Picture Perfect

A couple decades ago, Grandma and Grandpa received a cool new color TV as a gift for Christmas. It was one of those TV/VCR combos that didn't require any cabling "know-how" or technical expertise to set up. At first they were tickled to own such a new-fangled piece of technology. They complimented the crisp, clear picture and went on and on about how the compact design of the combo unit saved them precious space in their small apartment.

Soon, however, I received an increasing number of phone calls for help. The TV/VCR combo was great, but the two-devices-in-one came with a more-complex-than-usual remote control that intimidated them to no end. In fact, the bottom of the remote had a special door that slid open, exposing more confusing buttons. (If polled, they'd say that their garage door remote had the perfect number of buttons.)

They would call me and say that they had accidentally changed a setting on the TV while using the remote and as a result, the TV screen was blank. Or they had played a video and claimed that none of the buttons would eject the tape. I lived nearby so it wasn't a problem to stop by and help. On more than one occasion I showed up to find the remote control placed on top of the TV while my grandparents sat comfortably on the opposite side of the room. They no doubt endured shows that they didn't really want to watch because they were afraid to work with a remote that, to them, looked like a hand-held 747 cockpit console. No amount of patient tutoring seemed to help. They wanted to learn it and like it, but mastering the "convenience" that this technology was supposed to bring was beyond their ability. Computers, PDA's, iPods, cell phones and other new technological conveniences are often challenging to seniors.

Last holiday season I helped a client prepare a high-tech gift for her parents who lived far away. It was a digital photo frame that could display hundreds of stored photos. It had a small memory card slot in the side. We copied her photos directly from her digital camera to the memory card and her photos began to play in a slide show in the frame. "I'll mail Mom and Dad new photo cards regularly and all they'll have to do it slide the card into the side of the frame to enjoy the latest pictures of their grandchildren." The gift was perfect for any technophobe who loves photos of his or her loved ones.

Digital photo frames take cutting edge technology and deliver it in a foolproof, simple device that eliminates intimidating remote controls. Some models offer Wi-Fi connectivity so that photos can be transferred directly from a home computer or even over the Internet. You can find reviews of various digital photo frames at cnet.com.

My grandparents passed away, but if they were still with me I would buy them one. They'd be thrilled that the box was missing a remote control.

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