My neighbor Harold remembers when his dad finally caved in and let the power company bring electricity onto his farm — having held out until the 1940s. The guy was perfectly happy to rely on oil lamps, firewood, and draft horses to meet his power needs.
Well it turns out that the refusal to give up old ways actually spans generations of dads and persists unto this day.
In honor of Father's Day, TechRepublic editors and contributors recently swapped tales of the gadgets and tools our non-geeky dads have shunned (often to our amazement, puzzlement, and sometimes, frustration). Of course, we love our dads, even if we can't convince them to upgrade that Olivetti. Here are a few of the things our dads will not/would not part with.
1: Old-school cell phoneDespite being an early adopter of the cell phone, my father refuses to buy a smartphone. It's not that he's intimidated by the iOS or Android UI or particularly fond of his current flip phone. But he's convinced that he doesn't "need" a smartphone. He doesn't need to look up addresses or phone numbers when he's out. He calls and asks me to look them up. He doesn't need a keyboard to text. His phone's keypad works. It's a pain to use and horribly inefficient, but it works. He doesn't need a better camera on his phone. His flip phone has a camera. It takes horrible pictures, which are nearly impossible to share or even view on a device other than the phone. But it works. In all fairness to my father, his decision is also a personal cost-benefit analysis. In his eyes, a smartphone's benefits don't outweigh the required data plan's additional cost. I understand this logic, but I think he would quickly change his mind after using a smartphone for a week and seeing what he's missing. — Bill Detwiler
2: Landline telephoneCell phone, schmel-phone! My dad doesn't have one and doesn't want one. Heck, he doesn't even like talking on the relic that hangs on the wall in the kitchen. He is of the never-connected tribe. Sitting on the lake in his bass boat, about the last thing he would care for is someone ringing him up (or asking him when he's coming home). However, he will consider any tech that increases his chances of hooking the big one. — Selena Frye
3: Daily newspaper and 6 o'clock newscasts
My father gets the local daily newspaper every single day and has for at least 60 years. It is his main source of news, and he reads front to back every day. It is the same with television news; you watch local news at 6:00 and national news at 6:30. The idea of getting unfiltered news from the Internet or personalized news from Twitter is unheard of and frankly, beyond his willingness to comprehend.— Mark Kaelin
4: Paper-based banking
My dad has been gone for 15 years now, so he missed out on the real Internet Takeover. When he died in the 1990s, I was still one of the only people he knew who was "connected." But I knew Dad well, and I know that he would have embraced and been excited by some of the new technologies, such as GPS, cell phones, and email (although he did love going to the post office).
But one thing I don't think he'd have ever warmed up to is online banking. He grew up during the Depression and didn't trust banks in the first place — he always kept a large amount of cash in a safe by the bed. He would never have trusted them to keep his money safe in cyberspace. He would certainly have used the computer's calculator to check and double check the balance in his checkbook, and he might have liked the idea of being able to access information about that balance at any time of the day or night. But pay bills online? Never. He wanted a written, paper record. For that reason, he always insisted on using checks with the carbon paper so he would have a copy for his records. Having his financial records in a file that could be changed or deleted would have seriously messed with his peace of mind.
5: Black-and-white TV
Like Deb, I lost my dad before a lot of modern consumer technology was introduced, much less superseded by current tools and gadgets. But that doesn't mean that he didn't cling to some items that became outdated during his lifetime. The big one that comes to mind is black-and-white television. Cost was perhaps the driving factor for him; no way was he going to pony up for a cutting-edge TV — which, at the time, would have meant UHF reception (giving us five channels!) and that crazy futuristic COLOR TV thing.
The irony is that he was a news anchor and a pioneer of the broadcast industry, so trading old technology for new — like radio for television and kinescope for videotape — was in his professional blood. It just wasn't in his house.— Jody Gilbert
6: Old cars
My dad refuses to buy a car made after the mid-80s because that's when manufacturers began to put computers in them, which made them hard for the average shade-tree mechanic to work on. Having a car he can work on himself is important, as is the fact that parts for it are cheaper (unless it's an import), they don't have all the unnecessary bells and whistles, they don't all look the same, and insurance is cheaper. Plus, old cars have a carburetor, which is apparently a good thing.— Toni Bowers
7: Film camera
About twice a year, my father comes to town for a visit. Until about a year ago, he always brought with him a film camera that was manufactured in 1982. The camera takes decent pictures, but it is almost 30 years old. About two years ago, my sister gave him a digital camera for Christmas, but he has no interest in using it and probably wouldn't have a clue how to get the pictures off the memory card. Since digital doesn't seem to be an acceptable option right now, I gave my father a high-end Pentax film camera I no longer use. It isn't digital, but it is way more advanced than the 30-year-old model he'd been using, and he seems to enjoy it.— Name withheld by request
8: Road atlas
My stepdad received a really nice GPS a couple years ago for Christmas because he does a lot of traveling for work (he sells fishing tackle and gear). But he still hasn't taken it out of the box. In fact, my mom told me that his favorite gift one year was a Rand McNally road atlas, and so every year, I buy him the newest one. While he prefers paper maps to the electronic equivalent, he owns more gadgets and gizmos for his boat and detecting fish than anyone I know. Growing up in Minnesota, fishing was about bobbers, sunflower seeds, and beer. Now, when I go fishing with my stepdad, all eyes are peeled on the electronic displays. Fish don't have a chance!— Sonja Thompson
9: Real-time TV
As far as I know, my father has never recorded a television program on a VHS tape or a DVR, even though he has a VCR and a DVR player (which my stepmother uses). He will often take a nap so he can watch a sporting event or a Western that is on later in the evening. I can understand about sports because I don't think it's as fun watching a sporting event (specifically, tennis) after it has aired, especially if I know the final score. If my father ever recorded a program that was on live television and watched it later, I bet he'd say it was awesome.— Mary Weilage
10: Sunday drives
Okay, this isn't really a technology as much as it is a pastime that flouts technology... but GPS? My father would never use that. We used to go for rides on Sundays after church. We'd pick a direction and drive, listen to Reds baseball, look at the scenery, and wonder if we were lost. I think mostly it was an excuse for my father to get out of the house and smoke his cigars. Mom wouldn't let him smoke those things in the house.— Mark Kaelin
My dad is pretty hip when it comes to gadgets. He has a GPS device and cell phone, neither of which I have. My brother and I talked him into getting his first computer instead of a memory typewriter, and computers have become his retirement hobby. We created a monster.
I am very proud of him and what he has accomplished in his golden years.— Alan Norton
Other reluctant dads?
How about your dad — has he embraced the digital age or are there certain antiquated items he just won't let go of?
Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior editor for Tech Pro Research.