Life As a Digital Native

Prairie Gleanings

Things have changed a lot since we got our first PC in 1987.

Published on: May 29, 2012
During last week’s company meeting, a presenter explained to the group that folks born in 1980 and after are “digital natives.” That is, these folks have a tough time remembering life before computers.

The Flint family entered the computer era in 1987. I was five years old. My sister was barely one. It was an IBM compatible. I honestly can’t remember the specific brand. I do remember there was no Windows. The operating system was MS-DOS.

The power switch was on the very back. Oddly enough the last time I spent so much time searching for a power switch was on an iMac. I believe that was last year. A lifelong PC fan, I’m not used to the Jobs-era sleekness that comes with all Apple products. Funny how the IBM’s power switch was the exact opposite of sleek. Yet, both machines had the ability to induce a head-scratching experience when attempting to turn them on.

Dad kept the books on the computer. I occasionally utilized the word processor for research papers and the like. Eventually computer games started to catch on. Our first computer game was called Hero’s Quest, which was first released in 1989. You had to install ten 5 ¼-inch-floppy disks, which held less than 1 MB apiece.

To put that in perspective, one of the smallest flash memory cards you can purchase for a digital camera holds 2 GB. You could hold the equivalent of 205 Hero’s Quests on that single memory card!

Fast forward to the current generation. My son will grow up with smartphones from the very start. Shoot, he may not even remember the smartphone. It could be obsolete by the time he’s old enough to remember. He’ll never know a time when you couldn’t text, Tweet, Facebook, email, make a phone call or Google from the palm of your hand.

This makes me wonder when I’ll stop understanding technology in a natural sense. What concepts will come along that he’ll get right away and I’ll struggle with? To stay sharp, I’ll be making an effort to understand and utilize each “next big thing” that comes along.