Recently, I was given this friendly warning: When you’re old and gray, you’ll see what it’s like to be behind the times and to be uncomfortable with the new tools and gadgets. As many of us can attest, this association between age and obsolescence is pervasive and rarely questioned.
Life experience, however, has shown me that the actual cause of not being able to keep up isn’t age but lack of interest. If we take the established age groups – Baby Boomers, Generations X, Y, and Z (the Millennials) and parse everyone in each group out according to interest level in new technologies, wouldn’t this provide a more accurate, fine-grained reflection of who’s ahead and behind on the latest technologies? Perhaps you’ll see where that aforementioned association comes from. However, aging isn’t the root cause of falling behind.
Italiano: Elaboratore Apple IIc in funzione – floppy di presentazione (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My first exposure to computers began with the Apple IIc which I mostly played Q-Bert, Frogger, and Spy Hunter on (anyone remember those?). My mother didn’t purchase this computer out of interest in technology. She was interested in helping me acquire computer skills. Later in high school, I took a computer science class and learned how to program in DOS. I mostly created games, and my ultimate achievement was creating an animation of people engaged in a game of pool from an aerial view. I even attended to the details of the motion of the pool sticks and having the balls decelerate as they moved across the table. Again, my mom wasn’t interested. As I entered college, she offered to buy a new computer and tried to persuade my cheapskate self to bring this instead of the word processor while she hadn’t, at this point, upgraded her own typewriter.
So far, this story fits the conventional view of the relationship between age and adoption of new technologies doesn’t it? It seemed that she wouldn’t be accompanying me on my exploration of new gadgets.
So, I was blindsided by her great leap. Just several years ago, my Baby Boomer mother became my IT person. She cleans, de-clutters, debugs, upgrades, sets up new computer systems, and fixes Internet connection issues with passion. Every time she fixed something, she’d feel a great sense of accomplishment. At one point, she exclaimed with incredulous wonder, “Oh my gosh Lynn, WHY aren’t you taking interest in any of this?!” That’s not all! I’ve learned that if she ever gets the opportunity to talk about iPhones and apps, better have a pillow strapped to your forehead because she will talk in great detail about them until you conk out. Of course my mom isn’t the only Baby Boomer who is tech and Internet savvy. I’ve met many along the way who, for example, started using Skype long before I decided to give it a try.
Furthermore, consider the research study described in this article which concludes that programmers (aged 37 and older) can more than keep up with their younger counterparts in the face of rapidly changing technology. As long as you’re interested and capable of learning, it’s never too late. Whether you are an entrepreneur or employee, think about the benefits of keeping up with new technology.
Finally, if you just aren’t that interested in technology, I can see how life in this technocrazed world can be anywhere from mildly irritating to downright tough. As immersed in technology and the study of technology as I am, I find myself equally craving experiences in the natural world. We’ll turn to this issue in a future post.