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It’s technology which is confusing, not new technology.9 Apr 2017

Just as the old struggle with new technology, the young struggle with old technology. the issue is technology not age.


I’ve looked at lots of research into how older users find mobile phones difficult to use. It’s the driving force behind Fuss Free Phones. The model for the business is to take all the technology which is hard for customers to understand and to put it in the hands of a team of telephonists who can guide the user.  You don’t have to understand how to send texts, a tilly will do it for you.

My friend Ian Hosking at the University of Cambridge is the leading researcher in this field. His thinking has guided a lot of the work behind Fuss Free Phones and it’s worth watching this video from BBC Click.


I’ve been to enough talks from Ian and other people working with phones for older people to have thought through lots of issues. But I was very amused when a friend posted something:

What struck me comparing the two was how similar they were.  Both the older and the younger users thought themselves “stupid” for not being able to understand what they were being shown. It’s not about age but familiarity.

We’ve grown to think that technology is leaving older people behind. That every generation accumulates the understanding of how techie things work but if you think about it that’s not true. In my youth I played with developing film and printing. That’s pretty much a lost art, and we can accept that some skills become redundant.

But we feel differently about technology and that people should be constantly learning how to use new stuff.  What we don’t appreciate is that we all live in a bubble of understanding. The kids in the second video are best reflected by this cartoon

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We should remember that features in phones which many people regard as obvious are not only alien to people who are too old to have come across them but also alien to those too young to have done so.