Aunt Bertha Was a Beta Tester

Got a letter from Mom the other day. “Sonny,” she said, “Great Aunt Bertha writes that she wants to join the computer generation before it’s too late.”

Too late? Aunt Bertie’s ninety-something if she’s a day. A great old gal and all that, but computers? Now? Her hard drive’s full and her RAM’s on empty. And the sands of time are running low. Well, I guess she can afford a fling if anyone can. She’s rolling. I go back to Mom’s letter.

“I promised Aunt Bertha you would help. Find something suitable. Give her a few lessons to get her off to a good start.”

Me!!! Why me???

“PS. Cousin Jane says Bertha’s ready to change her will again and her heart is none too good. Don’t funk it, Dear. This could be your golden opportunity.”
Gold! I fired up Netscape and was all set to email Great Aunt Bertha to hold everything, I was on my way… when I stopped dead. No email. Poor old girl. She was living in the dark ages. We’d soon get that fixed. I dashed off a postcard, packed up my PowerBook and headed West.

I found Bertie in one of those posh places that rich old ladies retire to. She was looking awfully frail, but was surprisingly full of that pioneer spirit. Said she was going to join the computer generation or die trying. I had a feeling we’d better work fast.

The new iMac was our obvious choice. Just made for old dears like Aunt Bertie. Beauty and simplicity in a single package. One piece. One plug. No doodads to fuss with and designed for the Internet. It would even fit on her spindly, antique desk. What more could anyone want?

A floppy? Hey, Aunt Bertie’d never even heard of a floppy. Maybe that should have given me pause to think. But the sands of age were leaking fast.

By the time the gorgeous new iMac arrived, Bertie had the basics down pat. I’ll say this for the old girl, she was a fast learner. And from the moment she saw that iMac spin up on my PowerBook, she was hooked.

At the end of the week, I left her webbing away with a promise of email as soon as I got back to the dorm.

Date: 9/30/98 8:00 PM
To: sonnyboy@ksu.ks
Subject: Thank You! Thank you!

>> My Dear Dear Sonny <<
Just a quick note to tell you how much fun I’m having with my new iMac. I’m the envy of all the girls. The gentlemen, too! I won’t forget you, My Dear Boy. You have quite taken my heart. Mr. Jones, the lawyer, comes by tomorrow. I am changing My Will. Everything to my Dearest Sonny. >> All My Love, Great Aunt Bertha <<

I found myself humming ‘all the gold in California…’ Great song. Wish I could remember the rest of the words. I was pretty busy after that with school and sort of forgot about Ole Bertie. But I knew she was in Heaven (the earthly sort) with her new iMac.

Date: 10/25/98 6:00 PM
To: sonnyboy@ksu.ks
Subject: Where’s the Floppy???

>> My Dear Sonny <<
I promised one of the gentlemen here that he could use the iMac for some business, but he can’t seem to find the ‘floppy’ drive. I have no idea what a ‘floppy’ is. It does not sound at all nice, but Mr. Symm says it is vital. Please. Let me know soonest. >> With Love, Great Aunt Bertha <<

I put her in touch with Newer Tech and Imation. Rumor had it that they were both doing USB floppies now. I wanted to go out and help the dear old girl myself, but midterms were fast approaching. Looked like I’d have to give up partying and buckle down to some serious study next week.

Date: 11/20/98 4:00 PM
To: sonnyboy@ksu.ks
Subject: Letter in Limbo

>> Dear Sonny <<
I have just composed a Holiday Letter for the family. But none of the printers here seem to work with the iMac. Poor Mr. Symm has worn his back out trying them one after another. Where is the printer port? What in the world is a USB? By the way, that floppy thingamabob has been replaced twice now. I am beginning to know those nice boys at tech support by name. >> Love, Great Aunt Bertha <<

I know. I know. I should have gone out myself. But, midterms were over and I had some serious partying to catch up on. So I put her in touch with Epson, Newer and Hewlett-Packard. Surely somebody’s got some USB print stuff for the iMac.

Date: 12/15/98 2:00 PM
To: sonnyboy@ksu.ks
Subject: What’s With This Thing Anyway!!!

>> Dear Sonny <<
Thank you for letting me know about the USB printer solutions. After several calls to tech support (such nice, helpful boys) and a new doohickey or two for the printer, it looks like I may get my Holiday Letters out after all. But I DON’T understand. You told me this new iMac was going to be a snap to use. One piece. No worries. It’s a Mac, you said. So WHY is my desk a mess of floppy things (oh, that dreadful word), dead printers, strange wires and tech support numbers?
>> Yours Truly; Great Aunt Bertha <<

She had attached a picture of herself at her desk, tangled up in cords, cards, cables and discarded boxes. Tech support and RMA numbers lined the screen. It was clear that things had not gone well. But, I said to myself, all’s well that ends well. Sounded like Aunt Bertie was in pretty good shape by now. I should probably go out over Christmas just to make sure (Ok. Ok. And to keep my hand in), but there was this great ski trip coming up. Maybe next month.

Date: 1/10/99 12:00 PM
To: sonnyboy@ksu.ks
Subject: Good News & Bad News

>> Well, Sonny, I have good news and bad news. The Good News is that everything is up and running. I am even teaching a Beginners Mac class to the girls before Wednesday Night Bingo. Oh, and by the way, there is no need for you to come out this month. <<

(That was good news. My car would’ve never made the drive. The ski trip just about did us in. I could only hope the Chevy didn’t kick the bucket before old Auntie.)

>> That nice young Bob from Tech Support stops by nearly every day. What would I have done without him? He says how sorry he is I wound up as a Beta tester (whatever that means) for all his new USB paraphernalia. It has quite affected my heart.<<

(Her heart? Poor old girl. Well, it was bound to happen. I was only glad I could give her a little happiness before the sands ran out.)

>> P.S. Glory Be! Almost forgot the Bad News. Am changing My Will. Tomorrow. Dear Bob. He has been such a help. Regards to your mother. Great Aunt Bertha <<

Susan Howerter

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