On July 15th Valerie Singleton and Terry Waite are championing the launch of a second version of a successful British computer designed to bridge the ‘digital divide’ suffered by millions of older people in the UK.
British company SimplicITy Computers received massive media attention at the launch of their first computer designed specifically for older users in 2009. This second version, ‘The SimplicITy Envelope™’, represents a quantum leap in design, and will be launched on July 15th with live ‘skype’ demonstrations of the new technology between Valerie Singleton at the London 50+ show at London’s Olympia and Terry Waite at a St. Monica’s Trust retirement development in Bedminster, Bristol.
Recent research has shown that six out of ten people in the UK aged 65 and over are experiencing 'digital exclusion' – and the biggest single reason is fear of technology, which SimplicITy Computers has overcome with its unique design that is, literally, simplicity itself to operate.
Valerie Singleton, who takes the SimplicITy Computer user through a series of online guided tutorials, said: “One of the biggest barriers to older people entering the digital age is the complexity of computers which makes them feel afraid to try. So SimplicITy has re-written the rulebook and assumed, from the start, that users will be nervous and unsure of what to do next.”
Nigel Houghton, SimplicITy’s MD, said: “Technology has moved on a lot in two years, and we’ve also learned a lot from our customers. So we’ve been able to integrate a raft of new features which makes this computer even easier to use – and also allows it to ‘grow with you’. It has a two-speed control, so that as you gain confidence, you can change the settings from ‘beginner’ to ‘advanced’ - where it operates far more like a conventional PC and with a huge range of different programmes available.
“All our research has shown that the vast majority of people initially only want a computer to send emails, Skype their family, browse the web and write documents, so we start off with a computer that does just that.
“But, equally importantly, we don’t want to patronise older users: once they grasp the basics, many want to do far more, and this is the only computer in the world that allows them to do just that.”
When a beginner turns on the SimplicITy Envelope Computer, they see a single screen divided into four large triangular buttons, one for each of the four main functions available to beginners: mail, web, documents and one for a series of video tutorials. The design is both intuitive and follows the most influential ideas on computer human interaction - it allows people to point to where they want to go and get there as quickly as possible using a finger or a mouse response with ease.
In the tutorials, Valerie Singleton takes the user on a simple, step-by-step guide. The user can watch these tutorials however many times it takes for them to master each function.
One of the most obvious upgrades is a touchscreen, which allows users to control all the key functions without using a mouse: many older users find this one of the trickiest elements to master when they first come to using a computer. The other is a function which allows you to choose between seven different text sizes – enabling those with poor eyesight to view contents easily.
Another big break from traditional PCs is that the operating system is Linux-based (not Windows), which makes it highly secure (in fact there are no known virus that attack Linux Mint and of course none for the security envelop™. However it also means that anyone who wants to add functionality to the computer as they grow in confidence can download free applications which mirror everything available on PCs.
Crucially, a telephone support service is also available as part of the package in the first year and for a modest annual subscription thereafter.
The new SimplicITy Envelope comes in three hardware versions, including a laptop, and two screen size options: 20 and 24 inch. The largest screen also has DVD functions, so that the user needs only one screen to watch television videos and use the Internet.
One of the hardware options is designed specifically for multiple users. “We see this as the perfect piece of equipment for a residential home or retirement development,” said Nigel. “It offers personalised settings for up to 15 different users, so if you are a beginner or advanced, or if you need a large text size, for instance, it will automatically know as soon as you enter your password. It will also let each of the 15 users have their own mailbox, Skype setting and website ‘favourites’.”
For the technically minded, every SimplicITy computer has a Pentium 2.2 dual-core processor, and generous RAM and hard drive memory.
Valerie added: “I hope that this new computer will encourage the millions of older people now missing out on the Internet to ‘give it a go’.”
For more information visit www.simplicitycomputers.co.uk.