Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Youth is Flummoxed by ... What Used to Pass for Technology

There is a rotary telephone at my family's beach house.  It is avocado green and completely epic.  I should also mention that, while we've gone through three or four cordless phones on a separate jack, that rotary phone still works just fine (well, unless you get to an automated system because clearly you can't press one or whatever).

But anyway ...

Belle is a pretty technologically savvy kid.  She knows how to operate an iPod, a television, a DVD player, a VCR (which Henry informed me that some of his high school students can't accomplish), a computer (in fact, she's pretty well-versed with PCs, which we have at home, and the Macs she uses at school), and a sno-cone machine.  

She also passed "The Moron Test" on my iPhone, which had me stymied (I was a little embarrassed ;-)).

But today, when my mother asked her to call a family friend to see if she wanted to join us for dinner, it was Belle's turn to be stymied.
She figured it out eventually, of course, but it struck me pretty deeply how this kid who can navigate touchscreens couldn't figure out how to use a telephone circa ... well, I was born in 1976, and there are pictures of me as a baby with that phone in the background.

We talk about the technological advances of this day and age, but it's unfortunate in some ways that we've sort of lost the technological wonders of the past.  I don't know if I'm just nostalgic here, or if it's worthy of concern that kids today can program computers but aren't able to gather reliable information from a book (I'm talking about when it's not all done for them, a la Wikipedia).

We had a little dinner party for Addie's graduation tonight, and her friend asked me a question (a really good question) about Harry Potter (since, according to Addie, I know everything there is to know about Harry Potter ;-)).  

I did not know the answer to this particular question (basically, "What the hell happened to Harry's paternal grandparents, who couldn't have been all that old since he was in his twenties when he was killed?"), so I did what I always do in those situations ... I took out my iPhone and Googled it.  I got the answer (which I'd tell you, except it's easy enough to Google ;-)), but I also wondered what would have happened if I hadn't found it right away.

Yeah, being me, I probably would have reread the books.

But I had to think about that for a second.  What WOULD I have done?  I can remember the days before the interwebs sliced its virtual highways around the earth, and I can remember being a pretty resourceful kid, but ... I cannot remember what, in that situation, I would have had for options.  

Scary stuff, if you think about it.

If you hand a kid a cassette tape, an Atari joystick, heck, even an EZ-Bake Oven, they'd look at you like you were crazy.  Actually, they'd look at you like Belle looked at us as she tried to figure out how to operate a rotary telephone.

Do you have any great stories about the technologically advanced youth of today being flummoxed by things that were simple to us at one point in time?  

Oh, and do you think that letting the technology that came before, that paved the way, should be forgotten?  (I mention this because I never heard of an eight-track until I was in college and was dating a guy with an eight-track player ... I thought it was the coolest thing ever and wondered why my musical scope was limited to LPs, cassettes, and CDs)