WOW! My Parents Set Up A Wireless Router.

October 21, 2009

Every so often something amazing happens that makes us take pause and simply say WOW! Sometimes WOW can be a bad thing, like when the word is used in the same sentence as Microsoft Vista or when many of us opened statements from investment accounts over the past 18 months. But typically WOW marks moments when good happens in the world, and in this case the world of tech. I had a WOW moment this past weekend and I wanted to share. First a bit of background on my parents.

Barbara and Morgan Barokas are in their early 70’s but you’d never know it since they’re incredibly active people who embrace life – except when my dad is driving. They’ve been married for 54 years and many of the electronics they use were wedding gifts they received in 1955; the same year Disneyland opened. In their world it doesn’t make sense to get something new if what you have still works. This is obvious when you look at their kitchen appliances, console TV’s, wood grain answering machine, corded telephones, and more. I suppose you could call Barbara and Morgan very practical people. There have been some sea changes they couldn’t ignore and at times were pulled into the digital revolution; maybe the word should be dragged. It wasn’t until recently they embraced digital cameras after realizing they couldn’t find film at Costco, and they were one of “those people” who had to secure a digital conversion box so their TV would work after the nationwide switch. My mom refuses to give up her analog Motorola phone from the mid 80’s that weighs about 9 pounds and no longer works on any network; perhaps she thinks one day the carriers might go back to analog? Anyway – you get the idea.

Last month for my dad’s birthday my mom took a giant step and bought him a MacBook Pro. He’s shown interest in the Internet and has been amazed that I get the same Internet as my brother has at his house. It’s taken a few weeks but the last piece was put into place when Comcast installed Internet access at Barbara and Morgan’s house on Sunday. They thought they were good to go until the Comcast man told them he couldn’t install the Belkin wireless router they purchased at Costco the day before. Frustrated and tied to the Comcast modem like it was an IV bag, my dad called me. I asked a few simple questions, to which he had no answer, and then he did what he always does – he put my mom on the phone.

After hearing from my mom what my dad just told me 2 minutes prior, she suggested I just “walk her through how to set up the wireless router” over the phone. I told her this was impossible and I’d need to make a trip to their house to install. She really wanted my dad to be able to roam the house with his MacBook and she was determined to set up the router. It’s key to remember that 4 days ago my mom had never heard the word router, or modem, or broadband, or WiFi. Now she was asking me to walk her through the install of a wireless router. Are you kidding me? No she was actually very serious.

In the interest of time, I’ll spare most the details about what took an hour and 47 minutes but there are a few I must share. First, we spent the initial 50 minutes trying to troubleshoot why Barb couldn’t get past step one which was the language selection page. I asked her what the lights on the router were doing, if they were flashing, red, orange, etc. Mom said “Lights? It’s not plugged in – should it be?”. At this point I put my iPhone on mute and gave a quick primal scream. “Hello – Howie?”. I returned to the call and things went fairly well from that point. I told my mom to think of the modem, router, and MacBook as three friends standing atop a hill, all holding hands, but the router had to be in the middle. Throughout the call we used the friends analogy to get us to step 6 – configuring the ISP. There were a few bumps but the outcome, after nearly two hours and a call to Belkin tech support, was massive success. My dad now sits at the kitchen table with his MacBook Pro, a mere 3 feet from where the modem sits, but he does it without wires. Now there are just two friends, standing on the hill holding hands 🙂

Aside from the WOW factor of what happened last Sunday, the point of this post is the recognition that technology has come so far and we may really be reaching a point of true plug and play.
Do I foresee my mom setting up a test environment in the cloud? Not likely. But the fact that two people with zero tech background can set-up a wireless router, and secure it with a password, is pretty amazing and I can’t wait to see what the future brings. But I’ll have plenty of time to ponder the future while providing Barbara and Morgan 24X7 technical support.

Howie

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