If you were born between 1946 and 1964, guess what? You’re considered a ‘baby boomer’. Typically known as the group that rejected and redefined traditional values – baby boomers were wealthier, more active, and more physically fit than any preceding generation. They were the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time. Being one of the last boomers around, I have a general fascination with this generation. We truly had some unique experiences (besides for that of the 70s) including that of witnessing the plethora of technological advances.
In a rapidly changing world, one significant skill I learned during school was that of typing – something that has continued to be invaluable throughout my entire working career. The ‘qwerty’ keyboard now seen on smartphones has long been familiar to me together with the ability to touch type (the ability to type without having to rely on looking at the keys). Not to mention that I was also a student pianist at the time so my fingers were always happy for the extra exercise and increased dexterity.
At the age of six, I was fascinated when my father received a telex from London in his office in our small home town in the Northern Cape, South Africa. Thereafter, my experience with a computer was during the 1980s at university wherein a whole room was designated to one solitary computer in the computer science lab. Fast forward to 1992 when my husband’s firm announced that all conventional typewriters were to be phased out and replaced with electronic typewriters that would allow their typists to get documents out to their customers more efficiently. Back then when documents were still delivered by hand, bicycle messengers were still on the payroll, but that was soon replaced with the invention of the fax (facsimile or telecopying).
I remember watching television news in 1995 with the release of Windows95; people queuing in front of shops to purchase it; Jay Leno joking about the mouse during the launch. Words like interface, server, and CD-ROM became words to use in conversations if you want to seem tech-savvy.
New Yorkers waiting to purchase Windows 95
As the world evolved around technology, we boomers were dragging one specific skill with us: we could type full hand and fast!In 1996, I found myself part of a firm’s transition from electronic typewriters to “word processors”.
I bought my first Nokia “brick” cellular phone that year. The convenience of a mobile phone was uncanny as I was able to take a call while cheering my child on the sports field. We learned how to SMS on the keypad while driving my car – one key press was an A, two were a B, three were a C, etc. – I’m sure most of you remember. And I clearly remember saying how awesome it would be to copy and paste on my phone as on my computer. And yes, before you judge me, we had no idea back then how dangerous it was to text while driving.
Like now, cell phone etiquette was also hotly debated. Once the novelty worn off of being contactable at almost any time of the day a whole new set of social rules developed. When was it appropriate to answer? At what time was it appropriate it call? Unlike now, us, baby boomers, would like to believe we practiced that level of decency. A running joke between me and my kids is that of me sending them off on school tours sharing one phone. Apparently, I didn’t realize how important it was for a teenager to access a private phone. What they fail to realise is that I’ve always been the ultimate strategist – be it in business or with managing teenagers.
Come the year 2009 when I first engaged with a smartphone. I did not realize yet how it was going to impact my world – especially as most of us were just beginning to get comfortable with now dubbed “dumb phone”. In Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Thomas Friedman writes about being able to use your phone to buy a ticket to Madonna’s next concert by scanning a “code” on the poster displayed in the subway. The concept was beyond belief for me at the time! How could something that would typically require much more effort and time be concluded without one having to do nothing but type my banking details? However, today we are doing just that and so much more with not more than a click of a button on our phones. Regardless of where I might find myself in the world I can sign up, buy or research anything. Something my mind would have not perhaps been able to comprehend when I was that high schooler in typing class.
Thank you for journeying with me through the baby boomers world of tech. We are adapting happily from telex machines, typewriters, and word processors to smartphones and personal computers!
Next time I want to start sharing some interesting business trends that excite me.
Signing off typing full hand and fast!