Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Don’t Waste It.

With 2010 now being in full swing, it suddenly struck me that kids being born in this decade would grow up and never experience some of the things that were just plain ordinary and every day for me and the rest of my generation.

It was always our destiny to roll our eyes when our parents tell us how easy we have it, then repeat those same speeches to our own kids… but my generation were kids when the internet came into being…an invention that is as critical and culture-changing as fire, the wheel or the airplane. Things have really changed since I was a kid…so I thought I'd list some of these things that the next generation will never see:

  1. Loading a program from an audio cassette.

Think those Blu-ray discs take a long time to start? Think your Xbox360 or PS3 game has long load times? Try loading a game from an audio cassette. Kids in the future will never know what it's like to have to grab a good book to read while their computer screeches and shows a psychedelic light show while an achingly slow tape deck arthritically loads 'Bubble Bobble'.

Just to put this into perspective, a C64 tape deck could get data to the computer at a rate of 300 bits per second…that's around 2 kilobytes per minute…meaning it would take almost eight hours to load 1 megabyte…luckily, a whole megabyte of memory was almost unthinkable in a home computer back then. The '64' in Commodore 64 meant 64 kilobytes of memory…one fifteenth of a megabyte.

  1. Film Cameras.

Get this kids: When we went on vacation, we didn't have a phone or a tiny pocket camera that could take thousands of 12 megapixel images. We had bulky cameras that used a thing called film. We'd go away for a couple of weeks with maybe sixty shots, and we wouldn't be able to see them until weeks later when they came back from the chemists. In fact, sometimes it could be months if you'd only used half a roll of film and your parents insisted on waiting until the whole roll was finished (and finished properly dammit…stop taking pictures of the dog sleeping in front of the fire!)

Just think about this: At one point having to use an entire roll of film, then driving into town and dropping it off at a place that could develop it in just an hour was considered the height of convenience. Think of that the next time you upload a picture directly to Facebook from your phone.

  1. Being out of touch.

Today, it doesn't matter where in the world you are, you can speak to just about anyone at any time. Email, cell phones, text messaging and wireless internet mean you're never out of touch. It wasn't so long ago when you had to wait until you got home to call someone.

  1. Hand Written Letters

Living in the USA, I can write to my parents or friends back in England safe in the knowledge that my missive will arrive instantly and I can expect a reply later that day. It wasn't so long ago that I'd have had to write a letter by hand on paper, and pay to have it physically taken somewhere. A letter to a foreign country could take weeks to get their.

Hmm, maybe that's why when I was a kid, people only contacted each other when they actually had something to say.

  1. Limited Information

You've grown up in a world where Google has always existed. If you don't know something, it takes two seconds to look it up. Not so long ago, if you wanted to know something a little more obscure and no-one around you knew… You just had to get used to not knowing.

Maybe now you'll understand why we have no sympathy for you when you're complaining about a research project because it means you'll have to spend 15 minutes with Wikipedia, because when we were kids, research for homework meant…

  1. Visiting a Library.

So you complain because you're going to have to search through a few Wikipedia articles and Google results.

When we were kids, we had to take the bus into town, go into the library, look up a book we needed on a card catalogue (That's a set of actual drawers filled with alphabetically organized cards), then go to the shelf, get the book and actually read it. Not type the subject into Wikipedia, auto-search the article for keywords and then cut and paste it into a Word document. Speaking of word documents…

  1. Writing homework assignments by hand.

So you think it's a real bitch when you have to write a 2000 word essay. Now imagine writing that 2000 words by hand, without the use of a spellchecker. Think about that. How many times have you finished typing and thought that maybe this paragraph would go better there…or maybe you want to get rid of that sentence or suddenly realize you've been spelling the same word wrong for the entire essay.

Now imagine being in that same situation, and your only way to correct your mistakes is to write the whole thing.

  1. Just 3 or 4 TV channels.

Yup. No specialty TV stations. No Food Network or Movie Channels…just three or four general entertainment channels, all of which stop broadcasting at midnight.

Think about that kids. It's 1am, you turn on the TV and there's nothing on. Literally. I don't mean just crappy shows and infomercials…I mean nothing but static.

  1. Print anything.

There used to be this thing called a 'Newspaper'. What would happen is journalists would discover some news, write about it, and then this news would be printed on paper and sold for money the next day.

  1. Not having a voice.

Ok kids…I've been pretty tongue in cheek and deliberately curmudgeonly so far, but this one is important. I know you damn kids never listen to anything us grown-ups say because you're far too busy with your iPods, Pokemon and hula-hoops, but try to listen.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an author, and for aspiring writers back then, the chances of getting your work in front of any significant audience was tiny. At best, you could hope to work for a local newspaper or maybe get a short story published in a local magazine.

The thing you're using to read this post is just about the most fantastic, amazing and unique tool the human race has ever devised. This is something no generation in the history of the human race has ever had access to. With the computer sitting in front of you, you can write something, record a piece of music, create an animation, edit a movie or do one of a million creative things…and with that same tool put it out there on the web for the whole world to see.

I know that, for you, the internet is just 'ordinary', but do me a huge favor:

For the first time in human history, anyone can have their say and have their words available to everyone all over the world.

The internet is a gift. Don't waste it.



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