When I ask my English Composition students to consider what has had the most impact on their generation they typically say technology. True, at eighteen or so that’s all they know. But I would argue that technology has had a greater impact on the preceding generations, the Gens X’s, Y’s and Baby Boomers.
Their lives have been revolutionized by technology.
When I was a little girl my grandparents had a telephone party line in their house. I would eavesdrop on the conversation of strangers by merely, and stealthily, removing the handset from its base and listen in.
Now I do that through social media.
I watched in wide-eyed fascination the first televised movie filmed in color, The Wizard of Oz. (Incidentally, the electric-green bad witch and terrifying anthropomorphic flying monkeys scarred me for life.)
Now I turn to Neflix, Amazon Prime, iTunes or I DVR. If I forget, I do it remotely from my phone.
As a teenager, I took pride in reading maps and charting a course to anywhere in the continental United States.
Now I no longer even think of asking for directions, much less squint at a map. My GPS has become like family.
Assigned a story as a news reporter, I researched by interviewing numerous people, in person and by phone, and probing the library and the newspaper morgue.
Now I Google.
I listened incredulously to a prescient college professor tell my class that one day we would all have a personal computer in our homes. Now it’s in my pocket. That same professor lectured that we would do everything on this personal computer, including shop, work, read and communicate.
Now I barely remember life without it.
I bought music in record stores, not online, and in the form of 45s and 33s.
Now I buy downloads with my Starbucks coffee.
I empathized with my late husband, Charlie, who left the military with a recurring case of jungle rot because his boots never fully dried out during monsoon season.
Now we send unmanned aircraft to limit those boots on the ground, literally.
I received breaking news – like when Jack Ruby ambushed and fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald – on one of the three television networks.
Now my phone alerts me 24/7 the instant something happens.
So when I ask my students to tell me what has most impacted their generation, and they say technology, they have to be willing to share ownership. Because while it might be commonplace to them, its effect on the generations before them has been nothing less than profound.
P.S. How’s this for a perfect crossover – a breaking news app with Walter Cronkite’s image and voice. And if you say, “Who’s that? Well….