I was born in 1977, placing me right on the generational cusp. I don’t quite fit in with the Gen-X-ers, but nor am I entirely comfortable with the Millenials. Whether it’s cultural references, technology, or social issues, I seem to waver between the two groups. Generational gaps were really brought home to me this afternoon when my son brought home an art project from school.
Being a member of the iGeneration, also known as Gen-Z, he grew up around computers and other modern technology. He is completely comfortable using tech, from game consoles to smart phones to virtual reality technology. Place any unfamiliar gadget in front of him, and it won’t be long until he’s figured out how to use it.
The art project he brought home was a small plastic fox. It was nothing fancy. It was all one colour and didn’t even feature facial features. What made this fox so striking to me, though, was that it was created on a 3D printer. I felt completely surreal.
I remember my very first computer. It was a Commodore 64 and it was a combined gift from Santa for myself and my two siblings. One of the first games we played on it was a choose-your-own adventure version of The Dark Crystal. It was loaded on giant black floppy disks, the soft kind that truly earned their name. Playing the game required constant changes between the floppy disks, as decisions were made and paths chosen, because a single floppy disk didn’t hold enough data for the entire game.
Fast forward to school, and my first computer classes involved playing maths or spelling games, or Where in the World is Carmen Santiago, or typing up school assignments. The printer was black & white, and required huge rolls of paper with perforations between sheets. The paper had perforated strips of holes along the sides which needed to be removed once printing was done.
There was one room, containing twenty-five IBMs and two printers to service the entire school. These days, there are a few computers and printers in the school library, but students each bring their own personal computer from home, which can access an entire world full of data via the world-wide web. And my son now has a toy which he designed and printed on a 3D printer.
Sometimes I feel as though I’m living in an episode of Beyond 2000.