Created By: GrigorIIJanuary 18, 2013 Last Edited By: GrigorIIJune 17, 2014

Left Behind By Technology

A character, usually a senior, does not understand modern technology

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We all know that Technology Marches On at very high rates. In the last few decades, humanity has advanced more than it had done in centuries, and the speed of those advances does not seem to be slowing. Computers, cell phones, dvd, mp3 players, plasma tv, gps, internet... it seems hard to believe that, not many years ago, those things did not exist (or were not available in their current form).

And for some characters, in most cases adults or seniors, things are still that way: they never got used to the technological advances, and still use the machines of the past, or still have the customs associated with them.

There are many possible reasons for this. The character may be a Disco Dan, who chooses to live in a world of nostalgia. He may be a Grumpy Old Man, whose first impulse is to reject anything that is a novelty. Perhaps he's too Married To The Job that he never got the time to know about the new things going on. Perhaps he's poor, or illiterate. Or perhaps he simply lost the interest in his late years, and only tries to use the modern machines when it's actually needed.

A common twist for the cases who do not make a deliberate choice to avoid the modern technology is an episode where they try to get up to date and understand things. They begin with some mistakes (a common one is to confuse a computer virus with a biological virus), and then proudly announce that they did something that is trivial stuff for other. As in "Hey, look! I have just sent an e-mail, and found a web page about my favourite TV show!".

Of course, there is Truth In Television here, as most people living or working with grown up people can confirm. It is a known thing that the ability to learn new things decreases with the age, kids can learn new things at a higher speed than adults. It does not mean that adults can't learn new things, only that it's harder for them. The ease to master at least the basic stuff is also truth in television, as the graphical user interface of computers, cell phones and other machines is specifically designed to be possible to understand without needing to know the underlying technical details (for example, a simple command in the remote control adjusts the brightness; you don't have to know how do the internal components of the TV change the image, only that you can control the change).

Compare with Disco Dan. The difference is that a Disco Dan is stuck in the past in tastes of popular culture (and usually by a willing choice), this trope is about everyday appliances. Both may intersect, however. Compare, for example, getting stuck in listening to The Beatles and ignore everything that came after, and getting stuck in hearing music from vinyls.

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    Comic Books 
  • Roger Fox of Foxtrot is, according to the author "still trying to catch up with the technology of the seventies", and it gets worse every year given that Comic Book Time is in effect. He combines it with Walking Techbane by not understanding the terms or instructions: thinking "back up hard drive" means "push computer backwards" until it falls off the desk or that an antivirus program can tell whether he has a cold or the flu.
  • One Archie Comics strip had Archie's dad struggling with his computer. Archie asked if he needed help surfing the web or checking e-mail, but dear old Dad hadn't even managed to turn the thing on yet.

    Live action TV 
  • Graduados
    • Elías and Dana soon learnt how to chat and buy things online, and depended on their neighbour Marito for tech support. Marito became the boyfriend of their daughter Gaby, which caused many problems the times that Gaby was in bad relations with him, as Elías and Dana were suddenly left with no support when things took too much time to load, or the connection to internet was suddenly lost.
    • Andy, Dany and Vero may be counted too, they don't have Facebook or even e-mail. In their case, it's more a deliberate choice, as being stuck in the 1980s and refusing to get mixed with "The System" is their guiding principle of life.
  • Sos Mi Vida. When the poor Esperanza Muñoz began to work at the Quesada Group, she received a cell phone so that her boss could call her from anywhere. She was the first one in the slum to have one of those machines... hey, what's that noise? Oh, the cell phone!
  • Giles on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He never could get used to computers and still preferred information in hard copy - i.e. his books.
  • Gibbs on NCIS. The crowning moment has to be when his computer crashed and instead of going to the task manager or rebooting like any reasonable person, he grabbed a baseball bat out from under desk and hit the monitor with it. On the other hand, his not getting tech came in handy when the Pentagon was being hacked. McGee and Abby tried to counter the hack, but Gibbs just drew his gun and filled the server with lead.

    Western Animation 
  • This is a recurring joke on The Simpsons.
    • More than being stuck a pair of decades in the past, Montgomery Burns is stuck in the 1930s. Don't ask about 3D movies: he may be surprised that modern films have color, and sound!
    • It also happens (but not so extreme) with Abe Simpsons, and the other folks at the retirement house.

Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • January 19, 2013
    Chabal2
    Roger Fox of Foxtrot is, according to the author "still trying to catch up with the technology of the seventies", and it gets worse every year given that Comic Book Time is in effect. He combines it with Walking Techbane by not understanding the terms or instructions: thinking "back up hard drive" means "push computer backwards" until it falls off the desk or that an antivirus program can tell whether he has a cold or the flu.
  • January 19, 2013
    lakingsif
  • January 19, 2013
    lakingsif
    Actually, I think you could make this another version of Fish Out Of Temporal Water, someone older who hasn't managed to keep up with technology.

    There shall be an old guy, and When I Was Your Age will most likely be invoked.
  • January 19, 2013
    chicagomel
    Giles on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He never could get used to computers and still preferred information in hard copy-ie his books.
  • January 19, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^This may be caused by Fish Out Of Temporal Water, but they're not the same trope.

    Comics:
    • One Archie Comics strip had Archie's dad struggling with his computer. Archie asked if he needed help surfing the web or checking e-mail, but dear old Dad hadn't even managed to turn the thing on yet.

    TV:
    • Gibbs on NCIS. The crowning moment has to be when his computer crashed and instead of going to the task manager or rebooting like any reasonable person, he grabbed a baseball bat out from under desk and hit the monitor with it. On the other hand, his not getting tech came in handy when the Pentagon was being hacked. McGee and Abby tried to counter the hack, but Gibbs just drew his gun and filled the server with lead.
  • January 19, 2013
    Architect
    Could we just shorten the title to "Left Behind By Technology"? The current one seems a bit unwieldy.
  • January 19, 2013
    lakingsif
    ^^ I never said it was, but there are lots of kinds of Fish Out Of Temporal Water, and I thought this could be suited as another kind.
  • January 19, 2013
    GrigorII
    As far as I understand, Fish Out Of Temporal Water is for time travelers. This trope is for common people, who do not understand technology by mere mundane reasons. Not understanding a cell phone because of being 70 years old, and not understanding it because of being a citizen of the Roman empire that was suddenly placed in the XXI century, are two completely different things.
  • January 19, 2013
    JonnyB
    I remember a commercial a while back, but I can't recall what it was for; it had an old man whacking a microwave oven with his cane and shouting, "how do you get the game on this thing?!"
  • January 19, 2013
    Omeganian
    Techtales has examples of that type. For example, one was about an old lady whose computer had a virus. She called tech support to ask if she boiled it long enough.
  • January 19, 2013
    Arivne
    Italicized and Namespaced the work titles that needed them and corrected some spelling and Example Indentation errors.
  • January 19, 2013
    McKathlin
    We have Hopeless With Tech; this is basically the same thing, only with a "couldn't keep up" angle where Hopeless With Tech is described as more of "just doesn't get it". Maybe this YKTTW's examples and description could be merged into the existing trope, to flesh it out.
  • January 19, 2013
    McKathlin
    ...or maybe Left Behind By Technology is a subtrope or Sister Trope of Hopeless With Tech. What do you think?
  • January 19, 2013
    MiinU

    Anime and Manga

  • January 19, 2013
    NESBoy
    To contribute to The Simpsons examples:

    • In "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes", Homer tries to go to work, only to see that it is closed for fumigation. It turns out he never got an email — in fact, he didn't know what an email is. He decides to get himself a computer. He goes to Honest John's Computers where he is convinced that he'll need a top-of-the-line computer for email. He shows more ineptitude for current technology, as he creates an abnormal set up for his computer and talks into the mouse, trying to command his computer to kill his Sitcom Arch Nemesis. He trashes the whole thing, leaving Lisa to set it up properly and leave notes on how to operate it... only for Homer to trash it again. He gets better with the computer eventually, though.
  • January 19, 2013
    SKJAM
    One of the Marvel Comics Dracula mini-series had a good guy explain that this was one of Dracula's weaknesses, he doesn't understand the new technology (or social changes) and thus doesn't properly take it into account when making plans.
  • January 21, 2013
    lakingsif
    @Grigor II Fish Out Of Temporal Water isn't just time travelers, but those who find themselves in an unfamiliar setting and have the reaction an old man would when handed the latest iPhone and told to call NASA.
  • January 21, 2013
    AgProv
    Literature: in the Discworld, there is a Brick Joke about Sam Vimes' utter inability to comprehend or work with new technology. His wife presents him with a whole series of "Disorganisers" - the technomantic world's equivalent to Filofaxes, personal organisers, pagers, on one level, almost a cellphone. He proves himself utterly inept with them all and cannot find the time or the patience or even the inclination to understand them. It does not help that the operating manuals are many times larger and thicker than the device itself - always a bad sign - and are written in the sort of technical jargon that would make a Microsoft manual look easy to comprehend. (This sends up the sort of computer manuals written by people so intimate with the jargon that they fail to comprehend real peopel will be trying to make sense of them and find them as helpful as an instruction book written in Korean and dragged into English via several intermediate languages.)
  • January 22, 2013
    Quatic
    On Angel 240 year old vampire Angel never gets the hang of cell phones. (One of the few things that Angel didn't steal from Forever Knight - Nick Knight was a very early cellphone user.)
  • November 21, 2013
    superkeijikun
    Very recent example: Angry Video Game Nerd. In the "AVGN Games" episode, James cracks a joke about how the only reason he's just now playing a fangame from 2008 is because is took the last five years for it to load on his Commodore 64. When reviewing Texting Of The Bread, mentioning that it's a game you play on a phone, he picks up an old push-button phone.
  • November 21, 2013
    RandomSurfer
    In an early episode of Life Charlie's old partner snaps a pic of Charlie with his cell phone. Charlie, having spent the last 12 years in a maximum security prison, is flummoxed by someone taking a picture with a phone.
  • November 21, 2013
    Bisected8
    • Inverted in the Dolled Up Installment I Robot movie; the Love Interest has trouble with Spooner's 2000s era DVD player because it's not voice activated.

    • In Driver: Parallel Lines, the protagonist goes to jail for roughly three decades half way through. He suffers this trope on being let out.
  • November 21, 2013
    NESBoy
    In another example from AVGN, the Godzilla episode shows the Nerd playing the Xbox and Play Station 2 for the first time.
  • November 21, 2013
    DAN004
  • June 17, 2014
    lakingsif
    Don't think the Life example counts...
  • June 17, 2014
    DAN004
    We have the YKTTW callled Technologically Blind Elders.
  • June 17, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ and lo, it was launched.
  • June 17, 2014
    lakingsif
    ^ oh, I thought that yk was this. I wondered why it had been abandoned, it was good (and so, launched). Thanks, Dan.
  • June 17, 2014
    SpiderRider3
    This is essentially a duplicate of Technologically Blind Elders.
  • June 17, 2014
    Tallens
    The examples here should be put on there then.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable