Dropbox, my grandfather, and existentialism.
“Hey, Grampa - I saw that you just wrote another 2 pages and saved them today”
I’m 25 (and 3/4). My grandfather is 88 (and 3/4). We’ve never talked about existentialism, but we have talked about Dropbox.
My grandfather has accomplished a lot in his long life. He fought and was wounded in WWII at the age of 17. He lied about his age to get drafter after he lost both of his brothers to the war. He went on to be the Editor in Chief at a leading newspaper in St. Petersburg, Russia. He never learned how to use a computer - until this year.
His toolset as Editor in Chief was a typewriter, pen, and paper. There was always an audience ready to read what he put together or edited.
This year, he asked for a computer. My parents and I didn’t take him that seriously knowing the ramp-up time for anyone who has never used a computer before. I gave him an old Dell laptop from college.
When that dell laptop broke, my grandpa called my parents, my uncle, and myself to make sure a replacement would be there. He told me he was worried the book hadn’t saved on his computer. I was shocked to learn he had even started writing anything.
My parents delivered him a replacement computer and got him online.
My grandfather lives near Washington, D.C., and I moved to San Francisco last year. I came home to visit last week, and dropped in on Thursday evening.
I asked him about how his memoirs were coming along - and he said good, but he also explained that he’s slow with the computer and that he’s not sure if he’s always saving the writings. He also told me that it’s hard to always get the energy to write his book, which didn’t sound like him at all. What I think my grandfather was telling me, more subtly, is that he wasn’t sure if anyone really cared about what he was writing.
As we were talking, it took me about 10 minutes to get dropbox on his machine. I moved the file he was working on to a dropbox folder, and sent a shortcut back to his desktop (just like he was used to opening). I then shared the folder (from his new account) with my own dropbox account.
In Russian, the above means “Need to start writing everything”.
Even though we’ve talked about it, my grandpa still doesn’t really know what Dropbox is, but there’s no better feeling than a quick chuckle he gives when I call him now and tell him that I noticed he saved an update, or ask him why he didn’t save one.
None of us know how long we have on this earth. Everyone is a creator in one way or another - and it’s important to know someone cares about whatever it is that you’re creating.
For a new startup, it’s a techcrunch post they’re yearning for. For my grandfather, a call from his grandson, from across the country and knowing the exact pages he just saved to his memoirs instantly, is probably just as powerful.
I’m assuming that most humans, especially those in their later years, just like knowing that somebody out there cares.