The kids visited and we are more up to date than before

Published 7:41 pm Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Will Pat and Michelle have left now to visit with Michelle’s Dad in New Orleans from which they leave soon for a trip to New York City with her Uncle David.

We are going to miss them, but every time we sit down at the desktop computer or Genie gets out her new laptop, we are going to be reminded of their visit. They have moved us, technologically speaking, into the 21st Century.

We are waiting, as I type this, for our high-speed Internet service to be connected. On top of that, Genie’s laptop is networked by a wireless router with our desktop and the high-speed Internet.

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Finally, we have gone to a different E-mail system so that each time we change Internet providers we don’t have to change our E-mail address. All those we now deal with by Internet soon will be getting the new address and hopefully this is the last time that will change.

Yes, we have been hearing a lot of “Dad, I told you years ago …”

I understand that once upon a time in the past, a past now shrouded by the mists of time, that parents guided children through changing technology. Of course, that all changed when technology began moving ahead at the pace it does today. It takes youngsters with nimble minds that are not locked into the old ways of doing things to teach us old dogs all the new tricks.

Of course, that all assumes that technology really moved all that slowly in our past.

I wonder how long it was after the wheel was invented before its use became universal. I have a feeling that it was the young even back then who had to guide their parents into using such a strange device.

Looking back through time, it generally is the young who come up with the new devices and who use the devices with an ease they seem born to. Only we old fogeys seem to have to be taught how to use this stuff.

A few examples are the automobile and the airplane. I suspect the movement from paddles and oars to sail also followed the same route.

I really don’t remember, even if I ever knew, who invented the automobile, though it wasn’t Henry Ford. However, he is credited with coming up with the assembly line for their production and he was fairly young when he did that.

Orville and Wilbur Wright had the concept for the airplane when they were quite young, if the biographies I have read are true, and were fairly young when they flew it at Kitty Hawk.

Bill Gates still isn’t very old and look at what he and a bunch of other young folks did about making software people-friendly. He and his company have a lot of critics — Will Pat is one of them — but I doubt if computing by us ordinary people would be very far advanced without Gates and his young geeks.

All things considered, I believe that the exchanges between parents and children really haven’t changed very much. Parents advise their children on the old ways, and children advise their parents on the new technology.

Fathers still need to teach their children to swing bats and hammers and use other bits of old technology. That will never change. One day I expect Will Pat will be teaching his children those same old things, as well as getting them started in the computer stuff.

Children need to teach their parents about the new technology because, for some reason, even without lessons the young seem to have a natural understanding for it that escapes many of us older folks.

I really don’t know why that is, but when I ask Will Pat or Michelle, or Kate or Brad, about something to do with computers, their answers are often automatic and when you ask them where they learned it, the answer often comes back, “I don’t know, I just always knew it.”

Of course my questions are very, very basic. The kids have all had classes in computer stuff and, as a result, know a great deal more than the basics they seem to have been born knowing.

I’ve been trying to think about what type of technology that came new to world after I was born in which I instructed my parents and I keep coming up with a blank. This leads me to think that perhaps ground-breaking technology doesn’t reveal itself to every generation but skips over generations in its march through time.

If that is true, then my grandchildren won’t learn anything really new but perhaps my great-grandchildren will. I doubt that sequence will occur, though. I think that the generation-skipping thing may be over, at least for a while.

The advances in space travel and the technology for getting us there seems to have reached that threshold computers reached in the 1970s when their use began spreading, so don’t be surprised to see your grandchildren flying spaceships the way our grandparents drove Model-Ts.

As for the advances in technology over our lifetimes, my grandmother learned to drive with a wagon and team of horses and was considered quite accomplished at that task by her sisters and brothers. She was a teenager before she ever saw an automobile. She was alive when Wilbur and Orville Wright flew at Kitty Hawk. She lived to see transcontinental and transoceanic flight, the atomic bomb, jet aircraft, satellites, men land on the moon and the first flights of the space shuttle.

I wonder what’s coming next. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my next technological upgrade, whatever that may be, when one set or another of the kids visits.