Nobody's too old for tech

Internet pioneer Vint Cerf shares why seniors shouldn't be shortchanged when it comes to technology

Vint Cerf, known as the father of the Internet, says technology has not only changed the way we communicate but it's changing the way we live our lives.

Vint Cerf, widely knows as the father of the Internet told a crowd at International CES that seniors are not too old for tech. Some of those silver surfers, he noted, "invented this stuff." (Photo by Sharon Gaudin / Computerworld)

Speaking at the International CES show Tuesday, Cerf said one of the things he focuses on is telling people that they're never too old to use technology. "Some people think that silver surfers don't know how to use this technology," said Cerf, who is vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google. "I have news for you. Some of us invented this stuff." Cerf, who will be 70 this year and made several references to his graying hair, was cheered when he said gadgets, apps and the Internet aren't just for teens and twenty-somethings.

In an interview after his speech, Cerf said technologies such as smartphones and social networks are changing the way people of all ages, not just young users, communicate and manage their day-to-day lives.

"First, think how we use computers to mediate our conversations," he said. "Now the computers are participants in it. We actually get help from machines in our communications. Take Google Alerts, for example. It tells us when there is something we are interested in."

Social networks, he added, keep people connected to far-flung family and friends with whom they might otherwise have lost contact.

"As part of our interactions, machines have become integral," said Cerf. "This is pretty powerful. It changes the way we discover things. It changes how we think about communications. It changes how we communicate and who we communicate with."

A Japanese-built, Internet-enabled bathroom scale, for example, can automatically send a user's weight directly to his doctor. In the future, the scale could be connected to the refrigerator, which might provide healthy recipes or mention the fresh fruit stored inside.

Cerf said he also imagines a future where even clothes go digital.

"Can you imagine if our clothes were Internet-enabled?" he asked. "Can you imagine if you lost a sock? You could send out a search and sock No. 3117 would respond that it's under the couch in the living room. But maybe that's not a good idea because you could tell your wife you're at work but then she texts you to say your shirt says it's down at the bar."

Cerf also pictures a not-so-distant future where a visitor walks into a hotel room and his smartphone communicates with the TV screen so he can read email or text on a bigger screen.

Smartphones will become even smarter, he said, and will know where we are and what we should be doing. "Our phones could tell us to adapt our plans according to conditions that might have changed since we made those plans," he said.

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