Presentation for the Town Hall Long Eaton and for British Computer

the use of Computers
by Older People
Andrew Beaumont
21 May 2012
Today’s Talk
A. Introduction to the Presentation
B. Brief History of IT
C. Existing Computers and Software
A. The Internet
B. Email
C. Microsoft Office
D. Long Eaton Library - Online Resources
D. Further Ideas
E. The Future
F. Windows 7
G. Areas not Covered
H. Using Computers Cheaply
I. Issues with the Storm Worm
J. Further Notes for the Presentation
K. References
L. Internet Indians
M. Discussion Points
N. Sus-IT
Introduction to the Presentation – 1
• To encourage the use of computers by:
– older people
– and by younger ones who have not embraced
computers fully.
• PREVIOUS computer design (1980s-90s):
– Aimed mostly at use by young graduates
(i.e. users with no health or communication issues)
– Computers were:
• Hard to use
• Had slow, awkward text-based screens/interfaces
(such as ‘cd’, to change folder/directory)
… rather than current friendly, graphical screens
with images.
Introduction to the Presentation – 2
• Today, the aim, if not the reality, is for everyone on
the planet to become IT-literate, and enthusiastic
about it.
• Major software systems such as Windows 7, Linux
or Word are available in most international
languages (English, French, Russian, and Arabic);
although there are exceptions such as those used by
Native Americans, like the Apache.
Although the majority of single user computers are
Microsoft compatible PCs, the ideas expressed in
this presentation are equally applicable to Apple Mac
(and UNIX) users, who quite rightly continue to
support these excellent technologies.
Brief History of IT
• My first IT experience:
A Burroughs’s main-frame in 1977 at Warwick University
Developing an industrial simulation software system
Using the Programming language: ALGOL 60.
The computer was as big as a detached house, only had
the power of a single modern PC
(and was used by everyone there)
• Often, programs were:
– submitted overnight in batch mode
– on a set of punched cards bound by a rubber band
(as students were not initially given a monitor)
• Only a few universities/large major employers (mostly
Finance/Defence) owned a main-frame computer
• Things change quickly:
‘In 1980 there were 720,000 personal
computers in the world;
by 1990 there were 50 million, and their
average power had increased a hundredfold’
[pg 280, Kieran & Lewis]
Existing Computers and Software
• The four PC facilities I will discuss
today are:
– The Internet
– Email
– Microsoft Office and
– The Long Eaton Library Online Resources
The Internet
• The Internet is:
– Worldwide
– Multimedia
(text, sound, pictures, video)
– A computer-based library
– Hosted on many server computers
– Available on any internet-enabled device.
• The examples that follow give a brief
insight into things that are possible…
Internet Examples – 1
• Art lovers see the pictures at:
– the Louvre (, Paris; or
– the National Gallery, London (
Although nothing can replace the experience of an actual
visit (but it does save on sore feet…)
• Information
– quickly search for (and sometimes find) information via
search engines, such as: ,,,, (where accepts
English-like questions).
– For example, you can investigate company details, or find
which courses a college provides, next term.
Often a more accurate, up-to-date and faster means of
research than the traditional one of using libraries. But not
Internet Examples – 2
• Online free encyclopaedia –
– Aims to be the largest ever (for our species)
– Can be edited by ‘registered users’.
• Order your weekly shop
– Delivered to your front door
– Just choose a supermarket…
( have annual internet only-discount
schemes, currently only £5 for online shopping & delivery) – and others…
– But too little, and too much?
Too little - with the currently small customer base, it may not
be economic for the retailer;
Too much - many people may not pay for something, that
historically they have done themselves, for free?
Is it really quicker – especially for your first on-line shop
effort, when a lot of information must be entered?
Is it less socially rewarding – low on exercise, and more
likely to meet friends in the super-market?
But - buying online may be 10% cheaper (e.g. insurance?)
Internet Examples – 3
• Buy aircraft tickets:
( and many others…)
• View train timetables/service details:
• Plan routes for car journeys:
(and renew memberships, view traffic, etc)
Internet Examples – 4
• You can read newspapers online (or some of the
• Or see the TV news:
• Or view a TV program that you missed last week:
– - which then runs on your
• Or read current Derbyshire planning regulations:
Internet Examples – 5
• Exploit FaceBook (
– Find long lost friends from your school days
– share holiday pictures with your family and close friends
(only shown to your private groups).
– Be an activist: FaceBook has recently been used for serious
political reasons in Libya and Tunisia, during the ‘Arab
• Exploit Twitter (
– Take part in a discussion on existing traffic conditions, or
on current government pension cuts
– Although Twitter may appear successful (being used by
many millions), it may not currently have a realistic
‘business model’ - having no advertising revenue, or charge
method for its customers.
– The price of the recent share release by FaceBook, assumes
a total company valuation of one hundred times, the current
annual advertising revenue.
Internet Examples – 6
• There are a variety of other social network sites:
–, and
– (for professional office staff)
– … etc
• Also forums (an area to post messages) and
Newsgroups (similar to forums):
Also Wikis (user-alterable web sites, such as
wikipedia – but are there other examples?)
• Blogs: these are online journals, like a diary, e.g.
Internet Examples – 7
• Dating agencies –
(but care may be needed on first dates!)
• Find lost relatives –
(and other sites – some may charge)
• Find a video -
– to help you wire a household three-pin plug,
– or put someone into the ‘recovery position’, after
they have suffered an epileptic fit.
Internet Examples – 8
• Download music for free (if legal), or for a
small fee (
• Buy books online –
which can be cheaper than going to a book
• Use online auctions -
for example, to buy or sell an antique
Russian Balalaika – although traditional
ways of selling may work out better… (buyer
Internet Examples – 9
• Look at a map of Tenby in Wales using
Google maps (
• View books
The Gutenberg project (
holds several million out of print books
(usually old ones, where the author is dead),
which can be downloaded free, in a variety of
computer formats.
Internet Examples – 10
• Bank online (e.g.
Most banks provide online banking, enabling you to:
check your accounts
transfer money between accounts
automate overdraft warnings
setup direct debits (all from the comfort of your own home…)
• Video conferencing (e.g. – but Image size
and the refresh rate may vary).
Useful for:
– Contacting family members abroad (even New Zealand).
– Medical exchange; used by doctors in India and Australia, for
remote diagnosis.
– Cheap phone calls by combining technologies: use skype on a
mobile phone, via free library Wi-Fi - to phone your mum in China!
Or, you can just use skype for free phone calls.
• Participate in virtual discussion forums - the IT equivalent of
sitting round a forest camp fire, discussing current events
(again, via FaceBook).
Internet Examples – 11
• Specialised over 50’s sites: ? (employment issues) ? ?
• Learning online is possible:
• Voluntary work:
Email - 1
• Email:
– and others
– Provides a free way, for anyone who can write
(in English, French, Arabic, Russian…) and
with an internet enabled device, to
communicate with anyone else, worldwide.
Email - 2
• … is similar to letter writing, but has the
following advantages:
– Speed:
most (but not all) emails arrive within a few
– Cost:
As a stamp and envelope are not required,
email is cheaper* (and you don’t get wet
going to the post-box in January).
* Is free, unless you count the cost of being online (internet subscription, equipment costs,
Email - 3
• … enables ‘threaded communication’
So you can easily see what was written to you, while
composing your reply, for example:
– ‘a’ wrote 5.36PM Sat
– ‘b’ replied 6.39PM Sat
– ‘a’ responded 11.57PM Sat, etc...
• … enables attachments that hold further information;
For example:
– a book could be sent to a prospective publisher, or
– a daughter (living in Rome) could send a picture (of her new
boy-friend!) to her father (living in Derby).
• … can provide grammar and spelling checkers, to
check what you send - usually quicker (if less
comprehensive) than the traditional verbose dictionary.
Microsoft Office
• Microsoft Office
Provides the following widely used tools:
– Word – to create documents in a variety of
languages, with a spelling/grammar checker.
– Excel - a spreadsheet (financial/maths use); can
even be used for household accounts.
– PowerPoint - used to create electronic slide
shows (like this one!)
– Publisher – a simple, automated way to create
small personalised web sites.
– Access – a simple to use database; could be used
to maintain an address book.
– Adobe – enables creation of pretty (professionalstandard) documents containing both text and
complex graphics. Although Adobe is not always
part of Office.
Long Eaton Library - Online Resources
LEL contains a wide variety of information
some of which are:
Ancestry – Full history website.
Britannica – A general purpose encyclopaedia.
COBRA – A business-related encyclopaedia.
Grove Art – An encyclopaedia of visual art.
Oxford Language Dictionaries – these include
approximate translation facilities (not accurate
enough for important legal documents, or
international trade deals), should you wish to order a
coffee at an Italian café.
• Theory Test Pro – for those striving to pass their Car
Driving Theory Test.
Further Ideas - 1
It is possible to:
1. plug a microphone into your computer
2. then speak to it…
… and get it to respond to your voice commands.
One example would be the Voice Recognition
Software, ‘Dragon Naturally Speaking’
( ? Although Colds
can alter your voice).
For instance, to quit Microsoft Word:
1) instead of clicking File->Exit,
2) you could just say: “File Exit”.
(Alas, it can’t make the tea or coffee, yet…).
Further Ideas - 2
• Could computers be used for online voting
for Local, National, or even European
Thus, hopefully improving turnout?
Then perhaps, referenda would be held more
frequently - hence creating a democracy
more like the ideals of Plato, in Ancient
Further Ideas - 3
• Real-time online messages
Computers enable online messaging (such as or, as built into
FaceBook and Windows 7.
So, a screen-based real-time text conversation, like:
– A: ‘How are you?’
– B: ‘I am Fine – How are you?’
– A: ‘Life is good – would you like to meet soon?’
… can be done in real time (‘live’), just by typing.
I have heard of online messaging being used
between partners, where one is fighting in a remote
area of Afghanistan, with the other living in England.
Further Ideas - 4
• TV to PC:
Convert your TV into a simple computer, by
adding an extra card to the TV:
… and this is not expensive to do!
This conversion could save money for
someone wishing to do simple home
computing, where they currently own a TV,
but don’t have a PC.
Further Ideas - 5
• Mobility/dexterity issues
There are many features in Windows 7 to make using
computers easier:
– Using a PC/other device by touching a screen:
Use Multi-touch, or a touch-sensitive screen/tablet
(such as the HP Touch Smart TX2Z, which
recognises natural gestures).
– Windows Mobility Centre:
Context menus, glow-key feedback (immediately
showing the change when a feature is used).
– Ease of Access Center:
Magnifier, Narrator, On-Screen Keyboard & High
The Future - 1
• (Hard to predict!)
– Will computer displays be truly 3-D and
(like those ‘Star Trek’)
– Will robots be built that you can fall in love
(like those of the Isaac Asimov novel, ‘I
– Will Turing’s challenge for a truly
meaningful human-computer conversation
(which the human cannot distinguish from
a real human-human conversation) - ever
The Future - 2
• Will computer hardware performance
continue to double every 18 months
(Moore’s Law's_law),
which has been the case in recent history?
Although IT is arguably an industry, where
truly worthwhile software innovation, seems
to lag considerably behind hardware
The Future - 3
• Although staggering improvements have
been made in:
– computer performance,
– data storage capacity and
– communication speeds;
• … in other areas (such as common sense,
human emotion and artificial intelligence),
arguably much less progress has been made
in the past fifty years?
‘Windows 7’ - 1
• Microsoft Windows 7
– Is an operating system
(used to control a PC and run software)
– released in 2009
– now regarded as stable
– replaced Windows Vista (perhaps less stable…)
• Windows 7 is available in six versions.
In order of complexity and price, these are:
[LOW] 1) Starter, 2) Home Basic, 3) Home Premium,
4) Professional, 5) Enterprise and 6) Ultimate [HIGH].
The current undiscounted price of Ultimate is $320.
NOTE: The latest Microsoft operating system Windows 10 - is just being released.
‘Windows 7’ - 2
• Windows 7 – some improved features are:
Location Aware Printing
File Encryption
Premium Games
Pin to Start or Task Bar
(so regularly used options are instantly available after
boot up).
– Really Simple Syndication feeds
(providing frequently updated content from a news or
Blog website).
– Instant Messenging (page 160, ‘Windows 7 without the
– Desktop gadgets
(Calendar, Clock, CPU Meter, Currency, Feed
Headlines, Media Center, Picture Puzzle, Slide Show,
Stocks and Weather, etc)
Areas Not Covered - 1
For those who like their fun to be more physical than
with traditional computer games:
– Wii technology provides Skiing without the unpleasantness of
falling into snow, or boxing with no need to visit A&E afterwards
Hundreds of games are available, but the experience remains
virtual – so arguably, never as good as the real thing.
– I-phones: costing about £500
( – enables email, internet access, phone calls,
text writing, with built-in camera.
• A variety of computer-based games are available, to
allow you to unwind after a stressful day.
– Some are free and come pre-installed with the operating system
(such as Solitaire);
– while others must be bought separately, such as Chess or
Bridge (which can be played online –
Areas Not Covered - 2
Hand-held book readers such as Kindle (a trade
name) and various others (from £89)
Alas (or a coincidence?) - each competing manufacturer has
access to only a small part of the book market, with their data
held in differing and incompatible formats (like past word
processors, video recorders, etc).
Educational software can be bought for your PC.
Various packages enable learning a foreign language
(no substitute for working abroad for six months).
E.g. ‘LinguaTeach for Windows’ (by Akore).
Improve your typing skills; try ‘Mavis Beacon Typing Aid’.
Many others exist, such as (Boots’) Store Design software,
or CAD (Computer Aided Design) software, widely used in
Tom-Tom Satellite technologies - navigate from A->B
on car journeys with a fair degree of accuracy.
Areas Not Covered - 3
The view given here on the history of computing is
my personal perspective.
For early detail, visit:
Soon afterwards, Lyons and Co used computers
Impact on Film/Media: digital cameras now widely
replace the need for traditional film, greatly
reducing the cost of producing images (which can
quickly be sent across the globe)
Narration – you can now highlight some text in
Microsoft Word, and then hear it read out (played
through speakers attached to your computer).
Server farms - - these can have over
100,000 servers, are well guarded, with their own
power supplies, and are in isolated areas.
Using Computers Cheaply - 1
Use someone else’s computer
– a friend, relative, neighbour perhaps?
UK libraries allow 1-2 hours free PC usage per day.
Long Eaton: Connexions have PCs for job search.
Community House has one PC for coursework and job
searching (provision across the UK varies).
Poor people, living alone on basic state pensions:
Should broadband access be free for those aged over
75, as for TV licenses?
Could this group be helped with phone rental cost?
(Special low-usage deals, or re-introduce party [shared]
Use printers sparingly! Printers wear out quickly,
and paper and ink can become expensive.
Using Computers Cheaply - 2
Provide free high quality training
– as trained people are more productive
Provide free high quality computer support,
by phone, email or at a local drop-in centre
– as new users of computers can rapidly
become disillusioned, after just a few
minor set-backs
Issues with the Storm Worm
This worm (it is just one example of many worms, in
recent years) shows:
the vulnerability of IT
the later associated repair costs; and
the lack of sincere/meaningful concern about the actions of IT
criminals and their consequences.
(See p256-259 ‘Schneier on Security’ by Bruce Schneier)
• According to Wired, 27/9/2007 Storm Worm has the
following features:
- 1-50 million infections
– Mutates, patient – slow infection
– Split functionality: 1) spreader cells, 2) command and
control cells & 3) receive order cells
– Small level of damage initially. What happens later?
– It was written by the Russians – who else?
– It is a Worm, Trojan horse and bot - all rolled into one
– It has multiple command centres
– The payload alters every 30 minutes
– The delivery mechanism alters frequently
– Email display line changes frequently
Further Notes
• Premium dialler
Software that illegally redirects your internet
connection to a premium rate phone line and
charges you lots!
• Virus
Downloaded from the internet (or email attachments)
Varied effects: can wipe your entire hard disk clean!
‘Trojans’ - viruses hidden in a file.
‘Worms’ - viruses designed to infect lots of files.
• Spyware/adware
Installed on your computer, without your knowledge.
(can download free software to remove adware?)
Alternatives to eBay? What are bots (web site search
• Spam/junk email & popups
For advertising (you can buy software to stop them
appearing). Phishing, Pharming, firewalls, filtering
and blocking software.
‘The problems of the IT industry’
Andrew Beaumont & Andrew Wallace (unpublished).
‘Windows 7 without the waffle’
Harshad Kotecha, Easy Steps Ltd.
‘Schneier on Security’
Bruce Schneier.
Wired, 27/9/2007.
‘The Internet and Email for the over 50’s’
Bob Reeves, Teach Yourself (Long Eaton Library),
Hudder Headline
‘Winners & Losers – Creators & Casualties – Age of
Kieran Lewis, Atlantic Books (London).
‘The Face book Story’
Sarah Lacy, Crimson.
Internet Indians
• Currently, dozens of isolated indigenous Indian
Amazonian communities are being connected to the
– To revive their culture and
– Enable them to keep in contact with villages several
days walk away.
– Also: so they can notify the authorities of illegal
logging and forest clearance by heavily armed gangs
– … when the Government can then send troops to
prevent this continuing.
See: ‘The fight for Amazonia – Internet Indians’
Aljazeera, 8pm, Tuesday 14/3/2012.
Discussion Points - 1
• Has Information Technology been in global malaise
since 31/12/99 (Y2K)?
• Should the computer industry be a profession like
Medicine, Law or Teaching?
– With aspiring graduates becoming IT consultants
in their early 30’s?
– And with less aspirant individuals reaching lesser
roles (equivalent to Nurses or Teaching
– Should experienced IT staff be present on boards
of directors, in larger numbers than at present?
Discussion Points - 2
• Is too little thought/research put into deciding
whether a multi-million pound IT project is worth
– With consideration being made to both the profit
margins, and the social effects on the
– Should Operational Research style Cost-Benefit
Analysis be undertaken? (on both financial and
non-financial factors)
Discussion Points - 3
• If most modern software application are:
– web-based (.net, with a hidden database)
– So needing programmers fluent in several
programming languages
(C#, Java, PHP, SQL and others)
… then won’t the several years that this takes to
acquire, lead to a shortage of suitably qualified
programmers (unless applications are allowed to
become simpler, once more)?
• By contrast, older software applications (1980s)
could be developed in a single language (albeit one
that changed rapidly with fashion, or the perception
of productivity improvement)?
Discussion Points - 4
• Is the IT industry dogged by lack of high quality
documentation and training - especially for the more
novice user?
• Is the IT industry over-hyped?
• Are the endless progression of IT languages (and
software versions) a good use of global resources?
– Why not train people to use the tools they already have, but
more productively?
– Is C# really more productive than Algol 60 or Pascal, which
were available 25 years ago?
– Is it the programmer’s skill, or the tool-set, which is
– Why didn’t some perfectly-useable programming languages
(Pascal, Lisp, and Prologue (the last two had a different
purpose and philosophy)) never get off the drawing board?
Discussion Points - 5
• Should IT professionals be legally liable for their
work (and mistakes), and be able to be insured?
• Should data-base reports (data mining/SQL Server
OLAP cubes) be validated and interpreted by
qualified Statisticians – prior to public release?
• Is there future mileage in Social Networking - with
new products waiting in the wings?
For example:
– Pinderest sets itself the objective of being the
clipboard for ‘the best bits of the web’, then to be
admired by others, while
– Social Discovery allows you to find friends with
similar online interests who are currently a few
metres from your current physical location (using
mobile phone technologies).
The Filter Bubble - 1
• ‘The Filter Bubble
– What the Internet is hiding from you’
Eli Pariser (Penguin Books)
• Page 2:
“Most of us assume that when we Google a term, we all
see the same results - the ones that the famous Page
Rank algorithm suggests are the most authoritative
based on the pages’ links.
But since December 2009, this is no longer true. Now
you get the result that Google’s algorithm suggests is
best for you in particular – and someone else may see
something entirely different.
In other words, there is no standard Google anymore.”
The Filter Bubble - 2
• Page 282:
‘202’ Flash Crash, Graham Bowley, “Stock swing still
baffles with an ominous tone”, New York Times, Aug
22 2010
• Page 202:
“And as we rely on intelligent systems like Google’s
more, their opacity could cause real problems – like
the still mysterious machine-driven “flash crash”
that caused the Dow to drop 600 points in a few
minutes on May 6, 2010.’
• Sus-IT research project involving seven
UK universities and one Canadian one
• Its aims are to promote the use of
computers by older people, and those with
health issues.
• It has involved: questionnaires, pure
research, giving talks and testing new IT
END – thanks for your attention.
My email is: