Introducing David Lamb:

graphic artist, friend, and accomplished computer-user

(David passed on Friday morning, January 28, 2005-just one day prior to his 104th birthday)

David Lamb - January, 2001

A Younger Portrait

This is an account of my experience introducing a retired commercial artist and centenarian to the computer. It is about David Lamb and his experiences with four computers: a Macintosh SE, a Macintosh IILC, an IBM compatible, and most recently a new Imac. David used both his MacIILC and his PC for over a year. On a visit with him in August, 2000 I learned that he had decided he preferred the Mac and had given his PC to a friend who uses it to play bridge. He decided that the Macintosh was easier to use despite the PC being newer, having a color printer, and having better user-support from fellow residents and employees of the home for the Masonic aged where he lives. Sometime in 2002 a new Imac and color inkjet printer was purchased by the Masonic Home for his use. My wife and I visited David February 23, 2003 and received an demonstration of his new computer. This computer is his first with a built in modem. With it David has become an Internet citizen and sends and receives his own email unassisted.

He published a booklet of sketches and poems in the past on his own that he would now like to be able to revise and supplement via computer and scanner. Samples from this booklet appear here later.

David celebrates his 100th birthday January, 2001. His friends at the Texas Masonic Retirement Home and his relatives joined on Saturday, January 27, 2001 to celebrate the occasion. Important guests were his nephew Don and his wife, and cousins Phyllis Dean and Lucille Roberts. David received many gifts and acknowledgements among them citations from the Masonic Lodge and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representativese.

David's quest to master this technology and his attitude toward it are unique. It will become clear that he has developed admirable skills despite his age-related physical limitations and the constraints of his first older,"less friendly" computer.


What I have learned from David

Visiting with David - February, 2003

I have a concept that he first regarded the computer as a simple alternative to typing. But it soon became apparent to David that a computer is different because it provides hidden storage of programs and letters created. He soon discovered that he had new controls: easy editing, word wrapping, and font changing. His restricted vision limited exposure to technical writing and thus did not permit him easy use of manuals. Of necessity David is a visual learner. What he sees he generally retains. He learns much via errors if he understands the cause(s).

I learned:

 

 Most of all, I guess I admire his drive and curiosity. I certainly puts to rest the all-too-common phrase, "I'm too old for that". Its comforting to know that statements such as "I've lived this long without a computer" or "Computers are too complicated" or bragging of one's continued professional success without a computer are, after all, not necessarily telling one's age.


The Rest of the Story:

I first met David Lamb, a relative of my wife's, December, 1995. Phyllis, my wife, and I were in Kennedale, Texas celebrating Christmas with immediate family. Near the end of our visit Phyllis received a call from a cousin in Kentucky on a matter that is long forgotten. But the cousin inquired where Arlington, Texas was in reference to Kennedale. My wife replied that we were then practically in Arlington. Well, it turned out that David Lamb, a relative living in the Home for the Masonic Aged in Arlington, had been sending her beautiful Christmas cards of his own creation for several years. At that time Phyllis had been working diligently to contact all her Lamb ancestors in search of information on an historic Lamb family loom. It became imperative that we meet him. Circumstances permitted only a very brief visit on this occasion as it was on the eve of our return to Ohio.

 

David is quite agile and in good health, but does have several age-related disabilities. These include limited vision, complete deafness in one ear, a moderate-severe hearing loss in the other, and mild-moderate Parkinson's Disease. The latter placed significant restrictions on his ability to write legibly and, particularly, on his ability to draw and maintain his artistic avocation. To facilitate more legible writing, David had acquired and was using an IBM Selectric typewriter when I first met him. He continues to paint pictures and illustrate greeting cards by using stencils and an airbrush; he relies less on freehand drawing and painting.

 

David and his wife, Cecil, had moved to the Home for Aged Masons in 1986 to acquire better medical care for Cecil's health problems. They were both retired commercial artists at the time. They met and married in the early 1930s while working for the Gibson Greeting Card Inc. in Cincinnati. Later they created and sold their own art from a studio in Texarkana, Texas. They retired after their property in Texarkana had been acquired for the right-of-way for Interstate 30. Soon after retirement Cecil's health declined to a level where David could not provide her care. They decided to relinquish their property to the Home for Aged Masons in return for care in their retirement years. Cecil died several years later. David has now lived at the home nearly 15 years. He is an active member of the home where numerous pieces of his art are prominently displayed. Until recently he was active on a Mason Degree Team that travels to confer Masonic Degrees within a 50 mile radius of Fort Worth, TX.

 
David's Art and Poems

On our first very brief visit in December 1995, he showed us his art studio and gave us a tour of the Masonic Home, pointing out his numerous pictures on display. Here is a sampling of some of his art. He creates his art in his two-room studio.


 David's Christmas Paintings on Display at Masonic Home; three of many on display.

* * * *

David has also self-published a 74-page booklet, Wheat as Truth and Chaff as Nonsense, of poems and sketches. Here is a sample of his limericks.


Evolution of David's Computer Skills

(Detailed Description by Author)

1996

The summer of 1996 we planned time to visit and get to know David. On this visit he mentioned that he was having difficulty seeing the print as he typed on his IBM Selectric typewriter. He had recently purchased a new primary font typing ball to replace the smaller font of his standard typing ball. However, his typewriter could accept this new ball, its installation resulted in serious crowding of letters. Somewhere in our discussion, I asked if he would be interested in using a computer; I explained that the size of the font could be enlarged on both the screen and on the typed page. I volunteered this information knowing that I could loan him both an older Macintosh SE and an dot matrix Imagewriter. My university department had abandoned several such computer-printer combinations through replacement. I was prepared to loan him such a pair. David was interested.

 

In December, 1996 while in Fort Worth, I introduced David to a Macintosh SE using system 6.0. and an Apple Imagewriter. Microsoft Works 2.0 was the word processor installed. Our visit in Texas required that we share our time with my children and Phyllis' father and brother. I was only able to give David 2-3 hours of help on this trip spaced over 3 visits. Several things became evident. David really liked the challenge of the computer and was in no way intimidated by it. He had difficulty finding information on the screen and frequently used a magnifying glass until he became familiar with the screen display, e.g. layout of the pulldown menus and

various close boxes. He had a noticeable hand tremor that made it very, very difficult to use the mouse to guide the arrow cursor to the close box while clicking the mouse button. Turning his right hand and arm so as to rest his forearm parallel to the edge of the table provided stability and reduced the oscillation of the cursor on the screen as he "moused'. However, by turning his hand 90 degrees to gain forearm support he altered the cursor behavior. With the hand resting in this manner, moving the mouse away from the edge of the table actually moved the cursor right on the screen. Eventually David could operate the mouse without forearm support and his eye-cursor coordination improved. It soon became evident that the concept of files and their hierarchy was foreign to David. He had real difficulty navigating the printed menus and various windows that he could open. I eventually changed the name of Microsoft Works word processing application to 'My Typewriter' and left it both [aliases] on the Apple Pulldown Menu and prominently visible on the Desktop. David was soon successfully typing and printing after his introduction.

 

When I in returned the next day, there were untitled files scattered all over the desktop, but... there were several that he had created, saved and printed. On the second or third visit he confessed that he had had some difficulties; that he had done two things to the computer that he hoped were "All right". First, after the printer had failed, he examined the back of the computer and found an unattached wire [the printer cable] that he put back in a place "where it would fit". Second, he had discovered a small rubber ball on the floor of his room by stepping on it. He correctly guessed that it must have fallen out of the mouse whose retaining ring had dislodged . He reinstalled and re-taped the mouse. Mind you these were successful repairs by a man with significant visual limitations who had made no prior examination of these computer "gadgets". But David was having success, was motivated and was adventuring around the desktop and menus to learn more about his computer

 

After returning home, I received a call from a friend of David's seeking to fix a printer problem. He was a younger, but retired man, living in the Masonic home who had extensive experience with PCs but none with Macintosh. He and I fixed the software problem over the phone.

1997

The Summer of 1997, Phyllis and I spent only two days in Texas with friends and family. I had only an hour with David this visit. He was having some difficulties with his printer. They were minor and not really related to the printer. I left him with a functioning unit and replaced his Microsoft Works 2.0 that I had previously mistakenly "trashed". However, I did not call his attention to this new addition since he had made a successful conversion to MacWrite and really didn't need Works.

 

1998

On a visit with David the summer of 1998. I delivered him a refurbished LC Macintosh with a Apple LaserWriter that I bought at an auction.  I had assembled and rebuilt this system for $150. David had told me that he had save his money to by a better computer, one with a laser printer. He had over $600 that he wanted to give me. This 'new' system gave him increased RAM, color, and a laser printer. The added RAM permitted a newer operating system, one that permitted setting his screen displays to display with enlarge type and icons.

 

1999

In the spring of 1999 we received a letter from David indicating that he had the opportunity to acquire a PC free from a younger man living in his home. He indicated that his Macintosh monitor was also causing some problems. He was quite apologetic and seemed to be seeking my permission to replace the Macintosh that I had acquired for him. I encouraged him to take the newer PC because it afforded him the opportunity to have ongoing, local support. I was his only support for his Macintosh system and it placed serious limitations on his learning rate.

 

We visited David in July, 1999 and learned that he did indeed have some monitor problems with he Macintosh. I learned that his promised PC was on site, but had only a dot matrix printer. Bottom line: We placed the new unit in his art studio and left his Macintosh system in his room. We worked with him to learn Windows 95 and become familiar with his PC. On each of two subsequent visits that week I found him in his art studio working with the PC. I was also pleased to learn that one other person in the home had been by to assist him. Another new, memorable experience for David was visiting CompUSA, a mega computer store in Arlington. He was quite amazed at the sheer quantity of the merchandise on display. We looked at color printers that he might purchase in the future for his 'new' PC. Our plan was for David to continue to use his Macintosh unit until he was comfortable with his PC. One highlight of our CompUSA visit was introducting him to this homepage via a display iMac. Imagine his surprise upon seeing himself. Although he had experienced email with assistance from his PC-using friend, this was his first encounter with the Internet.

 

2000

In August, 2000 I learned that David had relinquished his PC to a lady friend. He concluded that using two computers wasted time and that he prefered the Macintosh system. It was my understanding that he was successfully word processing and printing with both units. His primary use of both machines was to prepare and print correspondence, write new stories and limericks for his book, and create title pages. It was at this time that decided to bring David's computer experiences to the attention of Apple Computer personnel and request that they provide him a new iMac for his 100th birthday in January, 2001. David would appreciate and productively use the unit; Apple could use the occasion for advertising purposes as David is quite lucid and can provide some interesting comments regarding his experiences with and preferences for his Macintosh IILC computer and Apple Laserwriter. Incidentally, I have not had to make any serious equipment repairs or adjustments for over two years. David's demands on this computer are minimal, word processing of letters, manuscripts, and envelopes, but he has replaced his laser printer cartridge once.

In December I spent only a day with David as I was quite involved in the preparations of my youngest daughter's wedding to occur this trip. David reported continued success with and continual use of his Macintosh IILC. He had many questions regarding the feasibility of using his computer to maintain, revise, and print his booklet. We discussed his upcoming 100th birthday and I informed him of my invitation to Apple Computing to become involved. I cautioned that they might be in contact. So it would appear that one way or another my wife and I shall endeavor to assist David acquire the necessary equipment and skills for this new endeavor.

2001

This is Davids 101st year. He continued to use his Macintosh to print cards. He continues to use his laser printer successfully. He has not had to change the print cartridge yet.

2002

Circumstances have prevented my wife and from visiting David during 2001-2002. We learned by letter that the Masonic Home has purchased a brand new Imac and color inkjet printer for his use. We receive cards and letters prepared on his computer. In his 2002 Christmas card he mentioned that his goal was to master email.

2003

 In February while attending my daughter's wedding we visited briefly with David. He was in good health and spirits. He demonstrated his new Imac (pictured) and printer. We discussed some emailing problems he was having and demonstrated how to empty trash on to conserve space. David continues to learn despite his not having any local Mac-user support.

My wife and I plan to visit David for Christmas 2003 as he nears his 103rd birthday. I hope to spend some time with him acquainting him with the capacity of this computer to serve as a creative art tool. We will not have visited him for the past 2 years.

We visited David at Christmas 2003. His health seemed adequate but he was not steady on his feet. The home had provided him with a walker that he used to get around the facility. The staff was noting that David was not getting adequate sleep; he insisted on getting up at 4:30 A in order to have adequate time to accomplish personal grooming prior to 6 A breakfast. The informed him that the wanted him to to to the health clinic so that he could receive more personal assistance. They agreed that if he would that they would transfer his computer to this room. He was fearful that once he went there that he would remain.

2004

We learned in January that David had been transferred to the clinic. But we did receive email from time to time that was sent with the assistance of a friend. We visited David in early September. He will still in the clinic but complained of swelling of his ankles. He was still using the walker to get around although he was noticeably less steady on his feet. He was still using his computer for word processing. He was having difficulty recalling how to send email. It seems that this function of his computer is less familiar to him and he could not recall the steps that he previously could perform.

2005

In early January we received a letter from David's nephew alerting us that he had just returned from visiting David. He found David's health had deteriorated to a very low point. Within the week we received a call from him announcing David death on Friday morning January 28th, just a single day prior to his 104th birthday. He had died peacefully in his sleep.

In Summary

David never ceases to amaze me. He began his computing nine years ago at 95 years of age. With limited instruction, great intuition and motivation, persistence, and old equipment that with the first unit didn't accommodate his physical limitations, he has mastered word processing and email; he never did master browsing the Internet. He has no fear of his computer and continues to explore the directory continually, sometimes to the point of misplacing files or making adjustments that cause significant problems. With the introduction of his second and third computers I altered the default font and image sizes of his desktop display. Until recent visits I have tried to introduce David to some new computer skill, but his increased frailty and difficulty learning new tasks and recalling more recent events have caused me to just focus on refreshing skills word processing. David remains a dear friend and retains his drive to communicate with others via his computer. He is concerned that he is losing his links to the outside as he experiences difficulty using his computer.


This page was last updated by Richard Dean on January 28, 2005.

David Lamb & Richard Dean - 1998

 

You may contact Richard Dean at deanr@ohio.edu

Send email to David at dlamb@gbronline.com - He doesn't reply until someone assists him with the "community computer" where he resides; it has a modem.