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Blending old ideas with new technology

A few weeks ago I took a wrong turn — and entered a strange universe. Fifteen thousand attendees strong, it looked like a mixture of nerds, bikers, extreme gamers, Stanford valedictorians, wild-haired street people and a dead-ringer for NCIS’s Abbie.

All were gathered at a Las Vegas Hotel for what is best described as an annual convention of … computer hackers.

Over the course of this column, I have often urged readers to use Internet resources to protect themselves.

I’ve told seniors with no familiarity with technology to get help from a child, a grandchild, a helpful resource at the local senior center, or to look for a book or a class.

But where does one start? And just how daunting is the process? It is to you that I write this week.

About 15 years ago that was me. Personal computers had become commonplace, reaching well beyond a fad. Technology was marching faster than my brain could crawl — inch by difficult inch. Email was quickly eating the U.S. Postal Service alive and I signed up for a business email. JCFR@aol.com (yes, it still reaches me.) My tech writer, Dorothy, managed my email for me.

This was our process: Dorothy would open the account and print out all incoming email. She’d hand me the stack of papers and I would read them and then hand write the responses. Then I’d give them back to Dorothy, she’d go back into the account, type in my responses, and send them out.

Then came a two-week trip to Nigeria to cover a story with the USSS. My first day back at the office, I was shocked when I told Dorothy “print out my emails” and she said, “NO!” I asked the next employee — she, too, said “NO!”

Briefly stated, my people had all staged a mutiny. “It’s so easy,” said Dorothy, “anybody can do it. Even YOU.” I kicked and screamed and struggled and threatened — nothing worked. They calmed me down and made me memorize three simple words. OPEN, REPLY and SEND.

That day began my journey into the brave new world that was evolving around me. Today I Google, cut/paste, run virus scans and skate around the Internet like a pro. I Skype and do face-to-face interviews with people halfway around the world.

And so it was that I posed the question to one of the good-guy hackers (who heads up IT for a major U.S. corporation), “How can a senior citizen best enter the world of technology?” His answer came in one word. “Libraries.”

He told me that Library Science was changing somewhat rapidly from printed textbooks to a more technological approach. And so, too, were libraries themselves changing.

Desk agents are not just checking out books, they are providing help desks for those who want to learn.

Knowledge is your best weapon against fraud. The time is now.

Just close your eyes and repeat the words of the little engine that could. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can …”

Drop by the Pahrump Valley Times offices, 2160 E. Calvada Blvd., for a copy of Leslie Kim’s latest book “123 Main Street … the Scamming of America.” Only $19.95 while supplies last.