I’ve impressed the seniors in Almonte that I help with IT problems by telling them that my computing experience goes back close to 50 years – all the way to punch cards, keypunch terminals, mainframes, FORTRAN and serial job control. And it’s true; I have learned a lot. What I don’t say is that much of it doesn’t apply anymore.
And it’s not just the old programming languages, teletype machines and paper tape that have gone the way of the dodo bird. In the late 90s I learned HTML and FTP so that I could set up an online website. Today all I’d need to do is go to Blogger or WordPress, get an account, and start typing.
Oh sure, you can still geek it up a bit with a blog (and I do.) I have my own domain name, I installed a standalone version of WordPress and I use a specialized blog theme that probably only about 150 other folks in the world use. It may not look that special, but a theme developer spent time to make my blog easy to read whether you have a 23 inch wide screen or a mobile phone. I worked on the site the other day to install a plugin for getting automatic updates to the latest version of my theme. But the basic blog engine installed with a couple of clicks. Easy peasy.
Other innovations like spreadsheets took away the need for programs to calculate statistics or perform scientific analysis. The cloud and the thumbdrive have pretty much obviated the DVD burner. Massive amounts of data blew away the floppy disk. And so it goes. Just when you’ve got a technique mastered you don’t need it. In fact most people can get the online presence they want today with Twitter or Facebook. Even a blog is an extra, if you think about it.
So what has all that work to learn all too soon obsolete technology done for me? It’s given me a feel for the subject and a sense of what to do if all the fancy automatic stuff breaks down. The reason so many older people feel helpless with technology today is that they didn’t grow up with it the way the younger people do. I manage to hold my own although I have to admit that tablets drive me nuts – especially if somebody wants to print with them wirelessly.
At the end of the day I suppose that the march of technological change is much like the march of life itself. Before you know it you’ve gone from bleeding edge to leading edge to mainstream to obsolete to irrelevant. Just ask the baby boomers (although they likely won’t admit it.)