So another year is behind me, and I am typing out a blog entry on the iPad I received as a gift this year. It has been about 35 years or so since the first time I ever used a computer, my earliest recollection of technology was going to my father’s office and playing Spacewar on the mainframe console in the giant computer room. In a room roughly the size of my old high school cafeteria, rows of cabinets contained the mainframe infrastructure for the Massachusetts State College Computer Network, providing a network for all the colleges in the state, with a crew of people maintaining it and operating all the different functions around the clock.
I also remember sitting at the desk next to my dad’s office, right by where his secretary sat, and doodling on a pad of paper. It has not escaped me that the mainframe that took up so much room is not as powerful a computer as the device I am using to type this now, which is about the same size as the doodle pad I used back then.
While it may be very stereotypical to talk about the changes in technology over the span of my lifetime, I cannot help but look at my sons and wonder what the dramatic changes they will see over that same span. When I was in eighth grade, I remember talking to one of the kids in my class at a small parochial school about connecting my computer at home through a phone line to computers all over the country, if I wanted. Between the state college system and the beginning of BBSes, I was reading info and playing games on the computer in our house along with people all around the world. There was a girl who was sitting nearby who kinda turned her nose up at me (something that happened a lot, she really did not like me, being all nerdy and not really into the social crap) and said that was impossible, and such a waste of time. She then went back to talking to another girl and they kinda laughed at me being such a nerd. I don’t know whatever became of either of them, and frankly could not care any less, but I like to think about karma every now and then, and entertain the thought that they received some sort of comeuppance in some sort of Revenge Of The Nerds style way.
I look at my boys, however, as yesterday they huddled together watching videos on my wife’s iPhone, and compare their worldview to mine, and I wonder what sort of thing that they dream of experiencing that would be laughed off as impossible now will be ubiquitous in thirty years. Hopefully I will get to see it too, but it still won’t be the same, I will be like my grandmother was, seeing the introduction of radio, tv, space exploration, the Internet, medical science going from discovering penicillin to somehow allowing a baby born at 26 weeks gestational age to survive and now be taller than most of his family. I will be the guy telling my grand kids about tumble tuners, rabbit ears, rotary dial phones, and having to plug a wire into the back of my computer to connect to broadband.
I’m 43 now. I have a job that still makes me shake my head and wonder how the hell I ended up in something so unique and amazing. I have a family of my own, and two kids that amaze me with not only their minds and personalities and potential, but just by their very existence. I have friends that I would never want to replace, both locally and around the world. That greasy-haired hyper-shy 8th grader is long dead, as people find it unbelievable now that he even existed,not having known me then. There have been many bumps on the way, some events and decisions for good or ill that will haunt me for the rest of my life. But also moments of great joy. I also know there are more of all of these things ahead of me.
I am ok with that. And really, that’s the main thought I have at 43. Change happens, life moves forward, and it’s going to be great at times, suck at others. I am prepared to be amazed at technology and science. Disappointed by a lot of the rest of humanity. But overall I still have a hopeful outlook and look forward to seeing how it all plays out.
Also, we better have some friggin jet packs soon.