Actually, they already had it set up, but my father in law was waiting for me to help him learn how to do some stuff with it. Remembering back to my short time at the Apple store, I dragged the iLife app demos out of my memory to prepare for the kinds of things I thought he would want to do. As it turns out, I was about 5 steps ahead of what really needed to happen.
At first, he sat in front of the machine, and I in the chair next to him, and he almost formed a question a few times. Then he looked at the screen and just asked me to just show him what kinds of things he could do. Oh, the general OSX demo, that was probably still in my memory somewhere. As I was trying to think of where to start, he did finally come up with a specific question. It was nothing I had anticipated, but makes perfect sense as a top priority in his case. He had been a Windows user for years for work, and has been preparing family taxes with Turbo Tax since 2005. He had those files, and many other family financials backed up onto a USB stick. He wanted to know where to put them. That's right, the file structure and Finder were different enough from what he was used to that he wasn't sure where he should put the files. After introducing him to the concept of the Home folder, I showed him where his Documents lived, and how to get there from the dock or the Finder. We went through the different views the Finder offers and settled on columns so he would know where he was. I showed him how right clicking still gave the option to create a new folder so he could go about organizing the files. We decided to move the files from the stick into a temporary pre-sorting folder on the desktop so he wouldn't miss anything and could come back to the sorting later.
The rest of the afternoon was spent tackling the Alaska pictures. Between the two of them, they had about a million photos on two different digital cameras that they were deathly afraid transferring wrong and losing. The first camera was a Kodak. Easy Share may be great if you want to deal with that software, but when you have iPhoto, why on earth would you want to use Kodak's proprietary mess? Oh, because Kodak cameras won't mount as a drive, that's why. But we weren't playing that game, oh no. This is a new iMac, with a SD card slot (thank you Apple, you have no idea how you just saved Christmas). So out came the card, and into the iMac it went. iPhoto then had no problem importing directly off the SD card. After a short discussion of how photos are organized into events, we went into full screen slideshow mode. Just in case you've forgotten how a slideshow runs in the hands of the master of the house, we then got to discuss every single photo as he clicked through them and continued to marvel at how great they looked on the iMac's screen. Rinse and repeat with mother in law's camera, and that ate up the afternoon.
The final task of this trip was to drag them kicking and screaming into the digital music revolution. Father in law had gotten Mother in law an iPod for Christmas. Once we found this out, we went and got them an iPod speaker dock for Christmas. She's a librarian and they're both always listening to books on CD. She frequently also gets the little overdrive mp3 players the library checks out, with a single audio book on it. He prefers the CDs, but complains about ones that aren't split into enough tracks, as the tracks then end up too long and it's hard to pick up where you left off if you stop in the middle of a track. We thought the iPod was a brilliant solution, because we know how they work. We tried to explain downloading audible books from iTunes or the library's website (which actually turned out to be ridiculously over complicated, but that’s a rant for another post), ripping CDs to the iPod, the magic of having all your music and books all the time in one little device, but to no avail. They couldn't imagine a world without CDs. We managed to get them used to the idea of using the speaker dock for the kitchen, so he wanted to move the old CD boombox up to the office to listen to the books. You know, the same office the iMac is in. We tried to explain the awesomeness to just using the iMac to listen (or ripping to iTunes first), but he wasn't convinced. That is, until he took a CD up, stuck it in the computer, and we started talking about how iTunes works. When I showed him that you can click anywhere in the playback progress bar to go to anywhere in the track, I think I blew his mind. That was the most excited he had been about anything we had showed him up to that point.
It was a good reminder that what's important to those of us who use computers all the time might not matter at all to the "average user" and that the "average user" may surprise us when we find out what is really important to them. But, with all the new hardware I'm seeing, it can be easy to take for granted how many neat and useful little things computers can do. I know how they work, so there's not much magic or mystery. New features are hardly ever revolutionary, it's just slightly faster stuff packed into slightly smaller or sleeker boxes. Watching someone be so excited over playback control on a CD rekindled a lot of the excitement in me. I'm really looking forward to seeing what's being shown at CES, and hoping I can remember what this might look like to an "average user."