Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

Late late late as ever, but I did want to make a note of this day, celebrating Ada Lovelace by blogging about women and technology, so this fits, sort of :) I have been running around a lot in the past few weeks, using my mobile to keep in touch with children and siblings and hospital, answering work calls while visiting mum in hospital, trying to keep it all going and find time to go and eat cake with friends who can only leave the office if they bring their blackberry....
I was wondering today which is most useful, the mobile phone or the washing machine? If I had to choose between the two I would probably find it quite hard, because I can remember the sheer drudgery of washing everyone's clothes by hand, not to mention the nappies....then that got me thinking about the MSc in IT that I did back in 1993, and the tutor who used washing machines as an example of technology that we women might understand. Funnily enough, these days my partner seems to have taken control of the laundry, and its not even a dyson.
So, back to the point - happy Ada Lovelace Day everyone :)
I am meant to write about a woman in technology that I admire, and I don't know where to start. I have met too many interesting women who work as designers and developers to be able to point to just one. I shall have to make a list of all the women in technology I have come across over the last 15 years (!) So for today, I would like to nominate my 9 year old daughter, who always makes sure that she gets her fair share of time using the computer, the ps2, the nintendo DS and so on, and more importantly also knows that she can use technology to be a creative producer, not just a consumer.

And on a bizarre note I just had to mention that I read a Mills & Boon historical romance this week where the heroine was a mathematician and it mentioned Ada too. Brains and Bodices. Brilliant!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

in tune with radio 4

Driving down to the island on monday I stumbled across a radio 4 snippet on Age Concern projects where they drive round a bus stuffed with computers to show older people how to use new technology. Sort of like a playbus for silver surfers. While trying to find this piece online to share with anyone who bothers to read this I found a wonderful article by Katharine Whitehorn, which made me wonder whether I need to define grannies, but then I decided that sod it, the sort of about-thirty-BYT who I had in mind when I started whining aren't able to tell the difference between women over 40 and women over 60 or 80 anyway. They just used granny as a term to dismiss older women who weren't as wonderfully technical as themselves. So I shall carry on using Granny to encompass all ages of women who may be otherwise dismissed by BYTs.
Cos I can :)

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Am wondering whether to invest in a monocle now that my arms aren't long enough for the text size on my screen - this picture was pre-optician explaining that there is nothing you can do about eyesight, it just starts changing when we are born and keeps going. I now have two pairs of glasses (x1magnification) so that I can read trash fiction, one pair from the pound shop and one from a charity chop - but they were new. Just need to bite the bullet and pay for the prescription pair. I think I am avoiding all that 'choosing frames to suit face' malarkey, as well as knowing I wil probably lose them and have to berate myself in the way that I berated the 4/5ths of my kids that used to lose their glasses.

showing off again

Just had a quick phone conversation with my big brother about meeting up at the hospital tomorrow to see mum. I sent him a text so I could talk through how to open and read them on his phone, in the course of which he discovered he had 22 text messages in his inbox that he didn't know were there. I haven't ever had a siemens phone so I don't know how easy they are to use. I used to stick to Nokia, these days I have Sony phones, only since someone was showing off their walkman phone so when I was offered one with my contract I took it. I gave my nokia to him indoors, as it seems the simplest interface for him to get to grips with. I got him the phone after one particularly irritating family day out when we lost each other in a kids theme park, and I had the small grumpy child and the picnic and he had the laid back child and all the cash. So we were wandering around separately for nearly three hours, by the end of which I wanted to kill him for not going to the agreed meeting point earlier. As punishment I made him go on the pirate swing boat with the kids. And that Xmas I got him a mobile phone of his very own. He only saw the benefit of having his own mobile when he realised he could be up a mountain in France and still get the football results.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

somebody told me

I have been gathering quotes today from people who noticed I was starting this ramble. Here are a few posts to my facebook page from people whose research I respect (I just had to mention that I use facebook as well as predictive text. Easiest way of keeping in touch with physically distant children. Maybe I should start listing the technologies I can use?) Anyway, here are the quotes:
The assumption is always that old ladies are part of some techno wasteland. But grannies are not as old as people think they are :) And pretty soon most grannies will be part of the techno generation
http://www.thenotquiteyet.net/?page_id=9 Grannies and grandads doing stuff with tech and networks..
Half the population of western europe predicted over 50 by 2030 - we'd better change expectations of 'old people' and tech by then, or we're buggered....
My mum finds remote controls tricky, because she now has a freeview box, a dvd player and a tv with integral video player, so she has three remotes to juggle. Most of the time she manages by not using the dvd and not attempting to use on-screen menus - who needs to when you have the Radio Times? When I stayed there I managed to work out how to use the different remotes, which was handy when my sisters were there a week later and had problems getting mum's dvd player to work. I had to talk them through it over the phone, pointing out that one handy way you can tell which remote goes with what, is if you check the manufacturer name on both the remote and the tv/box/player and match them. Maybe my sisters were having problems because they'd been drinking a little.... At one point I was desperately trying to remember if the dvd they were attempting to watch had a trailer at the beginning with a giraffe on it. Didn't want to attempt getting them to fast forward. Was about to give up when we realised there was a video running that they had switched on by accident.
Next time I went down I retuned the freeview box so now mum can get ITV2 when she comes out of hospital. She was getting frustrated with seeing adverts for things that she couldn't watch. Hopefully she won't stumble across some of the other more laddish channels that arrived too. Maybe I should have sat down and worked out parental guidance settings on the channels so as not to perturb my parent.

Friday, 13 March 2009


Inspired by hearing bright young things (BYT) refer to older women as grannies who know nowt about technology. Just thought it would be good to start collecting examples of research and articles which are surprised that women of a certain age know how to use predictive text. Possibly inspired by the nice bottle of fair trade wine that I have been drinking this evening.....Also by a tale recounted to me by a friend (Jackie C) where a BYT publicly announced that "We can't assume that grannies will get on their bicycles and use their mobiles to send us information".

So I don't cycle very often, but I use my mobile, and I am about to become a granny....