Copyright © 1998 Henrietta W. Hay
Henrietta Does Quicken
March 13, 1998
Some people retire to play golf. Some learn to ski. Some play
bridge. Lots of people travel. I don't do any of those things. I
mess around a lot with my computer.
The world of personal computers is a great gift to seniors. Its variety
is endless. One day while fooling around on the Web (that's the World
Wide Web, in case you haven't explored it yet), I came across a home
page of technological material. Its slogan said, "Personal technology
for people who weren't born yesterday."
That's a great slogan, much better than Over the Hill Gang. It honors
experience and knowledge, continuing enthusiasm and a desire to learn.
As a gadget nut, I bought a kit many years ago. The sales pitch assured
me that I could build a "computer" with paper clips and rubber bands.
Needless to say, the definition of "computer" was a bit different then.
I followed the instructions very carefully. When I was finished, I
might have been able to add one and one with it, but I was so pleased
that one would have thought I had invented the wheel. From that to my
Power Mac is a jump beyond comprehension, but they both work on the
same principle, with ones and zeros.
Today's personal computer can well be the senior's best friend after
her/his human ones. Its range is almost limitless, but we do have to
conquer the software.
I am competent in Microsoft Word, although I use and understand only a
fraction of the program. But I had a long struggle with Quicken, that
very popular software program designed to "make keeping track of your
finances easy." Software programs often come with so many bells and
whistles that it is hard to figure out how to do the simple thing you
want to do.
Maintaining one's bank account accurately is a very personal chore.
Some people love to write their transactions neatly in their checkbooks
and calculate the balance with each check. Others record the checks
whenever they think of it, but don't bother much with the addition.
They pray a lot.
Either of those methods, in the computer age, seemed
pretty inefficient to me, so several years ago I wrote a simple
spreadsheet program to do the job. It involved inputting check amounts
and deposits, and letting the computer do the work of adding and
subtracting. Assuming I entered the right numbers and didn't forget
one, I always had a correct balance -- well, until the bank statement
came and I discovered what I failed to enter. It was simple, but I
liked it. One of my male friends laughed at me because I had to type
in each entry. But I told him he had to use his brain to subtract each
time, so we were even.
But a couple of Christmases ago son Dave sent me a copy of Quicken.
Then he came to visit and spent an afternoon trying to teach me all its
sophisticated features. I used it a month or two, couldn't get what I
wanted, and then went back to my old simple system. Not knowing I had
chickened out, he sent me the upgrade and spent another afternoon trying
to convince me that it would simplify my life. One more month and then
back to the old system.
When he was here this winter we went through it again, and this time I
decided that in the name of mother/son relations, I had better get with
it. Any mother hates to have her son think he's smarter than she is,
even when he is.
Now, after a couple months of experimenting, I have finally figured
out how to get all the information I want and have fun doing it. I even
look forward to seeing the bills come so I can record the checks, but
I'll get over that very quickly. But I still can't convince my friend
who likes to subtract.
A lot of my senior friends are finally coming into the computer age,
some of them kicking and screaming. There is one notorious holdout,
but she'll come around when her old manual typewriter finally wears out.
Even as I write Bill Gates is arguing with Congress about software.
Whoever wins, the computer age is here and we seniors may as well get on