05/13/2011 10:12 pm ET | Updated Jul 13, 2011

Upgrade Me!

I think it was sometime around 2007 that I finally couldn't keep up any more. Until then, for someone who grew up at a time when computers meant FORTRAN and punch cards, I'd always managed to stay one step ahead of the changes in the software and hardware I was using for work and leisure.

Updates and upgrades were to be expected every few years. Part of the cost of doing business, I'd allow myself a few days to learn to use the latest version of Windows, Excel, my browser, my email program, or my computer's new operating system. Unfortunately, I didn't always perceive the changes as improvements -- for example, programmers' attempts to make menus and commands more user friendly often just made them more obscure. I'd spend hours trying to rediscover how to do something that I'd handled easily in Word Nth.0 minus 1.

Additionally, the upgrades, even for the home versions, seemed to be crammed with features that I'd never used -- or even comprehended. Consulting tech savvy friends didn't usually help -- I'd find most hadn't used those features either. Despite the growing complexity and capabilities of our commonly used programs, we were still mostly using word processing, spell check, search functions, and simple calculations. My professional artist friends did revel in some of these software enhancements, but for those of us who found creating a chart on Excel a challenge, well, we were not the users for whom the upgrades were friendly.

And then, by the end of the '00s, the rate of change shot through the roof. I'm not referring to the necessary patches that help fill in the security gaps to defend against ever more professional hackers. I'm talking about design and feature changes that cater to the "what's new this hour", limited attention span of my teenage children, who, of course, are unfazed by the hyperbolic delta.

Take Firefox. Do we really need a new version every week, so I can wander around the page looking for toolbars, icons, tabs, that I'd just managed to locate and set up in last week's version? And Facebook? Worked just fine for me and my middle-aged friends as it was. Now I have to convert to the new layout, learn about levels of security, implement profile and setting changes, and stumble through how to do it all while still finding time to post. And in a couple of years, my teens'll be off to college, and I'll really be in trouble without their help. Even Google is changing its formats and layouts periodically--so before I can Google how to handle the Facebook, Twitter, Firefox, and Office changes, I have to figure out from the beginning how to NewGoogle.

Okay, I do understand that there are entrepreneurial motivations behind this rapid pace of change. The first company to get a new app or new feature out there stands a chance to grab millions of users and millions of dollars in market share. Trouble is, they also stand a chance of losing those of us who are choking in the dust of our Jurassic skills and learning abilities. It's not that we don't want to learn--but nobody's bothering to stay behind and teach us.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a balance? Only necessary upgrades and a plethora of live or online Geek Squad coaches to help us upgrade our skills to version 2.0? Where can I buy the software to upgrade me?