In 1986, I built my first computer, a 286 with a 20 megabyte internal hard drive, the first of its kind. (Remember disk swapping?)
I got the parts through an employee special purchase, probably because they were almost obsolete, though I didn’t know it.
That PC 286 cost $1200, with discount. Twice the average of today’s laptop. I was 27 years old.
It sat in boxes for 3 months before I got up the courage to assemble it.
I enrolled in a DOS class, so I could communicate with it. I still see its green cursor flashing against black (made so iconic in The Matrix), waiting for my command: dir c:/
It changed my life.
I’d taken a mag card class in business school, several years earlier. But I wrote all my term papers on an IBM Selectric.
In 1994, I watched my five-year-old niece navigate Windows like it was second nature. I’d just switched from necessity. I was a 35-year-old grad student competing with kids ten years my junior.
I remember my first encounter with Mosaic at UCLA’s computer center, my utter confusion as I tried to grasp this early incarnation of a Web browser.
The teenager next to me asked kindly, “What are you looking for?” He gave me an enthusiastic one-hour tutorial. I wish I could find that kid and thank him again. Because he, too, changed my life.
My point is: My classroom schooling did not include computing. Nor, I suspect, did yours. I didn’t touch a PC until I was in my late 20s.
Yet here we both are. With sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, who made their fourth grade show-and-tell presentation in Powerpoint.
Gen Y, today’s 20-somethings, have never known life without a cell phone or computer. They’re taking technology to a whole new level, talking about “untemplating”—escaping the cubicle, becoming location independent and rethinking retirement.
We can learn a lot from them.
In the meantime, if you were born before 1965—lean back, stare at your amazing technicolor monitor, and congratulate yourself.
You taught yourself what your sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, take for granted. The coming decades are not just theirs.