Generations embrace technology: Computers play large role, from grandparents to grandchildren

Joe O'Gorman relaxes with a game of solitaire on his iPad.
Joe O'Gorman relaxes with a game of solitaire on his iPad. (Lois Szymanski photo, Carroll County Times)

Joe O'Gorman, a 92-year-old Hampstead resident, said technology has made a big difference in his life.

He was 76 years old when he got his first computer. Now he uses it and his iPad for email, online bill paying, card games, research, news reports and more. He even has a Facebook account.

O'Gorman said his late daughter, Patricia Moore, gave him his first computer. Her family had purchased a new one, so they gave him the old computer.

"I just got attracted to it," he said.

He makes cards online, has an Amazon account, shops online and gets all his baseball news with a single touch on his iPad screen.

Technology has been important to this family for decades.

O'Gorman's daughter Eileen Stoner said she learned how to use the computer for her job in commercial real estate in the early 1980s. Before she retired, she worked from home by satellite using a laptop.

After retiring, Elaine and her husband Allan began a Community Supported Agriculture business. They grow produce at their Hampstead farm to sell, and their computer has become an important tool in record-keeping.

Allan plans his crops, emails, banks and shops online.

Allan was 30 years old before he used his first word processor. The sole purpose of word processers was document creation. "Then, I used computers in my job of 40 years at a research scientist center in Beltsville," he said. "I was responsible for several labs and one was filled with computer specialists, managing a national database."

Eileen and Allan's son, Mike Stoner, said when he was a senior in high school in 1982 they were just instituting Introduction to Computer classes. "I was a late arrival to the computer age," Mike said.

There were computer labs on campus when Mike was an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech from 1982 to 1986 but he didn't use them often. He said he preferred to research in the library. "I occasionally used the labs for word processing but more often than not I would type papers on my electric typewriter," he said.

In 1987 Eileen and Allan bought their first family computer. "When I was at home, the closest I came to using a computer was playing flight simulator on my dad's Mac," Mike said.

"They didn't own their own computers until after they were out of college," Eileen said of her children, "but some of the grandkids were using computers at four or five years of age."

Mike's daughter Elizabeth is one of those grandchildren. "My oldest daughter, Elizabeth, is a junior at New York University," he said. "She uses her computer every day. She uses it to check the news and weather before leaving for class. She uses it at work [and for] entertainment - be it watching television or movies, playing games, or listening to music. She uses it to keep in touch with friends and family through Facebook and Skype. She does almost all her school work on her computer, including research."

O'Gorman recently wrote a book detailing his life from the day he proposed to his wife through the birth of his eight children, 21 grandchildren and 16 grandchildren. He used a scanner to scan many photos and insert them into the spiral-bound book. With more than 100 pages, the book shares stories from O'Gorman's days raising a family.

"War was declared two weeks after we married," O'Gorman said, "and it didn't take long for them to catch up with me." The book shares his time in World War II and going to school on the GI bill afterward. There is a family tree at the end. He printed 50 copies so all members of the family could have their history. Allan did some scanning of photos for the book.

"We file a lot of reports on the computer," Allan said. He's secretary of the Friends of Agricultural Research and Eileen is on the board of directors for the Carroll County Farmers Market. They are both active in Roaring Run Lions Club.

"Computers have made a lot of things possible today, like scientific data," said Allan. "You could not analyze it with a pencil and paper like a computer does. Things are possible today that never would have been possible without computers."

Mike and his family live in Hampstead, but the Stoners' other children live in Virginia, Georgia and New Jersey. "We use email and Facebook a lot to keep in touch," Eileen said. "They all have cell phones, email and Facebook accounts," she said. "Some have Blackberries, pads and laptops."

O'Gorman is working on another book. He said would not have been able to pursue his writing projects without a computer. "I'm not a good typist, so thank God for the computer that catches my mistakes," he said. "Without it, life would be pretty dull. I'd have to get out a lot," he added with a chuckle.

Eileen looked at her dad's iPad. "You have 22 emails that came in today," she said.