Half-Baked Theories: Digital Natives and the Model-T Ford

When my kids were in elementary school I realized that computers had taken over the world. And that my kids would never remember a time without them—just like I never knew a time without television, and my parents never knew a time without cars. Their connection to computers, I thought, would be seamless. They would speak computer languages with ease, while I, no matter how technologically savvy I became, would always have an immigrant's accent.

But I feel—a little—differently now. While it's true that they are deeply (deeply) connected to computers, I am still (sometimes) the one who they come to about what does and doesn't work in terms of setting up a blog, say, or figuring out how to make a tilde appear on top of an ñ.

And then I realized: it's just like cars. When Model-Ts first came out, if you were going to drive one, you had to know how to fix it. So everyone who drove also had to be a mechanic. People then understood cars in some deep way. But now we all drive cars (or at least some of us do), most of us have no idea how they work at all. We don't understand them anymore—we just know how to use them. And so it is with computers, I think.

I guess it's just that what you need to know changes.

How this is related to children's books I have no idea.

One thought on “Half-Baked Theories: Digital Natives and the Model-T Ford

  1. Yes. Those of us who started out on Unix have a tinkering capacity that today’s typical user doesn’t have. Raspberry Pi users would be the equivalent to someone who likes rebuilding classic cars, I guess.

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