A language to love

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As a kid of the 80’s and 90’s, I see myself as an early millennial, you know, a member at the upper end of the 18-34 voting bloc.  On the one hand, I am still basking in the glory of being a youth because for some reason, this demographic group has special power over election outcomes,and  we are often seen as more worldly and more progressive than our parents’ generation.  On the other hand,  I greatly lag behind my younger peers in the world of technology. There is a great difference between an early 80’s millennial and a 90’s millennial.

To provide some context, I first started taking real typing lessons in 9th grade on an early generation Macintosh. My learning was supplemented by more practice on a dusty typewriter, an ancient relic probably from somebody’s garage sale. Back then, only schools had authentic computers; and an electric typewriter was all we could afford at that time.   Until the end of high school, my classmates and I were mainly writing things longhand because it’s a good bet that  nobody fully grasped Corel WordPerfect.   Home computers came in 10th or 11th grade, but they were mainly for entertainment purposes, like playing MineSweeper or downloading songs from a questionable site like Napster or chatting on ICQ/AOL.

Little did I know that computers would become a central part of our lives years later. Being digitally literate is the key to being a sophisticated member of the 21st century. This would become a tall order.  For somebody who just got her hands on an 80’s style Mac- that boxy white thing –  at the age of 14, I became self-conscious of my technical incompetence. Sure, I took a Turbo Pascal programming course at 15, but I never really “got” programming.  What does knowing loops and if-then conditionals have to do with anything?  1990’s Toronto was not exactly a tech culture, and I didn’t see how programming would ever be relevant to any career.  The smartest kids in my days were studying to be doctors not programmers.  Today, not a day goes by that I do not hear about a hoodie-wearing young entrepreneur who just shocked the world with the latest app or  a new platform. Their secret to success? They have been coding since elementary school. Yes, they grew up in the age of smartphones and tablets.

Do you ever feel like we are now speaking in different languages? There is the tech language, and there is the rest of us- the commoners.  Those who have mastered the tech language are people who have endless possibilities in the 21st century.  As somebody who loves education,  I think it’s never too late for the rest of us to pick up on this language.   In a free and open society, we are lucky to have so many resources at the click of a mouse. It takes motivation to learn.   I am not suggesting that we should all aim to be the next Gates or Zuckerberg (these two are exceptional), but a reasonable understanding of the programs/languages that bring us beautiful websites (languages: html, css, javascript) or games and other web platforms (languages: python, ruby, java, etc) will help us become more informed individuals. I think those of us outside the tech world can be passive because we just let the tech people do the heavy lifting.  Since technology  has taken over every aspect of our lives, it makes sense to familiarize with its vocabulary.  We do not always have to be on the receiving end; we could be part of the progress.  We need to be critical thinkers just like we were taught in school.  But how do you evaluate the pros and cons of a a new platform or app if you don’t understand the ABCs of  it? In a world where everything seems so foreign?  Everybody knows how to click on an app but what is the work behind it?   We can be critical only if we understand what we are observing.

I may be an older millennial, but I am still young enough to understand technology.   Our lack of adequate training in technology is nothing to celebrate, but it should not be a handicap. Instead, it is one major reason to begin educating ourselves. Self-learning is the best investment you can make for yourself to stay ahead of the curve.  Regardless of what generation you belong to – X, Y or Z,  there is always something new to be learned everyday.

 

 

 

 

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