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Technologically Blind Elders

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Look up something on the web? Where do we keep the instructions manual for that?

"That devil box tells you nothing but lies!"

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.


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.

    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.

    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: Old Man Yarber is so out of touch with technology he tries to control a tractor with a whip.
  • 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 stand 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.

    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 — Animated 
  • 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.

    Films — Live Action 
  • 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.

  • 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. Its 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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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, 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 kind of Retro Universe, where (at least up until Season 4), most of Camden seemed to be technologically (and fashion-wise) stuck in the late 80's or early 90's.
  • 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.

  • 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.

    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 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • One submission to Dolan True Stories involves an old man calling tech support because the tax form software he was using wasn't working as he expected. The poor submitter spent three hours fruitlessly guiding him through every conceivable fix before it turned out that he'd been expecting the mouse to print directly onto the form itself.
  • Lampirydae from Society of Virtue plays with this, on one hand he is a bonafide Gadgeteer Genius superhero and a flashback reveals he used to own an electronics business in his civilian identity, on the other hand his superscience skills are limited to the tech he used in his heyday and he's no good with technology invented later, his electronics store used to sell Zeerust Schizo Tech.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 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.

    Real Life 
  • This trope is the reason why so many businesses, banks, offices, corporations, and government agencies continue using older computers long after their sell-by date. Most veteran employees (not just older baby boomers, but many Gen-Xers and even some early millennials) learned how to use computers in the '80s, '90s, and '00s, and having grown up working with the mouse and keyboard as standard, they are often fiercely resistant to change. The announcement that Microsoft would stop supporting Windows XP with regular updates in 2014 caused panic in many such institutions that had to upgrade countless legacy systems... and genuine surprise in many tech-savvy younger people, who were shocked that so many major institutions still relied so heavily on Windows XP as late as 2014. It's also part of the reason why there was so much backlash against Windows 8, especially in the business/office world, as its interface, built around touchscreens, clashed badly with the traditional mouse-and-keyboard input that three generations of business and government employees had been trained on and worked with.
    • 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 reason that makes QWERTY not the best keyboard layout actually becomes 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.)