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Nathan's column: Trying to keep up with it all

In ancient Greek myth, Sisyphus was condemned to forever roll a boulder uphill, only to have it tumble back to the bottom, all of his progress abruptly wiped out.

For a more modern example, consider the Minnesota Vikings passing game.

Or, consider me. I get Sisyphus. I've tried to teach my grandpa to use a computer.

I should point right at the start here that my grandpa is a pretty accomplished guy. He was a pilot in World War II. He earned a masters in chemistry and worked 30 years at 3M. He's 90 years old, and I'm pretty sure he could still beat me at arm wrestling.

But computers are not his thing.

My grandpa told me Sunday that when he retired from 3M there wasn't a computer on any of the desks. He'd never even touched one. He jumped into the world of home computers a dozen or so years ago with a machine I no longer needed..

The phone I carry around now has more processing power than that old computer did, but I for him, everything was a mystery. Including why you had to click the Start button to turn the computer off.

In the years since I've explained more than once how to find files on the hard drive. I've tried to help him understand when to click once and when to double click. I try to avoid the right mouse button altogether. You have to know the limits.

Sunday's lesson focused on email. I had added photos to a chronology my grandpa had written of his life, and he wanted to know how to download the finished PDF I had sent him and attach it to another email so he could send the chronology to friends without my original message. I'm pretty sure children are born these days knowing how to handle email attachments, but I might as well have asked him to tear down and rebuild his car.

Actually, he might have done better with that.

I walked him through the process, though. And once we got past the novelty of holding the left mouse button and dragging windows around I think he pretty much got it. Maybe he'll remember. Maybe it will all be gone the next day. It's hard to say.

It all makes me wonder what things will be like for me if I'm lucky enough to live as long and productive a life as my grandpa has. I try to stay up-to-date on technology, but I'm sure that 50-odd years from now there will be hologram-based toasters or thought-controlled bidets that will leave me as baffled as a gmail inbox leaves my grandpa.

Actually, I already find bidets pretty mystifying. But that's really not the point.

Technology changes fast. My dad bought one of the earliest personal computers when it was first available. It was a big metal box called a Kaypro, and it had a tiny, built-in green screen. One of my favorite programs was a knock-off of Pac Man where all the characters were letters and punctuation marks. Today I can sit down at any computer in the world and watch a video of a Korean man dancing like he's on a horse. I don't dare try to explain that to my grandpa.

It all catches up to you at a certain point. And then you just hope you can avoid getting run over by the rock as it rolls back downhill.