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Last week firstSTREET, a fcatalog retailer who specializes in products for the +45 adult and the company MyGait, a PC manufacturer in Texas, unveiled a “fear-free” home PC especially designed for older adults that find the complexity of using a computer just too overwhelming.
I interviewed the CEO of MyGait, Jeff Hill asking him how he can confidently say his computer is “fear Free” and easy to use, after all, haven’t we heard this “tune” before with other computer vendors?
Jeff said “ We designed this computer for mature adults who want to simply send and receive email , enjoy digital photos, get some news , play a few games and surf the internet but fear the complexity of operating a PC by themselves.” The evolution of the GO computer was based on testing with more than 10,000 seniors who used it, challenged it and told us how to improve it.”
I asked what specifically did the testers tell you? Jeff said “The testers wanted a computer that couldn’t crash or break, one that was completely logical and simple, that wouldn’t confuse them, cost them their privacy or leave them vulnerable to viruses or unwanted email. “said Jeff. He went on to say “Their suggestions were responsible for a number of special features, like a zoom that enlarges the screen even for email and everything online. They favored a fingertip-controlled roller ball mouse, because it’s easier on arthritic wrists and hands, and they wanted a US-based, around-the-clock center of service.” Tall order, I replied – can you really do this?
Jeff says they did it all and the greatest thrill has been watching seniors first approach the computer with doubt, then to witness the great joy of accomplishment when a grandchild returns an email message. “There are so many poignant stories of seniors connecting online for the first time with family members. And I’m always amazed at how quickly surfing the Web suddenly becomes a favorite pastime.”
Let me describe my testing and evaluation. The Go Computer is designed to be “easy-on-the-eye” with enlarged text on the screen, and a big keyboard with easy to read lettering. There are only two things required to make this PC work: a power outlet and a broadband internet connection.
When I first turned on the computer – the boot process was quick because you are actually logging into a MyGait server. This is a thin client computer. A big “GO” button that appears at the top of the screen, a simple click on “GO” transports the user to a menu of sites and selected applications to start with, such as Web sites for current events and news, medical information, email plus games and other entertaining resources. If a user gets confused while navigating around the system, there are green directional aids along the way, and the “GO” button is always the safe harbor to easily find your way back to what you were doing so. The user need not experience the sensation of being hopelessly lost that sometimes comes with traditional computers.
The problems of maintenance, upgrades, spam, adware, phishing and viruses and other PC plagues are handled by MyGait’s secure servers on their end. The service also takes care of on-line safety, storage, upgrades and repair issues. The user never has to worry about a crash, maintenance or doing something wrong because that is all handled at the remote site.
In my opinion with GO’s ease of operation and maintenance-free operation will enable those seniors who’ve never owned a computer before to enjoy being part of the internet age communicating with grandkids and family, to importantly stay in touch and feel the satisfaction of mastering new skills. For an older adult who is frustrated by being left behind across the digital –divide it is the joy of a new independence to gain access to a wealth of information, entertainment and communication.
The GO computer prices out at $799 and come with a Flat panel display, with the CPU and communications ports attached, a keyboard, roller ball mouse, and speakers. For additional information firstSTREET has set up a new number specifically for computer information and orders: 877-670-0737 or you can visit the Websites www.theGOcomputer.com and http://www.firststreetonline.com/Featured+Products/New+Innovations/
The computer is OK, but the exclusive marketing agent, First Street, is awful. When I bought the machine they misinformed me about the allowable return window and about availability of expedited shipping. When I complained, they hung up on me. I finally came to return the thing according to their return policy, but for two weeks after the UPS web site said it had arrived they failed to acknowledge receipt. When I finally pointed out their error they promised a refund "right away." Promised it twice, on two separate days. No refund yet.
As helpful as it might be to some seniors, the benefits of this computer do not, in my opinion, outweigh the hassles and risks of dealing with First Street. Instead, one could check out the special, senior-sensitive software available for ordinary computers.