Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Technology & Computers

My first computer dated to about 1981 or 1982. It was a 48K, 2 disc drive affair that cost me $2500 including an upgrade to include two, 5” floppy drives. The people that recommended the extra disc drives could never quite explain to me in clear terms why I needed them or what they would do. Sound familiar? That thing came with “documentation” which bore a faint resemblance to operating instructions, but was housed in loose-leaf form in a 3-ring binder! It was incomprehensible. I put that thing aside after plugging away at it for several days. I was about 37 and was busy making a living. No time for that foolishness.

There was no Internet then and the computer memory was so small that each time you wanted to run a program you had to load it from a tape cassette—imagine that! There might have been some rudimentary email capability, but only if you could figure out how to tie it to the phone line. Of course, you also needed to have someone available elsewhere who was prepared to receive your message. After about 2-years, the “documentation” had advanced somewhat to provide a set of 6 audio cassette tapes that were decent enough to walk you through an tutorial on the word processor. 

By 1985 or 1986 I could write a letter with the $2500 gizmo. A series of increasingly less dismal computers came along in a 3-4 year sequence for many years after that.
The reason I mention this is introduce the notion that we, as 60-year olds, might have been born a bit too early to take full advantage of all this whiz-bang technology. I have noticed for some years that people older than us are mostly computer illiterate; those in our age range are probably the eldest of the computer literate population and a good percentage of us are not very good at it—maybe even a bit intimidated by it. We should be. This stuff can be scary and technically savvy bad people (always younger ones) can do quite a bit of damage if you are not wary. Even if they don’t damage you, they can frustrate the dickens out of you with their endless gibberish. How about those tedious telephone menus we have had to deal with for about 20-years now?

It strikes me that this technology has arrived during our lives in 2 distinct waves. First, the arrival of the computers themselves about 1980 and now, the intermingling of technologies on the web, on our cell phones, at our banks, and a lot of other places. 

This latest wave of new technology seems to have really gotten its start about the time of Windows 95 in 1995, and became supercharged about the time Windows XP was introduced in late 2001. By then we were senior managers, officers, partners, deans, or whatever else we were/are, and once again, our responsibilities were such that we really didn’t have the time to devote to learning all this stuff. Or maybe we just didn’t find the motivation. We simply turned it over to the kids and told them what we wanted. Sometimes we got it, often we didn’t. And let me submit that learning this stuff takes a lot of time and dedication.

However, fear not. I am certain that as they join, some of our Clan will show you some of the tricks of the web.


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