also obviously not true. There are lots of women working in tech to disprove your claim that women can’t work in technology, and they’ve been involved in the start. You know who did a lot of the coding work for early computing? Women. You know who worked their fingers to the bone in the Second World War on cryptography, complex calculations, and early computing systems? Women.

Who were actually known as ‘computers’ for their work. What they did was critically essential and not only contributed to the current sociopolitical landscape, it also laid the foundations for a lot of modern technology. Their work went into the creation of hardware and software that continue to be used today, and that’s on top of all the stuff ladies are inventing right now with their busy little inventing minds. What I’m saying here is that women have been involved in tech all along, continue to be involved in tech, and are in fact capable of grasping the finer subtleties of technology all on their own selves, without having to be guided by a big strong brogrammer.

Furthermore, you’re a bunch of ageist pooper-scoopers1. Because, newsflash, those ladies who worked in tech all those years ago? Well, they’re still alive. It’s not like they aged out of it or were like ‘welp, now that I’m 30 and the war’s over, guess I’d better get back in the kitchen and bake some pies or some shit.’ In fact, what they did was continue to work in the tech industry, and continue to work on the development of products they’d been working on all along.

In other words, women in tech, you know, aged. And many of them also had kids! Because some ladies like to do that! Those kids, in turn, had kids! Which meant that moms and grandmas were working in the tech industry. Astoundingly, their childbearing experience didn’t render them incapable of work in tech, nor did it turn their brains to gelatinous mush only capable of talking about prams and the best private schools for their wee ones. Those women are coders, hardware developers, innovators, inventors, people working on the front lines of the technology industry to make the things that surround us and we use every day, from silly little gaming apps on your phone to the components of the control systems in commercial aircraft.

Like my own grandmother, who played a key role in the development of early programming languages. She may have retired from the industry because she’s, you know, wanting to enjoy her old age and she’s able to do that thanks to her hard work, but that doesn’t mean she’s a blithering mess when it comes to handling modern computers. Her phones and computers are usually more advanced than my own, she’s better at Photoshop than most people I know, and she’s the person I call when I’m having tech problems, because she usually has answers.

So when I hear people mocking grandmas who use computers, I start seething, since I know these fartfaces probably couldn’t last two seconds against my grandma if it came down to brass tacks. She’s got the skills and she follows the industry because she’s interested in it, given that she spent her whole life working in tech. She is in fact capable of setting up an email client! Recognising a scam! Not clinking phishing links! Updating her browsers!

This constant tide of claims that older adults don’t know how to use computers is condescending and wrong, and more than that, it’s shitty for older adults who genuinely have been left behind by technology and aren’t familiar with modern tech, but might want to be. In an environment where they’re likely to be mocked, they’re going to be less likely to seek out help and mentoring. Because, seriously, who wants to reach out for help when you’re afraid that people are just going to make fun of you and make a big production out of the fact that you’re soooooooo ignorant and they can’t believe this stuff isn’t obvious to you?

Grown adults who haven’t worked with technology before but want to, who need technology education to develop better chances in the job market, or who just want to keep up with tech stuff, need a welcoming environment, not a hostile one. Yes, they may need education geared towards people who may not be familiar with basic principles and terms, but that doesn’t mean said education needs to treat them like they’re pet rocks. And they don’t need to be told with big heaving sighs that there’s really no point in all of this because they’re too old to learn and they’ll never catch up.

What is with this naked hostility towards older adults using technology? Are people not aware that they too will age and someday they might be faced with advances in tech that are unfamiliar to them?

  1. I’m feeling real mature today. Deal with it.