Some of us upgrade religiously, obsessively, regardless of cost or convenience. Some of us are a little more measured in their upgrading habits. My mum's upgrade cycle is a little more relaxed than mine, but I don't suppose she's unusual in that.

I never told my mum to buy a computer, never mind a Mac. I knew that if I told her she needed to be on the Internet, and needed to use a computer, she would argue against it until the cows came home. Not that she's a technophobe, but she has a lack of urgency for technology I have witnessed only in prepress production departments. If it ain't broke, don't fix it is the mantra – or in mum's case, “I've lived this long without the Internet – so why do
I need it now?”.

It's difficult to argue the merits of the Internet with somebody who doesn't care for it. I suppose I've spoilt her over the years: when she calls me up with a question I just Google it for her – so why bother Googling herself?

Broadband revelation
When mum did decide she wanted a computer, it wasn't I that foisted it on her against her will. I sat back, waited a few years, and one day she said something along the lines of “everybody has an email address. I think I should have one, too. What do I need?” So about six years ago I helped her buy a tangerine iMac, loaded up the software, hooked her up to the Internet, and off she went.

A couple of months later, a new version of Word came out, and Mac OS 9 surfaced. So I dutifully went over to make sure she was all up to date. Having loaded Office 98 with Entourage instead of creaky old Outlook Express, I showed mum around the fancy new application. She was horrified. She had just got her head around Outlook, and now here I was trying to get her to change everything she knew about email. I tried arguing
– I didn't give up easily – but in the end, I bowed to her relentless logic. So that's where she remained, frozen in time in 1998, like a woolly mammoth preserved in a glacier. OK, maybe that's over egging the pudding a bit, I'm sure she isn't the only one using OS 8.6 until very recently.

I haven't upgraded my mum's computer for six years;
I haven't pestered her to buy a new Mac; I haven't migrated her to OS X. But recently, she's been asking about broadband. One thing that has hindered her exploration of the Internet was the cost of telephone calls. She never took time to browse the Internet because she would be running up phone bills
– so she stuck to email.

I explained how broadband works, and while I was at it, I explained how WiFi works, how iMacs have moved on since 1998, and how OS X has changed how Macs work. To my surprise and to her credit she said OK: “I want broadband, OS X, a G5 processor, and an 802.11g WiFi network – and while you're at it, throw in a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse”. I'm paraphrasing slightly, but that's what she got.

Of course, now she has to learn how to use a Mac again, but there's no hurry. Her email is up and running, and I've got her a .Mac account for Chrismas so she can use iChat to talk to uncle Billy in Sydney. There's a lot to learn, and there's not much chance that she'll be buying music from the iTunes Music Store or burning her first DVD any time soon. But at least those features are there should she need them. I think she'll be using Address Book and iCal pretty soon. If I find a digital camera for her, she might even put up some pictures on her .Mac site via iPhoto. But being able to get her email any time and being able to do her online banking will keep her happy for now.

I think this proves that my urgency for upgrading isn't the only approach to the problem: there's something to be said for patience – for kicking back and not worrying about what your peers are up to. It might even be true in business: if you upgrade every month, you may lose valuable work time doing it. Focussing on the job at hand will never be a bad thing, unless you're missing a competitive advantage available
to others.

I'm not suggesting that mum's upgrade to a G5 iMac is going to give her a competitive advantage over the other people she sees walking their dogs in the park. But if you're using a desktop computer without a G5 processor, that doesn't connect to broadband Internet wirelessly, and isn't running OS X Panther, you should ask yourself why. Why does my mum have more computing power at her fingertips than you? Unless you're a laptop user...

I know there are plenty of you still using OS 9, or even older operating systems. I also know that many of you are still in no hurry to upgrade. But if my mum managed to figure out that she needs a new system, there is a good chance that you will see some benefits in OS X. I know it may not be essential to your work, might cost an arm and a leg in software upgrades, or even require a new Mac, but why not just treat yourself? MW