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Technologically Blind Elders

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Well at least he can't copy that floppy.

"That devil box tells you nothing but lies!"
Imelda (referring to a computer), Coco

Modern works are set in modern times, often, and especially so when the creators want to appeal to a young, hip audience. As a means of definitively proving that they themselves are securely young and hip, the creators may highlight how a character, perhaps of their own age or older, is not in any way.

The greatest way to do this is to have the cool young people using some technology invented since Christmas and the ever-wanting-to-seem-cool older person wanting to get involved but having absolutely no clue what on Earth their gadgets are. Often Played for Laughs when it's the parent who pretends to know what it is before hastily leaving, or trying to punish the kids by confusedly confiscating their... gizmo. May trigger a "back in my day" story.

Compare Fish out of Temporal Water, when someone is displaced from his own time and so can't possibly know what all the new technology is, rather than that he didn't bother catching up because of any number of reasons the older character may have: The olden days were better, they see it as more trouble than it's worth, or just plain extraneous, or there's no point because the tech isn't necessary and will be replaced by something else in a few days, anyway. Contrast What Are Records?, the inverse. Subtrope of Technophobia.


See also Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure.


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  • A series of commercials for Esurance has people, usually seniors, literally interpreting modern social media. For example, an old lady talks about how she's saving money by posting pictures to her wall (an actual wall) instead of mailing them to friends, and uses a CD tray as a coffee cup holder.
    "That's not how it works! That's not how any of this works!"
  • In another commercial from the 1990s, an old man mistakes a microwave oven for a television set and bangs on it with his cane, yelling, "How do you get the game on this thing?"
  • The Keebler Elves have their own Twitter account, which has its fair share of jokes about senior elf Ernie not quite "getting" the Internet.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Nate's mom from Yo-Kai Watch seems pretty young (probably under 35) but isn't up-to-date with the internet. In the dub she says "(...) No one understands kids these days with their Snapbooks and Facechats".
  • The Breaker: New Waves is told about an app that he could use to find Shioon and Jini, so he has to ask a mook what an "app" is.
  • Granny Girl Hinata-chan: Played with in chapter 8. Hinata is a six year-old girl but, due to retaining Past-Life Memories, has the personality, mannerisms, and, importantly for this trope, tech-savvy of the eighty-eight year-old woman she ended her last life as. When her brother takes her into the city to see a movie, she has trouble with all the different high tech devices she encounters. She runs into a door that requires a keycard, thanks the motion sensor using escalator assuming there's an operator somewhere, freaks out when encountering a toilet with automated features as well as during a 3D movie. Her brother doesn't think anything unusual about any of this, being both used to Hinata's eccentricities and because he assumes, not incorrectly, that she's seeing all these things for the first time.
  • Sakura Quest: One old man acquired a tablet PC, but due to not knowing how to use it, ended up using it as a light. It abruptly loses power in the middle of the conversation about it, possibly because he forgot to check the batteries. Another old man is a downplayed example, since he uses his tablet as a timer for his instant noodles.

    Comic Books 
  • One Marvel Comics mini-series about Dracula (not in continuity with the other Marvel Dracula comics) has a good guy mention that this is one of Dracula's weaknesses. He's unable to comprehend modern technology or social changes, and thus can be blindsided by them.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Aunt May says that she will look about social anxiety disorders on the web. Uncle Ben encourages her to do so, because that will keep her busy for hours.
  • Miles Morales: Spider-Man, Captain America (who grew up in the 1930s and 40s) struggles to find the app he needs on his smartphone. Luckily, Miles is there to help him out.
  • Depending on the Writer, Cap is either genuinely this trope or playing it up to mess with people. In an issue of Avengers Assemble (no relation to the cartoon), he sends Anya Corazón a download of the Earth's Mightiest Heroes theme, while asking her not to tell anyone he knows how to use a smartphone.

    Comic Strips 
  • Roger Fox of Foxtrot is described as still trying to catch up with the technology of The '70s. In a comic strip that gleefully uses Comic-Book Time, it only gets worse (at one point he buys the Windows version of a program instead of the Mac, since there's a window right there in the computer room).
  • Garfield:
  • Calvin's dad from Calvin and Hobbes is extremely averse to technological advancements, to the point that he doesn't get a cable box and isn't too fond of telephones. This stands in stark contrast to Calvin, who gets excited by technology and frequently imagines himself as a heroic space explorer.
    Calvin: I'm a 21st-century kid trapped in a 19th-century family.
  • Connie and Walt of Zits tend to be pretty clueless, much to the perpetual embarrassment of their son Jeremy.
    Jeremy: I can't believe it doesn't have Bluetooth!
    Walt: <opens the flip phone slightly, peering inside looking for teeth> What color tooth does it have?
  • An early Dilbert story arc had Dogbert running a school for technology imbeciles, one of whom is brought in by his young daughter who claimed he was bright until they got the VCR. She's proven right when he tries to cook a VHS tape in a microwave.

    Fan Works 
  • Jack O'Lantern: Sasuke is only in his thirties but he can't keep up with the world's rapidly changing technology. He doesn't know how to use smartphones or the internet well.

    Films — Animation 
  • Crops up twice in Coco:
    • While trying to pass himself off as Frida Kahlo to the bridge guards, Héctor refers to the scanner as a "blinky-thingy".
    • Mamá Imelda is introduced bashing a worker's computer with her boot and calling it a "Devil Box".
  • As the narrator of Eight Crazy Nights explains, Whitey is so far behind the times he thinks Viagra is a waterfall. He doesn't know what's going on when Davey flips him the bird and — not being up to date on modern technology — thinks Benjamin's Game Boy is an Etch-a-Sketch.
  • In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Flint's dad is absolutely hopeless with computers, which becomes a problem when he has to e-mail an important file to his son's phone at the climax of the movie. He accidentally sends the rapping kitten video from earlier instead.
  • Ralph from Ralph Breaks the Internet was created in the 1980s and has a harder time adjusting to the modern 2010s internet than the younger Vanellope (who is physically a child and was created in the late 1990s to early 2000s).
  • Pops up very briefly a few times in Up. Carl doesn't understand Russel's "GPM". During the credits, there is a picture of Russel trying to teach Carl how to use a computer, but Carl looks baffled while holding the mouse by the cord.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • La Femme et le TGV: Elise is a widow, aged 70-ish. She wants to know how to contact Bruno, her pen pal who is a railway engineer. She calls customer service at the railway, and when the woman suggests that she look on the internet, Elise says "I've never sent an internet and I never will!"
  • Kim Possible features a shot of a post Drakken wrote on Villainstagram. He posts about how he has difficulty uploading to the site. Drakken is only middle-aged at most but he's not savvy about stuff that's popular with teens and younger adults.
  • Played for Drama in Darkest Hour (2017). Winston Churchill, 66 years old by the time he became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1940, has a hard time understanding that fast-moving armoured vehicles that do not need to slow down for supporting infantry are the new way of warfare. He apparently believes that World War II will be fought almost exactly like World War I. He is wrong.

  • Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: In Tastes Like Chicken (written in 2017 and set 20 Minutes into the Future), when Alvina says she's on social media, Dan tries to imagine a "correct cool and modern" phrase and asks if she's on MySpace.
  • Discussed by Greg in Diary of a Wimpy Kid where his dad, Frank, is against Greg's love for video games and tries to dismantle his video game system. Greg says the reason his dad had to give up is because video game consoles are designed to be "parent-proof". However, Frank is middle-aged, not elderly.
  • Gangsta Granny: Neither Granny nor the Queen know what Googling is.
  • DCI Nightingale from the Rivers of London books is a sterling example. A century old (looking younger due to Merlin Sickness), he's utterly at sea with the new computerized systems the police use, and relies entirely on Grant to get anything electronic done. It's possible that he's playing this up deliberately. Peter has mentioned several times if he is motivated Nightingale can become quite proficient with new technology quite quickly. It's just that most of the time, unless it's work-related (working an airwave digital radio) or directly related to his personal interests (following the rugby on Peter's TV in the "tech cave"), he simply feels no need to.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Celebrity Name Game: Bill Engvall drew a blank when asked to communicate the word "Snapchat" to a contestant; after the round, host Craig Ferguson had to explain that it was something "the kids" used.
  • This is how a Victim of the Week died in an episode of CSI. At the beginning of the episode, an old lady smashed her car onto the side of a coffee shop, killing her herself and a skeezy health insurance agent. The finger prints lifted off the car mounted GPS units did not match of the lady, and the CSIs discovered that when she found out where the insurance agent went for coffee everyday, she asked her grandson to program a course on the GPS unit, he did so, and the old lady then used the directions to find the cafe, and kill the agent.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV: Dad of Light, Hirotaro starts off playing Final Fantasy XIV with no idea how to do anything. In time, however, he becomes a highly-skilled Bard.
  • Invoked in the first revival season of Murphy Brown: the title character saw no use in smartphones or social media, and still used a Motorola flip phone. That is, until she came out of retirement (20 years after the original season finale) to join a cable news channel, and the network's social media intern pushed Brown onto an iPhone so she could use Twitter (but not before he gazed in awe at her "vintage" cellphone). Averted, however, when Brown gets the hang of it a little too well, and almost immediately gets into a flame war with a certain president.
  • My Name Is Earl: Although not actually an elder (he's only 35), a Running Gag is that Earl Hickey is not very adept with technology. He thinks the fish screensaver on a computer is really an aquarium twice, and gets very confused when he jiggles the mouse and the screensaver goes away. He is also dumbfounded that there are books on tape (thinking they're printed on literal adhesive tape), books on CD, and even MP3-format audiobooks for an iPod. (He also doesn't know what that is.) May be justified on the grounds that Earl lives in a town filled with destitution, and poor people often cannot afford to purchase new technology as it comes out.
  • Downplayed in the first episode of Life. Detective Charlie Crews has been in solitary confinement for 12 years, convicted of a murder he didn't commit. After his conviction is overturned he gets his old job back and his former uniformed cop partner decides to take a picture of Charlie to commemorate the occasion. The partner pulls out his cell phone to take the picture and Charlie is confused; he's familiar with cell phones, but he doesn't know about the ubiquity of cell phone cameras.
  • Subverted in the Mr. Robot episode "eps3.4_runtime-error.r00". Elliot sees a sixtyish woman having eating at her desk and tries to con his way onto her terminal with a made-up security issue. She's too technologically savvy to fall for it, although she does direct him to another (younger) worker.
  • It's a Running Gag in NCIS that Gibbs doesn't know what the digital things are and how they work. It depends on the episode whether it's for real or just a case of Obfuscating Stupidity. Worth mentioning that Gibbs still uses a old flip phone.
  • In Not the Nine O'Clock News, Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith and Griff Jones feature in a skit in a hi-fi store, where an older man is mocked by the younger store assistants when he asks for a "gramophone".
  • In an Inside Amy Schumer sketch titled "Mom Computer Therapy" has the main character (portrayed by the 30 something year old Amy Schumer) trying to teach her mother (60 something year old Deborah Rush) how to use a new model of computer with a therapist to mediate, only to get more and more frustrated as her mother refuses to pay attention or listen to her, then the therapist (the late-middle aged Kathy Najimy) join in where Amy ends up foaming at the mouth as the therapist and the mother mess around with an intercom (that the therapist had plenty of time to use).
    Where is my AOL?
  • In Raven's Home, Chelsea doesn't understand how dating sites work. Her young son Levi has to do everything for her. Chelsea herself is under 50, but she's not into the technology.
  • Inverted in The Strange Calls with Gregor, who in all appearances seems to be a white-haired old man, though he claims to be 47 is as obsessed with twitter as a stereotypical teenager and is constantly posting, much to the annoyance of everyone else.

  • The Tom Smith song "Tech Support For Dad" is a lament about how the singer's tech-illiterate father keeps calling on him to solve all his computer problems. In one recording, the role of the dad was played by Tom Smith's actual father.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade, this is one of the advantages of a fledgling Embraced in modern times over the Elders from older times.

    Video Games 
  • Agent 1 and Agent 2 in Splatoon mention that their grandfather, Cap'n Cuttlefish, doesn't own a phone. If they want to contact him they need to telegraph him. He's gotten better by the Octo Expansion of Splatoon 2, as he's able to use chat rooms, but he still grapples with the finer points, like turning off the caps lock and knowing how to sign out.
  • Ty the Tasmanian Tiger has an NPC in the third game who mentions "Empty Trees" (MP3's) as part of a "kids these days" speech.
  • Goodtime Valley in Hypnospace Outlaw. The zone for older Hypnospace users, its pages are rife with bugs, grammatical errors, poorly applied templates, occasional viruses, and tackiness above and beyond the GeoCities-influenced aesthetic of Hypnospace in general. Averted by one user, Connie Turner, an older computer security professional whose site is clean and well-presented, and who breaks into the website of hacker group M1nx when they fail to hide their tracks properly.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Murder by Numbers (2020) Detective Cross has trouble working new (mid 90s) technology, with a sole exception being a GPS.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • In Ginpu Technologies, Saffron claims that age can't possibly be the reason why so many of the people she deals with in IT are so helpless around technology.

    Web Original 
  • The snarky little webpage, "Let me Google that for you!" is intended as a way to get people (such as parents, bosses, and the like) to stop asking you how to use The Google.

    Web Videos 
  • In 3 Full Months of Vlogging COMPLETE! (90 Days in a Row!) :D by Matt Santoro, Matt sees an elderly couple, and decides to stop the vlog in case they don't know what he's doing.
  • There's a video out there of an old man using his brand-new iPad as a cutting board.

    Western Animation 
  • In Arthur, Mr. Ratburn turns out to be less than confident when it comes to the Internet. However, the trope is quickly defied when the Brain shows him how to use it and he quickly becomes addicted (although not seriously) to web forums.
  • The Deep: As wise as he is, Nereus is completely lost when it comes to operating modern technology.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • In "Boyz Crazy", Dipper and his Great-Uncle Stan think that Robbie is brainwashing Wendy with his music, so they take his CD and try to listen to it slowed down. Stan mistakes it for a vinyl record, and puts it into a record player.
      Stan: We're doing something wrong here, but I can't put my finger on it...
    • In "Little Dipper" Gideon abducts a miniaturized Dipper and Mabel, then calls Stan for ransom. Stan doesn't believe him.
      Gideon: You don't believe me? I will text you a photo!
      Stan: "Text me a photo"? Now you're not even speaking English. [hangs up]
    • Stan's twin brother Ford also has some trouble with modern technology (despite being a Mad Scientist with access to stuff years ahead of most people), although he at least has the excuse of spending thirty years in Another Dimension and missing out on a lot of advancements. He thinks floppy disks are still cutting edge, and scoffs at the idea of a "personal computer".
  • In The Simpsons episode "Rome-Old and Juli-Eh", Abe Simpson is shown to be very inept with modern kitchen appliances, to the point of nearly starting a fire.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Uncle thinks that Jade's laptop is a magic waffle iron and fails miserably when trying to sell his antiques online, destroying the laptop when he thinks it's been possessed by dark magic (due to his inabiliity to figure out how to use it.)

    Real Life 
  • This is also the reason for the continued popularity of the QWERTY keyboard layout. Since typewriters used it, the first computers did also, as it made it easier for secretaries and typists to transition to the newer technology. There have been many attempts made to develop a more ergonomic keyboard layout (QWERTY having been designed specifically to reduce the risk of jamming a mechanical typewriter), but all of them have failed to catch on because of the sheer inertia that QWERTY has built up. Nearly everybody in the English-speaking world is taught to type on a QWERTY keyboard, to the point where alternative layouts that are, on paper, more ergonomic become unnatural and cumbersome instead because they go against habits that have been hard-wired in people's heads since primary school. In fact, computers have advanced so much that the very thing that made QWERTY not the best keyboard layout in the early computer age has actually become a reason why it's a good keyboard layout now: with autocorrect and Swype, you'd want letter pairs to be placed as far as possible from each other so the software can more easily tell what word you're trying to type.
  • Averted with Arthur C. Clarke. Although best known for his science-fiction, Clarke actually studied at university to become an electrical engineer. So not only are computers and related technology portrayed realistically in his stories, he was a tech-nerd up until the day he died. Ray Bradbury tells a story of running across him on a street in New York City looking at the display in an electronics store window of the latest PCs (considering the time of the story, they were probably the IBM PC, Mac and Amiga). Bradbury notes that Clarke ended up buying one of each and had to lug them home through the streets of New York. When Clarke died at the age of 90 in 2008 his estate posted a weblog he recorded which had some final words for his fans.
  • As of 2017, about 2.1 million people still use America Online's dial-up service, a figure that has held steady for several years. This trope is half the reason why, as many older users who don't need the internet for more than checking the mail and the news stick with the cheaper service they already have instead of splurging on broadband. (The other half is the slow spread of high-speed internet in rural America, rendering it less cost-competitive versus dial-up if it's available at all.)
  • Inverted with e-readers, whose adoption was, surprisingly, driven primarily by older readers. After all, many e-readers are backlit, and instead of having to buy a special large print edition, one could simply change the font size with the press of a button, both of which make reading easier for people with poor vision. E-readers are also a lot smaller than even a single book, let alone a shelf full of them, and thus more convenient for older people to own and carry around. Younger readers, on the other hand, have remained committed to print books, such that it is among the few fields of entertainment that has managed to successfully resist the transition to digital, especially in children's and young adult literature. It helps that parents who want to discourage youngsters from using their devices too much often buy them print books instead.
  • This is why the iPad and other tablets caught on earlier among older users while younger users scoffed at them, as tablets are much simpler to operate than PCs. It also helps that they're general purpose devices that also have apps for e-books, mentioned above.
  • This trope is Older Than Radio. The invention of the electromagnetic telegraph, and thus the birth of modern telecommunications, in the mid 19th century brought about a massive cultural shakeup. This was the first time in human history a message could be conveyed in real time beyond direct line of sight. The book The Victorian Internet (which is sadly not a genre mashup of Steampunk and Cyberpunk) relates a number of anecdotes of folks utterly confused about how the newfangled technology functioned. Such as:
    • A mother at home who wanted to send some soup to her son serving on the front lines via telegraph.
    • Someone explaining to their child that the telegrams flowed through the wire like a liquid. Though see The Hydraulic Analogy on that other wiki.
    • A woman insisting she rewrite the note she wanted relayed via telegraph because she didn't want the recipient to suffer her poor handwriting.


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