My 79-year-old mother-in-law recently started computer lessons, mostly to help her go Googling and maybe, just maybe to send emails to fellow members of her bowls club. After many years as a computer-denier, she now sees the point – but computer mice will remain ever horrible to her. Don’t get her started on mobile phones - the …
What the younger generation will want when they're that age is an iPad 8G with voice capabilities?
My Dad's got one of these...
...and the interface is terrible.
Every time I go home, we spend ages switching the thing back onto ring from vibrate (stupid little icon) and deleting text messages (non-intuitive and fiddly button sequence) as the things got bugger all storage.
The only good thing about it is the big buttons. Oh and the battery lasts quite well too.
Computing accessories for the elderly
Outside of a larger monitor, one thing I've noticed is that older computer users sometimes get along much better with a good quality optical trackball as opposed to a mouse. A very few that I've spoken to also liked a desktop touchpad once they'd had some time to get used to it.
My grandmother got along very well at 90 with her Microsoft "Trackball Optical 1.0".
Ironically, CRTs work better than do LCDs, as they don't distort when run at lower resolutions than what is "best" or "native". Some people have a problem with the distorted image presented by an LCD at less than native resolution, while others don't. But chances are a good old 17 or 19 inch CRT can be had for practically nothing if you need one.
LCD rule #1 -- use native resolution.
You can always make the fonts larger under whichever system you use -- and because you are using the LCD at native resolution the anti-aliasing works better.
There is no reason I can think of to use anything but native resolution [or higher with autoscrolling] on any OS I've tried.
How easy is it?
Serious question: with the size of LCD screens available (cheap LCD TVs have similar displays), does Windows have the scaling features to use it. Not just fonts,but the rest of the UI.
And sidenote: CRT monitor sizes are the physical size of the tube,not the size of the display area. A 19-inch CRT is a smaller display than a 17-inch LCD.
Still,Bill Gates is getting older. We'll get the computer equivalent of a large-print book one day.
bad interface design can make anyone feel like an idiot
Funny, because no more than 20 minutes ago I was completely defeated by a badly designed microwave.
It took no less than 2 minutes for me to open the door, because they had stealthed button in attempt to make the front look sexier. There wasn't so much as a symbol printed on the plstice component you had to push. Any attempt to type a time duration into the damn thing resulted in it defaulting to the presets printed on the numbers instead. Hence I am sat here drinking my cold coffee.
It's not as if a microwave is even an alien concept to me - I've consistently owned one since the ver early ninties.
This is what interface design is all about. You pick a motiff, and you stick with it.
The easiest phone I've ever used was my Erricson PF768 (later becoming the T10). Beyond the numbers, it had 5 command buttons. Up, Down, YES NO, and Clear, all printed in bright, large letters. When it rang, the screen flashed up "Answer?".
I don't care how old you are, if you couldn't figure out which button to press for that, there's something wrong with you.
want to be seen using this ?
Anything targeted to the seniors should never ever be labelld as such.
makes the product seriously un-cool.
Paris, 'cause she knows cool.
Re: cool or un-cool
"makes the product seriously un-cool."
No problem. No-one with a mental age in double figures gives a flying f*** about "cool".
To be quite frank..
..bravo, Drew! Random, but worthwhile article.
I look forward to there being loads of large, sturdy, clear and well-designed phones, suitable for older users. There's no reason why it should only be kids making a nuisance of themselves on a crowded train with their phone.
Not sarcasm, file under "I will wear purple". Building this stuff so that older people can use it without hassle might teach people a thing or two about streamlined and uncluttered interface too. Everybody wins. Also, the idea that elderly relatives can easily get in touch, call for assistance as needed and so forth is comforting.
I also fully support the right of people to grow old disgracefully. I hope to do the very same myself, if I don't get killed in a freak trouser-related accident or similar.
That's Windows Phone 7, isn't it? Gotta be a Windows phone because of the terrible interface.
/Ok, mines the coat with the Android in the pocket.
The logo looks like....
Did Doro just trace over that image? because their logo is scarily similar.
Thanks, I'll have one. I only need a telephone, not a wanking status symbol to annoy people with.
Thank you very much, I'll have one. I only need a telephone, not a wanking status symbol to annoy people with.
I've had mobile/cell phones of all types since their inception. And before the cell phone I had a Motorola brick in the car (if you don't know what that is then you're only a cell phone neophyte). I've used all the different gadgets and attention-seeking crap that comes with the latest phones 3G etc .etc. and most of it is ineffective, expensive junk to show off with.
1. On my 3G, I have had both SMS and Internet access turned off at the telco, they're just a waste of time money. For starters, the keys and screen are too small and fiddly to use it successfully. Moreover, SMS is the greatest rip-off of all time (as I've pointed out previously on these pages, NASA can get the same ASCII text across the solar system for less cost per byte than you can get the same SMS message the lounge room).
1.1 SMS, originally designed for telco maintenance purposes, is so limited that it's nigh on useless for anything serious. Of course, the lower your IQ the more you'll use it.
1.2 SMS is addictive and dangerous--between people walking into glass doors and crashing whilst driving, SMS is a damn danger. I'm not worried about the idiots who use SMS whilst driving but I am worried about them running into me. SMS used by someone else is a danger to me. OK!
2. Ergonomically, Internet-access cell phones are a real mess, Internet access from them, whether email or the Web, is essentially useless as the screen is so small. Even netbook PCs have a problem with the vertical resolution being insufficient (normally netbooks are 600px high and you usually need a minimum of 768 for most Web pages). If you are using Web access on a cell phone for any serious work then you're kidding yourself. More than likely, the only 'serious' Internet work your cell phone will ever get is when you enter mine's-bigger-than-yours competitions with mates in the pub or restaurant (whilst annoying other patrons). If you do need to access the Internet whilst on the fly, then I'd suggest you contact a time management consultant.
2.1 Accessing email and Web pages via cell phones whilst driving is just as dangerous as SMS texting whilst driving (again, I've a vested interest in that you don't run into me). Only last week I saw a bloke very nearly killed as he obliviously walked across a 6-lane road whilst SMS texting. Vehicles went everywhere to avoid him (unfortunately this type of incident is now commonplace.)
2.2 It is impossible to turn off the Internet and SMS access in many 3G mobile/cell phones. And even if you have Internet access disarmed at the telco the damn things still insist in trying to contact the now 'non-existent' Web. Of course, this annoying automatic Web connecting is set up to charge you every time the phone goes though a Web-seeking exercise.
2.3 Haven't time here to discuss all the other techie issues about cell phone ergonomics--or the lack thereof, nor of the serious problem of Internet and cell phone addiction. Now recognized as a large social problem. And I'll just briefly mention the annoyance that cell phone users cause to others in public places by using them at inappropriate times.
2.4 Do you have cell phone addiction? Try this test: if you left home without your cell phone and you were about a mile away before you realise it, would you turn back or not? If so, you've a social problem. Sorry.
2.5 These time-wasting, distracting, addictive buggery boxes are designed to not only waste time but primarily to fleece out of you as much money as is humanly possible. Yet, having such a wanky toy for many users (suckers) makes them think they're being hip. How mistaken they are, as with all fashion, time will come when the cell phone will be about as popular as the once-fashionable cigarette.
2.6. If you really must play with the Internet in public then buy a 3G connected netbook, at least it's practical and usable (and they're unlikely to come with a name that's associated with silkworm food).
2.7 If you disagree with my comments--and I'm sure many will--then ask yourself what you did before you had an Internet-connected cell phone--right, how did you ever cope without one [but you did somehow]. Second, if you find yourself flaunting your cell phone and/or Internet addiction in public or at inappropriate times then I'd suggest that you carefully examine your lifestyle. You may eventually realize how stupid and dumb you really look glued to a little plastic box in public. You might even realize how it's stuffing up your life too.
In the meantime, I'll be very satisfied with a single-function, voice-only, portable telephone which I can use in an emergency.
Well Said - give that man a beer
I fully concur. I'm often sneered at for having a simple old Nokia, people seem to expect a Network/Systems administrator to be a gadget geek, well sorry I'm not. Even when I purchased my current handset the sales drone tried to up-sell me something whiz-bang that did lotsa stuff - fortunately her boss overheard my increasing frustration and told her exactly what I wanted and where to find it in the store.
A phone is a phone and it should: Have No Camera. No Internet. No CRUD!. All it needs to do is make calls & receive calls. Unlike you however I do use sms (Sometimes I DO NOT want to talk to you, but do need to communicate).
Modern designers have seemingly forgotten the old 'KISS' principle: Keep It Simple Stupid!
Amen to that.
As I am well on my way to being an old grouch myself, I'll be quite happy indeed the day they make a phone that bloody just phones.
With a nice, large address book, please, and full access to all kinds of networks so I'm not stuck in a foreign country when I have to phone somebody or a utility/emergency service.
If it does just that, then I would also expect it to be only slightly heavier than its battery - hey, maybe it could even run on solar power ! No - just kidding myself, it'll still need a battery for when the sun is down or I'm in a dark room.
Even so, its battery will certainly last longer than the one in the phone I've got now.
Also, for all you young'uns out there, remember one thing : if it can't connect to them that Intarwebs, and can't run Flash, Java or whatever it will be in five years time, then it can't be hacked either.
Now that's worth a thought, innit ?
Can't get the staff
Software reflects the poor quality of programming staff, so 95% falls short and user interfaces reflect that. They're just more visible, that's all.
It's not just technical incompetence. In fact, it's not usually that. Poor interfaces arise more from arrogance, disdain for users and an inability to see the flaws in one's own work.
OAP = Over Amplified Price
What always gets me is the rip-off price that gadgets aimed at the older generation cost.
Take for instance the simplicITy computer - all it is is a very low spec box with a custom Linux GUI similar to most netbook distributions but they sell it for £455-£547 depending on whether you want a rubbish Intel or AMD chip in it.
Portable phone box,
My 70-something parents use their mobiles as portable phone boxes. Turn them on when they want to make a call and then turn them off again afterwards. What the hell happens when they try to call each other, I do not know.
I've got one
And I'm in my thirties. I've got the 410gsm in white - a clamshell thing.
I tell you, if Dyson designed phones, this is what they'd come up with.
The screen is large, bright, clear and colourful.
It looks funky, everyone who's seen it says so too.
Being a bloke with big paws, I find it fiddly to press tiny buttons. This phone has large buttons, nicely spaced.
The menu system is easy.
There's hardly any superfluous crud.
The volume can be cranked up ludicrously high - in the past I always had trouble hearing what people were saying, now I don't.
Battery life is good.
I'm not going to get mugged for it.
No I don't want to "surf the internet" on a screen the size of a postage stamp, thank you.
The time for a cell phone that is a phone first and does all the other junk as an afterthought is long past.
Crappy sound/reception, nested menus that must be accessed in order to do the simplest phone-oriented tasks (change a ringtone on a Nokia? No problem - if you have the manual to hand, otherwise forget it!), the list is pretty much as long as the number of phone-y things one ever wants to do, but want to play a game, take a picture or listen to an mp3? Those are just a click away, and the sound is excellent.
As for the device in the article, I attempted to follow the link and was shown an impressive cascade of code and a message to the effect the .NET script was performing an array boundary violation.
I'm not buying a phone from an outfit that can't even make a web page that degrades gracefully, especially one that costs a ton.
A rogue character in my link was to blame. Don't know why Doro couldn't supply a simple 404 page, though.
Eyes start going age 40 to 45
Forget age 75, the tiny lettering problem with phones and other electronics begins much sooner, usually age 45.
The eyes start going age 40 to 45. By age 50 almost all people who previously required glasses need bifocals. And people who didn't previously require glasses need reading glasses.
Reading glasses are a pain, putting them on, taking them off, maybe 50 times a day.
I've had the same mobile for 5 years. Every month I go looking at new ones, but I don't see what I'm looking for.
I want a proper phone, with an internal directory and so on, with buttons and a display I can read, even in low light, without putting on my reading glasses.
An 'interesting' time teaching my mother to use a pc! it was nightmarish, she couldn't even use a mouse, the pointer was either off one side of the screen or another, getting it near an icon wasn't even an option.
after several years , despite still not understanding computers and not really knowing much about them, my mother has moved on, she can now use a mouse! And has become some kind of photoshop wizard who can do things with photo's i never imagined was even possible.
I have the same issue with mobile phones, she has no clue about them at all, really struggles with the basic idea of most of them. As an experiment, this christmas i handed over my iphone and said nothing more than 'have a go with that, see what you think' i have never seen anything like it, after a couple of 'just touch it's' and 'slide your finger's' she was using it like a pro*.
So no matter what anyone can say against an iphone, as yes it is pretty crappy as a phone, the one thing it has going for it, is that it has an incredibly easy to use, intuitive, interface. And every other 'good' phone out there wishes it was even close. If my mum can learn to use it in seconds, it's doing something right!
*professional, not a prostitute, it's my mum you sick freak!
when am old ...
I won't want any technology , did assembly on z80s, saw the whole thing be born, used the first BBS on compuserve, a life working in IT ...
and when old, I want none of it, I want a mountain, a bike and some green. Be completely disconnected from the whole thing and become a human being again :D
joke apart, it might be good idea, am not sure their target customers will like the "IT's PHONE FOR YOU NANA !!! SO YOU CAN SEE WHAT YOU'RE DOING !!" in a loud voice.
"and the number buttons are much too small. Besides, who needs a camera on your phone when you have a camera? And why send or receive a text when you ring up and speak?"
Still using my old Nokia nk402 because it has nice big buttons. Oh yes.
Desperately Seeking Phone!
I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who wants a phone to be a phone! I like the idea of the Doro one, but it still doesn't solve the problem my husband has. This would be ideal for him except for one thing, it doesn't have speech on it.
As a forty something he wants to be able to use a mobile phone, but a brain injury cost him is sight and he has to rely on screen readers. The only phones we've found so far that can use them are Symbian based, and none of the ones available have big enough keys for someone with limited sensation in his fingers. So, no mobile except for a crappy Spanish thing (Owaysis), which allegedly was built specially for the blind but is worse than useless.
It's not just the blind who would benefit from phones that can speak the keys as they are pressed, or read the contacts list. Older people would benefit from this too. If manufacturers can make talking microwaves (we have one), why can't they sort the flippin' mobile phone market out!
Keep it simple: easy touch keys, decent layout, speech enabled. How difficult can it be?
There are a lot of features on the high-end phones I don't want.
There are some phones being sold in Tesco, under twenty quid, voice and SMS only, with nice.clear buttons. And not locked to a provider. If the UI is right...
SMS has its uses. I can see myself using a camera--I'll have it with me, and it's as big a revolution as the Box Brownie or the Leica for portable photography.
And I'm all for the bandwidth-efficient phone-friendly website.
But reading the internet on one of those things?
> 2.4 Do you have cell phone addiction? Try this test: if you left home without your cell phone and
> you were about a mile away before you realise it, would you turn back or not? If so, you've a
> social problem. Sorry.
I tell people to send me an email if it's important... I don't care about my phone and can even leave it for days without power at that.
This is the reason I got a N900... But again it's in my bag or anywhere else but with me while I'm driving, walking etc... I know I can't multitask certain things so I don't. Of course it helps that I tend to be aware of my surroundings more so than a lot of people.
I rely on hearing, smell, vision and touch to get myself from point A to point B safely. It's not hard to stop at the road if you hear a car. Also it's easy to see with your peripheral vision if you don't stuff your face full of the mobile phone or whatever you are doing.
I disagree with a few of your points
"1.1 SMS, originally designed for telco maintenance purposes, is so limited that it's nigh on useless for anything serious. Of course, the lower your IQ the more you'll use it."
No need to start with an insult. What if its more convenient? My other half doesn't have her phone on her all day at work, just her breaks. If I have something important to tell her texting is a sensible way to reach her. She can read it at her leisure. I've also sent instructions to people via it. They can see the letters rather than me having to use the phonetic alphabet. Besides, when I want to tell my parents something, I don't want to spend the next hour on the phone to them during my half hour lunch break.
"1.2 SMS is addictive and dangerous--between people walking into glass doors and crashing whilst driving, SMS is a damn danger. I'm not worried about the idiots who use SMS whilst driving but I am worried about them running into me. SMS used by someone else is a danger to me. OK!"
Thats why I am for a ban of smoking when driving cars. Bad enough that someone is thinking about the phone call they are on, but if they drop a lit ciggy in their lap, thats going to cause more of a hazard to them and others. People have been known to spread maps across their steering wheels when driving. Oh, mine has a GPS, with voice directions. Problem solved.
"2. Ergonomically, Internet-access cell phones are a real mess, Internet access from them, whether email or the Web, is essentially useless as the screen is so small.."
Some of us have adequate vision. Maybe we should stop anyone using a manual gear box and only have automatics as you find the gearstick too fiddly.
"2.1 Accessing email and Web pages via cell phones whilst driving is just as dangerous as SMS texting whilst driving (again, I've a vested interest in that you don't run into me). Only last week I saw a bloke very nearly killed as he obliviously walked across a 6-lane road whilst SMS texting. Vehicles went everywhere to avoid him (unfortunately this type of incident is now commonplace.)"
I've seen them crossing roads when reading newspapers. Not new technology causing it, its regulations that say I'm to fault if he gets run over when not looking. Change the law and make it legal to run over people that don't look. The death rate will drop rather than rise.
"2.2 It is impossible to turn off the Internet and SMS access in many 3G mobile/cell phones. And even if you have Internet access disarmed at the telco the damn things still insist in trying to contact the now 'non-existent' Web. Of course, this annoying automatic Web connecting is set up to charge you every time the phone goes though a Web-seeking exercise."
Instead of turning it off, how about buying one without those features. My parents had a nokia without all this gubbins until a few months ago when I got them a nice 3G with camera phone. It was so annoying not being able to send them photos (as they are not on the net).
"2.3 Haven't time here to discuss all the other techie issues about cell phone ergonomics--or the lack thereof, nor of the serious problem of Internet and cell phone addiction. Now recognized as a large social problem. And I'll just briefly mention the annoyance that cell phone users cause to others in public places by using them at inappropriate times."
Again, its not new technology. From the days of the walkman our ears have been assaulted on public transport and before that I remember one particular bus journey where the driver sang one song for the whole 1 1/2 hours I was on it. And as for the 2 hour trip with the people that stank of shit behind me... no tech required for that annoyance.
"2.4 Do you have cell phone addiction? Try this test: if you left home without your cell phone and you were about a mile away before you realise it, would you turn back or not? If so, you've a social problem. Sorry."
I work offshore on an oilrig. No mobile signal. No WiFi. Sometimes its hard to get on the internet or even a phone.
"2.5 These time-wasting, distracting, addictive buggery boxes are designed to not only waste time but primarily to fleece out of you as much money as is humanly possible. Yet, having such a wanky toy for many users (suckers) makes them think they're being hip. How mistaken they are, as with all fashion, time will come when the cell phone will be about as popular as the once-fashionable cigarette."
There will always be something to try and show off with. Tracksuits, bling and chaved up cars come to mind.
"2.6. If you really must play with the Internet in public then buy a 3G connected netbook, at least it's practical and usable (and they're unlikely to come with a name that's associated with silkworm food)."
Yea, I'll lug about a small computer all day for that 5 minutes waiting for a bus or to check 'who was in that film' in a pub with mates. Not very practicable. Should I also carry round a large camera for opportune shots? You must really hate the swiss army knife manufacturers for putting so much in one little unit.
"2.7 If you disagree with my comments--and I'm sure many will--then ask yourself what you did before you had an Internet-connected cell phone--right, how did you ever cope without one [but you did somehow]. Second, if you find yourself flaunting your cell phone and/or Internet addiction in public or at inappropriate times then I'd suggest that you carefully examine your lifestyle. You may eventually realize how stupid and dumb you really look glued to a little plastic box in public. You might even realize how it's stuffing up your life too."
I know I can cope without one. It makes it easier. I can cope without a car. Without internet. Without TV (and regularly do). Can you claim the same?
These devices are made to make peoples lives better but they are not forced on you. Its like the remote opener on my car. I don't need it (especially as its broken at the moment) but its nice to have and I expect not everyone likes them.
"In the meantime, I'll be very satisfied with a single-function, voice-only, portable telephone which I can use in an emergency."
And I hope you are very happy with it. But does everyone have to be the same as you? Should we go a step further and live like quakers? No, we all have different opinions and do things differently. No one is forcing you to surf the net on your phone and its not something like passive smoking thats going to hurt you in the pub.
@Wize, re: @Graham Wilson and the other grumps
I agree with pretty much everything you've said.
Unfortunately grumbling chumps are a well-established staple of the comments section to any El Reg article touching on mobile phone tech or design.
And to them I have just one suggestion: PLEASE GET A NOKIA 1100, GET OVER YOURSELF, AND SHUSH YOUR CHOPS ONCE AND FOR ALL. It's everything you're asking for. It really couldn't be any simpler. It has the undeniably classic old-school Nokia up-down-select-cancel interface design that would be nigh on impossible to simplify or improve. If you struggle with it's logic then it's a wonder that you're even reading this.
Ok, the buttons or screen might not be /quite/ as large as you'd like, but it's essentially everything you're asking for. But on the plus side it has a relatively gargantuan battery life, and I can guarantee that it's torch will prove to be more useful than you ever imagined (so maybe you'll admit that sometimes the 'extra crap' isn't so crap after all).
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