I’m on the other side of the generation gap. I’m 51. It’s not my age that made me stand up and realize that, it was a number of little things. It was realizing that sometimes people were saying things on Facebook that made no sense and I had to ask why. It was having to explain why I said I liked being able to get software more cheaply and easily for a PC than a Mac.
For those too young to remember, back in the 1990s, when real computer nerds like me had Macs, you actually had to go to a store to purchase software or get on a catalog mailing list. Most available software was for PCs and most stores had only an aisle or two for Mac software. In addition, what software there was typically cost 20 to 30% more than comparable PC software (even if it was by the same manufacturer). Yes, things have changed.
But what really made me realize I was on the other side looking back, was a young woman stood up at Comic Con. She stood up and talked about how she couldn’t believe anyone thought Nichelle Nichols was a feminist on Star Trek. She was, after all a glorified secretary. Now, point of fact, Lt. Uhura was a glorified phone operator (look it up) and not a glorified secretary. More importantly, she was on the bridge, offering information (if not an opinion) to the captain of the ship. She was not just the wife or mother of someone. She was a strong, unmarried (so we believe) female who had a career and, in 1966 when the show premiered, that was huge. While I am pleased to say we have come far enough that this has to be explained, I am saddened that those strides in equality are being forgotten.
There are always things that could have been done better but in 1966, the producers were taking a chance on her. And that’s something that shouldn’t ever be forgotten. I am only informed because I lived it. I am the older generation who took certain things for granted that young people have never heard of. I struggle with things others much younger than I am don’t understand.
I grew up on records and cassette tapes. I dialed phones with a rotary dial and it was great to get a touch tone phone. I worked at places with phones with extra long cords so that you could walk farther from the base (and all the potential tripping and jumping that required). I typed on a typewriter. I wrote my first stories on typewriters. I submitted typewritten stories only to be horrified when I found a typo when the editor sent it back. Once it was in the title.
I knew how to manage PC DOS as well as MS DOS, but DCL was the command language I was most familiar with. My contemporaries learned Fortran and Cobal, LISP and C. I know Pascal and Basic. I have since learned C#, PHP and of course HTML and CSS. I have used Amigas (first multiprocessing machine), Macs and now PCs. According to Huffington Post I should be able to program my DVR or my TIVO to record a show, but I no longer know how to do that. I don’t watch much television and I let my husband program those systems. There is just so much to re-learn.
I still hand install WordPress because I feel more secure that way, although I am often questioned. I don’t sign up for things that I don’t want to. I am suspicious of online software that requires I pay monthly, particularly when it is accounting software. I am told that nothing is secure by young people. And I remind them I lock my doors too even though that’s perhaps not completely secure. There are things I learned. While nothing is secure, I don’t know why I shouldn’t lock my doors, why I shouldn’t question who wants my credit info and make choices deliberately.
The worst thing? It’s having the discussion with a twenty year old online and only after you try to explain something obvious do they say something that makes you realize how young they are. Chances are, by the time they are my age, there will be constant images and you’ll no longer hide behind a faceless avatar offering you fake age. Of course the old folks will hate having to show off their older faces and have people know they are elders though. At least I hope so. Because right now, I can show off my cat’s face on my avatar and no one needs to know what I look like this morning.