Always the next big thing

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I got an unexpected introduction to yet another new technology recently.

I was picking something up at my son’s house while he was out of town and as I stepped up to the door I heard “Hey there.” The voice came out of seemingly nowhere. It took my baby boomer brain a couple of critical seconds to reason this strange audio intervention into a rational explanation to keep me from jumping out of my boots.

Luke had installed a Ring Video Doorbell over the holidays and this was my first encounter with one. We both laughed at my gob-smacked self … and then I waved with a cheesy grin at the doorbell — yet not knowing whether I was being seen in my entirety.

Through my adult years, just as I’ve figured out how to use, or at least become familiar with, new technology — first personal computers, then Macs, touch screens, cellphones, Google, Dropbox, etc., something new looms on the horizon and I feel like a technological Neanderthal all over again.

It seems I came of age in the generation stuck in the middle between low tech, e.g. rotary telephones and black and white TVs; and high tech, e.g. smart home integration, semi-autonomous cars and, for me, syncing my Subaru’s Bluetooth to my cellphone.

My parents’ generation never needed to “embrace” sophisticated gadgets that made life infinitely easier, faster and more complicated. The most modern devices I remember my mom mastering when I was growing up was a microwave oven and dishwasher.

On the other hand, my dad was an IBM engineer for 30 years. He fixed computers back in the day when they took up entire rooms. You might think I would have been more savvy about them. But all I knew was Dad wore business suits and fedoras to work, carried a briefcase full of tools, and was on-call so he had to leave at odd hours to fix broken machinery. He would bring home stacks of old punch cards, which we would use for scrap paper. My sister (bless her creative teenage spirit) even used one to roll up some of Dad’s pipe tobacco for her first “cigarette.”

Our own kids, on the contrary, grew up in a computerized world. We bought our first computer when they were in elementary school. Their generation surfed right into the technological world intuitively, effortlessly, never questioning what software or computer languages even were.

As a young bookstore manager in the early ’80s, I remember selling the first books on computer languages — FORTRAN, COBOL, BASIC — that was the extent of my knowledge about programming.

Millennials, in my opinion, had it made when it came to understanding the brave new world of software, apps, Alexa, Siri and so on, while a majority of my generation had to keep treading in the deep end of technology in order to master or, at minimum, muster up our relative competence in the wake of a wickedly rapid technological revolution. It’s been a trial by fire.

Community Editor Carol Marino may be reached at 758-4440 or community@dailyinterlake.com.

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