Hit & Run: SimplicITy computer delivers over-50s to the digital age

SimplicITy looks like a standard PC, with a traditional keyboard and mouse.
But instead of the potentially bewildering array of windows, folders and
widgets that crowd the desktops of the average operating system,
SimplicITy’s home screen has a handful of buttons leading to e-mail, the
internet, chat, documents and your profile. A “go back to square one”
icon takes you back to, well, square one.

The new set up was launched yesterday by Discount-age.co.uk, a money-saving
website for older people founded by former Blue Peter presenter, Valerie
Singleton. Everything is written in VERY BIG LETTERS and if things get
tricky Valerie, 72, pops up with a tutorial like a cuddly version of
Microsoft’s defunct talking paper clip. If SimplicITy were a person she
might talk really loudly and say “dear” a lot. Which raises the
question ? are attempts to drag older people into the digital age as
patronising as assumptions about bingo halls and net curtains?

It depends who you ask ? Betty seemed to be loving her new toy ? but she’s 80.
SimplicITy is pitching its wares at the over-50s. Hit&Run’s mother,
Gilly, is 53. Does she need Valerie’s help? “No I bloody don’t!”
All right, Mum, calm down. “I get annoyed enough as it is when people
offer me seats on the bus but I really don’t need to be shown how to write
an email. I’ve been using computers at work for almost as long as you’ve
been alive.”

Gilly’s a whiz with her MacBook and she’s also got a smartphone, so has no use
for the Emporia Talk Premium, another new big-buttoned device designed for
the “over-50s” that aims not to scare the horses by only offering
the option to make calls, set and alarm and send texts. But SimplicITy (were
those capITal letters really necessary?) isn’t for people like Gilly. Nor,
one imagines, will it find favour with Bill Gates, 54, or Twitter-maniac,
Stephen Fry, 52. “Half of over-50s don’t have access to computers,”
Singleton explains. “We want to help those who are put off because they
are nervous.”

Simon Usborne

One careless owner: buy Bernie’s bric-a-brac

Victims of Ponzi scheme fraudster Bernie Madoff will be pleased to hear that
the man himself is being made ? quite literally ? to sell the shirt off his
back to recoup some of the $20bn he owes. Madoff’s property and most of his
belongings will be auctioned off by the Feds in an attempt to pay back some
of the people that he fleeced.

An eye-catching sky blue satin New York Mets jacket emblazoned with the name
of history’s biggest con artist is among the haul, although anyone brave
enough to wear it in public surely risks being pelted with rotten tomatoes
in the street by those unaware that its former owner has been imprisoned for
more than 150 years.

Next up is a vintage Bill Blass mink fur coat. While it may not appeal to
animal lovers, it might help towards soothing the ruffled feathers of those
who would rather flay Madoff alive and wear his own well-oiled hide over
their pinstripe suits.

Not forgetting of course, Lot 350, a blue and white striped golf umbrella
replete with the Madoff Securities insignia embellished proudly on its upper
brim. Further proof that, if you get caught ripping people off to the tune
of $65bn, it never rains but it pours.

Harriet Walker

Buddies on the box

I see Sarah a few times a week. She’s a blonde, bubbly mother of three who
works part time. I like her, although recently I’ve also been seeing a lot
of Faye and her family ? but the two don’t mix. These women aren’t my
colleagues or neighbours, they’re the matriarchs of the fictional families
that Sainsbury’s and Tesco, respectively, use to advertise their wares
(although ‘Sarah’ is a made-up character, ‘Fay’ is actress Fay Ripley). I’m
obsessed with them. Every couple of weeks I get a new snippet of background
information. Sarah’s daughter Megan is something of an eco warrior; Faye’s
husband is forgetful when it comes to anniversaries. I can’t wait for
Christmas round theirs ? except I’ll only get about 30 seconds to see them.

Rebecca Armstrong

For Caine and country

Things were simpler in the days of National Service, or so thinks Michael
Caine, who espoused its benefits at the premiere of his new film, Harry
Brown. “Put [young people] in the army for six months,” says the
actor, who served with the Royal Fusiliers. National Service has proved
useful for many of Caine’s fellow creatives. Bill Wyman served with the RAF
in West Germany where he first heard rock ‘n’ roll on American Forces
Network radio (AFN). Tony Hancock joined forces comedy troupe The Ralph
Reader Gang Show, and John Peel first became fascinated by radio after
hearing AFN when stationed in Wales. As Caine would say: “Not a lot of
people know that.”

Rob Sharp

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