While helping a TidBITS member with a login problem recently, Lauri Reinhardt learned something fascinating. The reader, an amiable gentleman named George Jedenoff, was almost 102 years old. There may be an estimated 72,000 centenarians in the United States, but still, 101 years old! Can you imagine the history he has lived through? When Lauri relayed this fact, I knew I had to talk with George to find out more about him and his life, and he graciously agreed.
George Jedenoff was born in July 1917 in Petrozavodsk, Russia, in the midst of the Russian Revolution. His parents were members of the Russian nobility, and to avoid the bloodshed that was sweeping the country, they moved first to the Urals, then to Siberia, and then to Manchuria before eventually emigrating to the United States, ending up in Seattle in 1923. After graduating from high school as valedictorian in 1935, George attended Stanford, graduating magna cum laude in 1940 and getting his MBA from Stanford in 1942.
During World War II, he served as a commissioned officer in the US Navy Reserve, mostly on Guam. Upon returning from the war, he accepted a job as an industrial engineer with Columbia Steel, a subsidiary of U.S. Steel. Over the years, George rose through the company, eventually ending up as VP of Operations before being named as president of USS Engineers and Consultants, a subsidiary of U.S. Steel. After taking early retirement in 1972, he was lured back to be president of Kaiser Steel, where he remained until retiring again to focus on management consulting for a few more years.
Adam: George, your story is fabulous—I realize you were just an infant, but how many people alive today can say they escaped the Russian Revolution? But where does technology come in? I was expecting that your big iron might have been early mainframes, not actual iron.
George: When I turned 70, I decided I needed mental exercise that would help to keep the cobwebs out of my brain as I grew older. I have always been interested in technology, so I thought it would be interesting to learn more about computers. I wasn’t alone in this—a number of my friends did likewise but those who tried to learn about PCs had considerable difficulty and gave up. After some research and advice, I felt that the Macintosh would be easier to learn, so I ended up going the Mac route. About 1987, I purchased my first computer, a Macintosh Plus.
Adam: So you had no prior technology background before buying your first Mac Plus?
George: No, I had no previous experience using computers. When I graduated in 1940 with a degree in mechanical engineering, there were no personal computers and my principal computing instruments were a Monroe calculator and my trusty slide rule (which I still have to this day). Now I am completely dependent on my Apple devices.
Adam: Picking up personal computing when you were in your 70s is impressive—most people that age that I know aren’t tackling such complex topics.
George: It was not always easy. People would ask me if the difficulties were frustrating. I would answer by saying, “Yes, but the computer is just doing what I bought it for—it’s making me think.”
Adam: So when did you start reading TidBITS?
George: My neighbor suggested the Web site to me about ten or fifteen years ago and I have found information from TidBITS to be very informative and helpful.
Adam: Thanks—I’m pleased to hear that. What Apple devices are you using now? Did you move beyond the Mac to the iPhone and iPad?
George: Indeed. I now have a 27-inch iMac with Retina display, a new iPad Pro, and an iPhone XS Max.
Adam: Excellent choices. And what do you use them for?
George: Like many people, I carry my iPhone with me at all times and use it constantly for phone conversations, text messages, taking photos, and reading email. Unfortunately, my eyesight is not too good, so even with the size of the iPhone XS Max screen, I prefer to view photos and other information on the iPad Pro. I do my more serious work on the iMac, which has the large 27-inch screen. I use these devices to stay in contact with many friends, do online shopping, write important documents, and so on. In fact, I just recently wrote the history of my family and my life in a 232-page manuscript for my family and close friends. I am now in the process of writing a more public version, which I hope to publish online.
Adam: If I can offer any advice on how you can self-publish your autobiography, don’t hesitate to ask, and I look forward to reading it. And I’ll admit I’m curious if TidBITS will warrant a mention in it.
George: Thanks so much for your help and for this opportunity to get personally acquainted. Meanwhile, keep up the good work.
Adam: Thank you! For everyone reading this, one last thing. George also exercises for 45–60 minutes every day and is an avid skier. That, needless to say, is a tad unusual at his age, so Ski Utah has been making videos with him for the past six years. So let me leave you with a link to his most recent video and its closing quote:
Make every day count, and do something constructive. And the more you can do, especially for other people, the happier you are.
That seals it—when I grow up, I want to be like George.