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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 August, 2003, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Dads can't keep up with techno-sons
The younger generation prefers CD players to portable radios
The younger generation prefers CD players to portable radios
Many British fathers are struggling to keep up with their sons when it comes to the latest technology.

A third feel more at home with portable radios than with CD, Minidisc and MP3 players, according to a national survey commissioned by Stuff Live.

In comparison, sons aged 16 to 24 are more likely to try out new technology and think broadband internet is the greatest invention of the 21st century.

The most techno-savvy young men in the country live in the Midlands, with MP3s topping their list of favourites.

But when it comes to entertainment, dads joined sons in citing Sony's PlayStation 2 as their preferred games console.

Some dads still cling to hazy retro memories. The survey found that the Sinclair ZX Spectrum was their third favourite gaming device, even though it is long extinct.

Have a play

Sony's PlayStation 2 was named top games console
Sony's PlayStation 2 was named top games console

Tom Dunmore, editor of Stuff magazine, is not surprised by the results.

He told BBC News Online there has always been a generational divide with technology:

"In the last 10 years there has been a real digital revolution from digital radio to TV," he says. "The younger generation has grown up with it while it's happening but for their dad's generation, it's a lot harder to get to grips with."

He thinks dads should make more of an effort to find out about new technologies because they are not as complicated as they might think.

Get over it

The easiest way to get dads familiar with new technology is to put the toys in their hands so they can have a play.

"Once there, they realise how easy they are to use. If we take VHS video recorders as an example - which lots of dads say is one of their favourite bits of technology - they are actually really hard to use.

"The latest personal video recorders are incredibly easy to use," says Mr Dunmore.

Part of the problem seems to be "geek-speak" and acronyms, which often do not mean much to your average dad.

Manufacturers need to de-mystify products and make more of the "retro cool" which evidently still appeals to the older generation. They also need to show them what new technologies can do for them, says Mr Dunmore.

The message for dads is clear, says Mr Dunmore, look at technology like quick-changing, disposable fashion. Have fun with it and move away from the slippers and pipe.

The independent survey of 119 young men between 16 and 24 and 354 dads aged 35 to 45 was commissioned ahead of September's Stuff Live 2003 exhibition in London.


Are dads in the Dark Ages when it comes to new technologies? Here is what you say:

This is something that SO annoys me! I am 50 and a prominent figure in the Computer Games industry. All my old contemporaries are boring fuddy-duddies with their heads buried in the sand. You'd think it would be fine to have work-colleagues in their early twenties but I feel quite isolated- I would dearly love to be able to identify with people of my own generation too.
Richard, London, UK

Martin certainly hit the nail on the head. In my teens we spent the weekends stripping down and rebuilding motorcycle engines. It might not be high tech but it was a "REAL" world and not a "VIRTUAL" one.
Peter, UK

The key to getting technophobes interested in gadgets and computers is to show them that it's not as hard as they expect. When my parents first got mobile phones they were always asking me how to use them, now they've switched to models with simpler menus they understand much more. When I lived at home my dad wanted me to type everything for him and was very slow at producing documents himself, but since he's had to fend for himself he's become much faster and knows much more about his computer. Now my parents are confident they won't break their gadgets they don't need much help at all!
Kat, Derby, England

Isn't this story less to do with technical issues, and more to do with what happens to us as we age - youngsters want to be part of the crowd and fit in, whereas oldsters are often proud of being different. Plus, the older we get, the less likely we are to be taken in by marketing hype and the more interested we are in quality, which is why dads will reject compressed digital audio formats such as MP3 and digital radio.
Andrew, United Kingdom

Sons who complain about technophobe fathers should be counting their lucky stars! I can't get my dad to shut up about his gadgets. If it's not his latest MP3 player, its the Packet Radio system he's just built, or he's blithering on about dipole antennae or SWR meters. I'd rather have a conversation, thanks very much.
Dan, UK

I think that Billy from Ireland has hit the nail on the head. You either get it or you don't. And by that I do not mean to say that those who don't get it are stupid. Far from it. My dad is a trained scientist but when it comes to digital technology it's a closed book to him. Simply because he's not really interested. I am not a scientist (far from it!) but I have a real affinity with computers and other gadgets. And, I believe, for no other reason than I am fascinated by modern technology so whenever I buy a new gadget I literally read the manual from cover to cover. And actually enjoy it. Oh dear, suppose that makes me a digital anorak!
Max, UK

My parents aren't too bad. My dad's good on computers but not really interested in mobile phones (although his lack of friends might have something to do with that!), whereas my mum can't even turn a computer on, but can't live without her mobile. But take my in-laws!... They're complete technophobes. No computer and a mobile phone they can't even use. They don't know how to store numbers in it, so keep a piece of paper with it, with numbers written on!
Emma, England

I think it is down to attitude - many people don't like change they won't accept new technology because it is different. In my experience a lot of adults are afraid to ask questions like, "How do you do this?", "How does it work?" and "Why does that happen?" Technology doesn't bite, it only moves too fast if you are not prepared to keep up with the game.
Steve, Greece

I like to think of myself as being totally opposite to the survey. I have three children seven, 10 and six months. I go out of my way to make sure my two eldest children use technology whenever they can just to make sure they don't get left behind. Things like PCs, MP3, MD, Bluetooth, and mobile phones etc. are all common things in our household. Being 35, I do agree with some of your readers, helping elderly parents through the minefield of PC technology and software installations is a real pain, especially when its all done over the phone. I do however think broadband internet is still overpriced !!
Mark Smith, UK

Problems arise when you constantly get phone calls from your dad and mum about how to install the latest version of Windows and how to synch up their PC with a mobile phone. Surely somebody somewhere could make a lot of money by providing a parent's helpline for this sort of thing, it would certainly please us sons!
Paul, UK

As a new dad myself, I must say I do wonder what new technology will be around in another decade or so, when my daughter becomes a teenager! As far as my dad is concerned, he's pretty good with technology, and even prints his own T-Shirts via the computer. Having said that, my mum is the one who programmes the video recorder!
Mark Allen, England

Its not a generational thing. My friends are technophobes and they are all in their mid-twenties. It has nothing to do with age and all to do with attitude.
Billy, Ireland

This has to be the case that my dad's generation never had and "REAL" technology like we do today. There were only cars and bikes and things to do with spanners and wrenches? Not MP3 players or computers. I don't know a thing about motor mechanics but a lot about computers. With my dad it's the opposite. So who's the more techno savvy?
Martin, UK

Sons should watch out for the dads and daughters stealing the techno-savvy stereotype! In my family, it's my dad and I that are the technically minded ones - frequently bemusing my mum and brother with our discussions about building/using/programming PCs..!
Rae, UK

Technology invented when you are 15-35 is really cool and something you might make a career out of. Technology invented after you are 35 is somewhat alien and goes against the natural order of things. This would seem to be a constant regardless of what era you live in!
Alexander Bisset, Scotland (Aberdeen)

My dad is terrible, he can't even program a vcr. On the other hand I'm sure my 23 year old son would say the same about me.
Howard, UK

My family is pretty much the exact opposite! My dad was 58 this year. Aside from his fascination with antique radios he also has garage (a shed in disguise) full of numerous PCs in various states of undress. I regularly go to him to help rebuild my home PC hard drive or whatever. My grandfather, now in his 80s, is equally tech minded, he worked on the first computers ever built back the 40s for the Ordinance Survey. By contrast I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in technology, I just like my technology to work properly!
Howard King, UK

My 14-year-old son berates me for not knowing how to access all the extra bonus features on the latest DVD, but he can't build a hardened Linux firewall or set up a .NET application server.
Andrew, France

My dad is 58 and can't switch on a PC has no desire to. On the other hand, so what? He is a sociable bloke who has no interest in facile computer games. There's almost an assumption that everyone should "keep up" with technology, whereas technology should really succeed or fail by appealing (or not) to consumers. If we all spend our time "embracing" new technology we won't have much time left for real living - life could just become one endless durge of mobile ringtones (don't get me started on that one), WiFI, Tomb Raider XII on your PS2, whilst listening to your MP3 player and desperately searching for some new piece of technology you don't realise you never wanted in the first place. How depressing.
Jonners, Tongue-in-Cheek, UK

My dad has always been more switched on than myself. I remember him taking apart my Dragon 32 computer to see how it works. He is now completely internet savvy and built his own 2Ghz PC from scratch.
Dan, Wales

As a Dad of two young boys, I am desperately trying to keep up! The problem is not understanding how things work, but finding out that the gadgets exist in the first place! Shows like Stuff Live are a great way to find out about new developments in a 'hands on' manner. With three sets of everything to buy (the boys and me!), cost is also an issue. I also think a lot of the "nostalgia" is misplaced. How many people still play ZX Spectrum games compared to PC games?
Stuart Roberts, UK

I have mixed feelings about my father and PCs, or any other form of technology. He finally started hacking it, when it comes to his PC, but that only came after I installed a language pack. His English is not in pristine condition and I believe that's the main reason he is always ready "to kill it". It is actually really hard to for people who's mother language is not English. Microsoft has to do something about this. The language pack does the trick to some extend, but whenever it comes to "help" thing switch back to English and " I am going to kill it" comment follows. I think if Windows was available with a comprehensive language pack, my dad would have become a skilful computer maniac. Come to think of it, it might be alright after all that it is not the case!
Ivo, USA

As one of the over 50s I grew up with the computer age and have no problems with technology. My advice to technophobes is "you don't know what you are missing out on".
Garry, UK

My dad has only just bought his first PC and it is taking him ages to get to grips with it.
Lucy, UK

My Dad makes an effort, but is generally a bit useless, and I end up doing anything technical. If we get a new TV, I'll set it up. I'm our family's tech support department. But he is willing to embrace new technology. He keeps saying how he wants set-top DVD re-writers to come down in price so he can buy one.
John, UK

Surely it is just a generation thing? My parents have no interest in the latest gadgets but my niece is absolutely fascinated by them.
Michelle, UK

What about us girls? And mums? My dad's really good, but my mum's rubbish - she pestered and pestered to help her choose a mobile, and now never uses it! She carries it in her handbag switched off! Does this exhibition have a text messaging class I can take my mum to?
Emma, UK

Well now, I clearly must be in the intended "Dad"-age since I recently turned 38. I however don't have any kids. However when compared to modern day kids I truly can't say who's more techno-savvy .. maybe only when you take the subject of SMS an average youngster might use SMS more then me but that's only because I'd rather use an Internet-chat option than the costly SMS/MMS service.
Richard, Netherlands

My step dad is very tech savvy, he has built our home computer from scratch. He also listens to his MP3 player whilst mowing the lawn!
Camilla Maddern, UK

Dads are only technophobes because they haven't had the exposure to the latest technology.... I remember playing on Atari 6800 consoles and ZX Spectrums and now I get to play with Complex Servers in the IT industry. But only because I had the exposure to the latest technology. Dads can still get up to speed if they take the plunge!
Leighton, UK

My Dad does OK. His generation have seen massive changes in technology. He finds the internet/e-mail the most useful "invention", although fairly tricky sometimes. Having a 13 month daughter of my own now I wonder what technologies she'll be brought up with. Although I'd encourage her to enjoy outdoor activities, rather than just falling in line to fill the pockets of the entertainment industry.
Al, UK

My Dad's 65 and got his first home PC a year ago. Now he's using the digital camera, printer scanner the works with no probs. You can teach an old dog new tricks! :)
James Morgan, UK

My dad is the opposite to this survey, he has his own computer consultancy business which both I and my brother work for. He always amazes me on business trips he seems to have a new techno toy every time we go. It's quite strange as all my friends moan about how their parents get into a sweat using the microwave where as in our house we all turn to dad for advice. I think the reason why he is so techno savvy is that he has been forced to learn how to use these gadgets and does that one thing most men can't - read the manual!!
Kirsty, UK

My Dad is useless - he gets really annoyed when I open things out of the box and start using them without looking at the instructions. He thinks everything is too complicated!
Sam, UK

I completely agree - my dad is completely useless with working out technology, but loves the end results. All you really need to do is pick up a manual or read a magazine to get an idea of how something works. It's not that difficult - is it?
Craig O'Boyle, UK

It's not just sons, what about daughters?! I'll be definitely dragging my dad down there!
Vanessa, UK




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