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Thoughts on the next generation

When I was starting primary school in the mid-70s, the second world war had been over for about 30 years. It was still in people’s minds — they still talked about it, a whole episode of Fawlty Towers was based around the recent memory of it. By the time I was in high school with a weekend job, WW2 had been over for about 40 years, and the owner of the shop and many of his friends were veterans. WW1 was very much ancient history, having finished 60-70 years previously. There were survivors from it around, but it seemed so long ago and out of reach.

Now my kids are growing up. WW2 ended almost 60 years ago. They’re not old enough to really understand the implications of a world war, and given how far away and out of reach WW2 must seem to today’s kids, maybe they never will.

On a more amusing note: Jeremy wanted to look at the London Underground web site. I typed in the URL — — and hit enter. My computer’s browser sent the request, down the ADSL line to my ISP, then onto the net at large, searching for the server, halfway around the planet to other side of the world, to process the request and send the page content back. Shock horror gasp, it took about ten seconds to start coming back, time enough for Jeremy to ask “Why is it taking so long?”

No appreciation of the marvels of technology, the youth of today. No patience.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

15 replies on “Thoughts on the next generation”

Our parents probably thought the same thing about our casual attitude to long distance phone calls, 24 hour television, TV dinners…the list goes on. It’s probably always going to be this way, and I see it as a Good Thing, a mark of the progress we take for granted. I thought about writing a web comic where it’s me in fifty years time, being a curmudgeonly old geezer and reminiscing about the days of 120 GB hard disks, 2.4Mhz CPUs etc. I’ve thought of a darker side to our computing future though, so it could be quite interesting. Anyone know how to draw ?

I’m from Germany and it’s the same there, ww2 becoming a very remote event. In my place, Cologne,
there is a permanent reminder of it in that there are very few old buildings in the city. Cologne got bombed out was rebuilt in the ugliest possible way,
concrete boxes and bland grey buildings everywhere. I guess that’s a punishment that will last through the generations. (hence I always feel sad when historic buildings are demolished in Melbourne)

I got a shock tutoring high-school students in 2000 who didn’t understand what the Cold War was.

I wanted to say: “It was the reason that at your age 50% of ‘my generation’ honestly believed they’d be dead before 30.”

It’s funny, well scary, how fast the reality of these things can fade.

Doug, too true. I honestly lay in bed awake at night worrying about dying from nuclear war. I’m glad that threat is gone, though I suppose it’s replaced by the threat of terrorism instead.

I was telling a friend recently that when I started uni I remember a lecture on the basics of computing. The lecturer was talking about Mbs and Kbs and then said, there is a larger measure but you will never have to worry about that.. it is called Gigabytes! Yeah, right. My son now has a music player with a 15 Gb harddrive…it is just amazing really.

btw. it wasn’t that long ago that I started my uni degree either…. hell it wasn’t like we were using punch cards or anything like that :)

Now we’ve got bigger things to worry about, like planes crashing into highrises. Joy. And get your son to use a 56k modem for a couple weeks. He’ll learn to appreciate a decent connection speed a little more. *LOL*

I can remember the excitement as I gathered around our TV many years ago and my dad switched it onto Channel 0 and lo and behold there was a third commercial TV station to watch (now known as Ch10). We all stood there in awe of what we were seeing. I cannot remember exactly what year this was but it was certainly the event of the year for myself and my siblings.

I’m still amazed at the number of very, very young children with mobile phones.

When I was their age, back in the 1960s, I considered myself very lucky to have a crystal set….and that was only because I made it myself!

I can also remember one day, when I was about 8 years of age, a school mate had just been given a toy walkie-talkie. The two handsets were connected by a long flexible plastic tube which enabled two kids to talk to one another out of sight from each other. I thought it was such a whizz-bang high-tech toy.

The real high-tech gods were the teenagers who had a part time job. they often had a small record player in a leatherette case on which to play their very small collections of 45s.

When I became a teenager in the 1970s, I considered myself very lucky to have a four-function calculator and thought that by the time I was an adult, I would have a scientific one, perhaps with some programming capability. I flatly refused to believe I would ever be able to own a “real” computer…….

In 1978 we lived in an old house about 30km from town (pop 1700). No mains electricity, but we had a 32 volt generator. It was very unreliable so many dinners were lit by hurricane lamp.

We had a kero fridge and kero heater. The radio was battery powered. The 17 inch Astor B&W TV sat in storage. No phone.

The following year we moved to a place with electricty and even had a phone. Colour TVs, videos and a (reconnected) phone arrived in the 1990s, with internet and mobile phones in the 2000s.

Though official CPI figures show inflation at 2%, what has really happened is that electrical goods and appliances have fallen in real (and sometimes actual) dollars while other things (eg private education, health costs and house prices) have outstripped wages and inflation.

I was reminded of all this just this morning. In front of a block of flats near mine was a kero heater. This was joined by one other this afternoon. So people are still using the jolly things in 2004’s Melbourne!

Does Jeremy plans to be be public transport user association spokesperson for London Transport? Anyway, good that he has an enquiring mind.

Channel 0 eh. We did not have tv, but grandparents did. The technician arrived from Forte’s of Oakleigh to tune in the Astor to Channel 0. Much excitemnet. A4000Bear, your friend’s walkie talkie was very high tech compared to our two tin cans and string. It was only eight years ago, but the salesperson assured us 2gb hard drive would be all we could possibly need. Perhaps he had a vision of cd burners.

“Are you implying that a third world war might be imminent?”
Mike, dunno where you’re reading that. Some of us in our thirties now used to think there might be one, in the 70s and early 80s.

In myyyy day we had to eat gruel for breakfast and walk barefoot to and from school. In the snow. Up hill. In BOTH directions. And we lived in a carboard box that leaked but did we complain? Noooo… we were happy! Our parents used to beat us with sticks and we’d ask for more and said thank you when we got it!


Sorry. Yorkshire men moment.

LOL. I love Jeremy’s comment.
When I bought my first computer – a 486 dx2 66, with 8 Mb ram, and a 420 HD, the salesman asked what I wanted such a huge beast of a machine for! And I didn’t even have a modem then, nor a network card!
I was about 13 before I got my first watch. I’ve said to my hubby about his kids – what do we get them for their 21st? Like most kids of today they have their own tvs, cd players, xboxes, mobile phones that are way snazzier than mine… They have everything!!

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