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Monday, January 11, 2010

Retired Execs, Aspiring Online Romeos Show Up For Remedial Library Computer Class

Posted By on Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 6:30 AM

Yes, students have been confused by the "return" button; they expected some parts to move. And, yes, other students had no idea that one could erase text by simply hitting "backspace." But, no, no one has ever attempted to apply Wite-Out to the computer screen.

Librarian Johanna Goldschmid is a veteran instructor of San Francisco Public Library's beginner computer and typing courses, and she's got more stories than could fit on the hard drive of an '80s-era computer. There are times, she says, when she feels like the instructor in the above video, a YouTube hit (not that the remedial computing students know from YouTube).

Yet while the sort of person who shows up for a class that starts at the most basic level imaginable -- i.e. "this is a mouse" -- has changed over the years, more and more people appear to be showing up. When even a janitor needs to send in his application via the Internet, and must list his e-mail address -- what's that? -- then Goldschmid and her colleagues have no shortage of students.

Back in the 1990s, Goldschmid taught an inordinate number of retired bigwigs who'd never tapped a keyboard in their lives -- they'd always dictated letters and whatnot to their secretaries. You don't find those sorts so much anymore, but you do find large number of immigrants hoping to write e-mails to their grandchildren. Or, in one case, an elderly charmer matter-of-factly stated he wanted to learn how to use a computer so he could score some babes on the Internet. Ladies, if you like older men with dental problems and near computer illiteracy, then Goldschmid has found the man of your dreams.

Classes are taught every Tuesday and Friday at the library -- though the fact you're reading this on a computer and understand the concept of a "link" means they're obviously not for you. But perhaps you've got a parent or grandparent or elderly friend. And there really is no age limit.

"We have a 95-year-old lady from the East Bay who comes in," says Goldschmid. "I bring her up everytime someone comes to the reference desk and tells me 'I'm 60, I'm too old to learn how to use a computer.'"  

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


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