Growing Up Technolog’ed

Tandy 5000 MC
Image by Blog Story via Flickr

From as early as I can remember, I had wanted or used a computer. I don’t even remember what the incentive was, but I wanted a computer and for my fourth or fifth Christmas, received a Tandy RL-1000 (the one to the right is clearly a more advanced version). It had this cool drawing program that necessitated the purchase of a mouse (two button or three button? no wheel!) and I think I also had a joystick, although for what, I have no idea. I remember also getting a box with two microchips in it: a RAM upgrade from 256 to 512kb! There was also a dot matrix printer (and eventually a color one) and this neat fluorescent desk lamp. I probably didn’t use the vast majority of what it could do, but I do remember using WordPerfect v5.1 to write up school reports (did my classmates use typewriters?).

In any case, I essentially grew up with computers, having the trusty old Apple ][e at school in kindergarten, IBM PS/2 models through fifth grade for learning touch typing, “Creative Writing”, and “Writing to Write”. I think in junior high we were introduced to “multimedia” with CD-ROMs in those cassette cases and Microsoft Encarta. What a revelation – it was like Wiki before Wiki.

Anyways, I visited my aunt and uncle today who are in their mid-60s and who had recently received one of those digital photo frames. I couldn’t figure out what they were asking me to do until I realized they wanted to put their old printed photos into the frame… it’s possible but in my head, thought it wouldn’t be worth the effort or the cost of someone else doing it for them.

I can’t find the link, but I remember reading something awhile back about how, because we have instant access to information through the Internet and access anywhere via our smartphones, people are becoming stupider: it’s easier to look something up than to remember it. It’s like the phenomenon of looking at your watch and then looking again a second later if someone asks you what time it is: you look first to see if you’re approaching a limit (like whether you have time before a noon meeting) but you don’t really comprehend the time explicitly, so to tell someone the time, you need to look again.

I’m personally very guilty of looking things up on my phone whenever and wherever – and how much do I retain? Probably not much… not to mention the whole distractibility thing and inability to multitask. I’m very fond of saying that “I love living in the future,” especially after discovering something like Google Translate on my iPhone that can translate spoken text (just like Star Trek!) – I’ve always been a sci-fi geek and fantasizing about the future.

What do you think – are today’s children growing up connected from an even earlier age than me at any disadvantage? If so, what would you suggest to today’s parents? If not, what do you think the biggest benefits are.

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