Friday, May 30, 2008

"You know, when I was your age...."

I was both surprised and disappointed when I heard myself say those words to my nine-year old the other day. As the words fell out of my mouth, what I had to say seemed really meaningful and relevant to the conversation. For a fleeting moment, I imagined Austin would actually be interested in what I was about to say.

I pictured him leaning forward in his chair, "Yeah dad, what were you going to say about what it was like 30 years ago when you were MY age?" It never happened like that.

The context was what fun he had at the library that day. Not because he enjoyed perusing the books but because he serendipitously met his buddy Lewis there. Why was that fun? Because they got to play on the computers together.

Next came my well-intentioned, but heartily ignored statement: "You know, when I was your age, libraries didn't have computers."

Austin, again, can't picture a world without Mario, much less computers. This is a kid who takes pictures on a digital camera, and uploads them to Picasa so he can view them and organize them. He knows about Janet's diligent posting of our family photos, and this has led him to ask me if he can have a blog.

Are you kidding me? "You don't even know how to type," I said. What are you going to do with blog? "Put up pictures." He said. "And I can too type."

Back to the library without computers. Raise your hand if you remember card catalogs. Try explaining the concept to a nine-year old.

"Well, there were these drawers with little cards in them. And the drawers were divided up by the author's name, the book title, and the subject of the books. That way, if you knew the thing you wanted to look up information about, but didn't know a book title, you could search in the subject cards. If you like a book somebody wrote and you wanted to see if he had written others, you can find out by searching through the card catalog by author."

Using a card catalog is nearly an obsolete skill. Austin will never need to learn it, and I will probably never need to use it again. Just go to the computer, type in what you're looking for in the little box and all the possible options will be brought to you. Amazing.

To continue on down this rat hole, consider for a minute other skills that have become obsolete. Here is a web site with a growing list of obsolete skills. Some of my favorites are
  • Setting up a modem using AT commands
  • Putting a needle on a vinyl record
  • Operating an overhead projector
  • Using a rotary phone
  • Blowing dust out of a Nintendo cartridge
  • Autoexec.bat editing
Feel free to add more to the list!