When I was about 8-14 years old, I recall learning to use three different personal computers. For those reading this of the digital native generation, you might not realize that this was slightly unusual for someone born in 1970. The home computer was not yet pervasive in the late 1970s to mid 1980s. The laptop? It was decades away.
Think I’m exaggerating? Go here and read up on some Home Computer history.
As a family, we went through at least one TRS-80 and two Franklin Models. I also remember a Compaq along the way. In bouncing over to wikipedia a bit this evening, I learned that this “box” was affectionately referred to by computer historians as the first luggable. At almost 30 lbs, I was terrified to try and carry it for fear I would damage the precious commodity.
I know I learned how to code at one point. First in LOGO and then in BASIC. I remember making a turtle move across the screen. I remember building a simple tennis game. I remember that feeling of accomplishment. I do not remember anything except the need to constantly balance the equations and instructions. It is definitely something lost to the decay of time. It’s not like muscle memory. Ignore it for 30-40 years and it’s more than just a bit harder for the human recall system to work properly.
Have I ever coded as an adult? Only if you consider HTML coding. I’ve dabbled in that over the years.
I do know this. I am not a digital native. I am not a millennial. I was technically born into Generation X. This occasionally bothers me when I go to a seminar where an expert rambles on about the defining characteristics of Generation X, as X rarely ever seems to mark the spot for me.
There is so much in what supposedly defines “my generation” that simply does not fit me. Then again, sometimes there are tidbits that do. I think it is because of this role that technology played in our household from such a young age that I don’t quite fit right. It’s a square into a circle type of diagram. I am similar to the Millennials with regard to computer tech. On the other hand, the first “home computer” I had used a tape deck and it took about 30 minutes to load pong. So yeah, not the same as the laptop generation.
One thing is certain, my parents deserve thanks from me for exposing me at the start of the home computer revolution. They didn’t shy away from bringing this complicated tech into our home, and instead encouraged both their kids to explore, play, and learn. To not be afraid of changing and adapting to a world that is changing around us all the times. The change can be exhausting, but they taught me that it can be interesting, challenging, and fun. They taught me to embrace it. To use it.
As part of this OTR50 experiment of self-discovery through writing, I’m also learning to build a WordPress website. One of my work-related sites is on WordPress. Because of that, I already knew how to edit, update, and add several types of pages and posts. However, I haven’t been involved in building, template modification, menu creation, etc. This site that is 365 random pieces of a puzzle along the way to self-discovery required me to build from nothing.
I wasn’t scared to attempt this on my own — the building of the site. I dove in and just started. This is a part of me. This fearlessness to fiddle with new applications. To learn by trying. To learn by doing.
I could have asked one of my many talented friends to build it for me. To help get me started. Why didn’t I? It would have most certainly saved me from an evening of trial and error. I didn’t because I enjoyed both the anticipation and the challenge of that evening. That learning by doing. I encouraged that inner fearless to fiddle with software. To create.
I am not an engineer, scientist, or mathematician. I am not young enough to be a digital-native. However, I have been a technology-native since I was 8 years old. This is a part of me I am reclaiming. It is as natural as writing my first story at 7 or all the poetry I wrote in High School. It is a component part that has naturally integrated itself into my life in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. When I really step outside the now to think about the tech-related work projects I’ve nurtured in my various leadership roles over the years, it’s there in my history. It is one aspect of me that’s been quietly subdued for years, yet there for me to call upon when needed. To be occasionally nurtured with some new challenge.
I get it now.
351 more day to go.