An Bad Case of Over Design - Designing for Elderly

By Angsuman Chakraborty, Gaea News Network
Saturday, January 7, 2006

So your Mom recently handed you the task of replacing your “grandmother’s ancient Macintosh with something she could use to connect to the Internet just to send email”.

Background: Your grandma is 89 years old, has a touch of Alzheimer’s, and for the last decade or so, she has been running Macintosh System 7.5 on an old LC II. To your knowledge, she had only ever used it to type and print some letters using Claris Works. She has never sent an email, she has never typed an instant message, she has never even been online in her entire life.

Your task is to keep the budget under 700$ (USD) have all the features your Grandma needs, and most importantly, is easier for her to use than Macintosh System 7.5.

With that specification in mind how would you design the ideal system for her?

I came across an interesting article which shows exactly how you wouldn’t design such a system. This real task was handed over to Bleek, a Linux enthusiast (fanatic may be more appropriate).

With his article I would like to demonstrate acute symptoms of over-designities.

He outlines one by the one almost every example of over-design you will find in book. At the end I propose my solution to the problem.

For the hardware he choose “a dual Athlon XP 1800+ with three 40 gig 7200RPM hard drives, 1 gig of RAM, and for video I gave her a dual-head ATI Radeon 8500 with 128MB”.
Now read the specs above again. He justifies it by - “That ought to give her enough speed to last a couple years at least.”

“I also popped in an old DVD ROM drive I wasn’t using, and a CD-RW drive that I snarfed out of an old rig at work that they were throwing away.”
I can sure see his Grandma downloading music illegally from internet (more on it later) and burning CD’s.


February 9, 2007: 3:59 am

Vaya mierda de traducci�n que habeis hecho, para eso mejor leer desde el original que no entender nada del traducido.

Mr. Irony
September 7, 2006: 12:33 pm

I think you just didn’t get the joke. The article’s author was obviously making fun of Linux gurus and the stereotype that they are almost autistic in their lack of social skills.

There was a definite thread of irony running through the whole article, which made the ridiculous notions (like that of grandma downloading warez) *funny* rather than obtuse, as you seemed to find them.

January 9, 2006: 10:21 am

Why not just keep everything the same, and put some sort of email program on Mac OS 7, like Eudora?

You may also have to setup a TCP/IP stack for that machine but it ends up being a one-time thing and she’ll never need to know that part exists.


January 7, 2006: 2:13 pm

I can only completely agree with your view, my brother having bought my 70-year-old father with no Alzheimers a DVD recorder with VHS to permit him to transfer his VHS homevideos onto DVD in an easy way and my father refusing to read the half page on how to do this from the camera directly and the full page on how to do it directly from VHS to DVD.

This is the man who had my mom phone me five times in the last three years because everythime he wanted to transfer from camera to VHS recorder, he couldn’t remember to set the channel to AV (and of course he couldn’t be bothered to read the manual).

I wonder how that Linux friend would deal with a relative like my dad ^^ - who wants the results he just wants someone else to work on them :D.

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