I am very old. What’s more, I have been very old for a very long time. All of that is very strange, primarily because I’m fairly young. What do I mean?
I was born in 1981, which makes me 34 this year. It also makes me what you could call a leading-edge milennial, as I was in my high school’s graduating class of 2000. But the thing I think makes me very old is that my beginning more or less coincides with the beginning of the digital revolution, and I was aboard from nearly the beginning.
I wrote my first programs with the help of my dad in the latter half of the 1980s on a Mattel Aquarius, a computer so simple and primitive that it made a TRS-80, by then a decade old, look good. But it wasn’t long until my dad’s more successful twin provided my family with a more sophisticated computer and by the beginning of the Pentium era, my brothers and I were sharing a system that was only a generation or so behind the state of the home computing art.
I was a part of the first generation of smart-ass kids who knew everything about the technology their parents and teachers couldn’t understand, so I had a pretty broad exposure to a lot of the tech that existed at the time. But my elder brother was the real master, and I merely his first apprentice.
We ran a bulletin-board system which– for those who weren’t around at the time– was the closest thing we had to the Internet. People had to log on one at a time using a modem-to-modem dial-up connection that generally also dominated their voice line, though a lot of us were so into it that we had a second phone line. We also participated in an international network of bulletin boards, which wasn’t precisely cheap given the prevailing long-distance rates at the time.
And then bulletin boards were over and everyone was on the Internet and even though I was a late adopter in my circle of friends, I was probably on the Internet before you. I watched it grow into what it is today and sometimes I’m still a little amazed.
So I’ve lived my life alongside a rapidly-advancing technology that’s only now reaching maturity. Imagine being the same age as the Model T when Ford debuted the Taurus. Now imagine you’ve been building and fixing cars most of that time. It’s a bit like that.
Given my deep early connection to computer technology and the fact that I’ve long believed and been told that I’m “smart” I just assumed for a long time that my future was in tech. I studied Computer Science, since among my many talents, programming was my most developed. The fact is though that the vanguard of today’s tech industry are now a decade and more younger than me, and I don’t think I’have the skills the industry wants or needs.
I don’t know what my future looks like. If I’ve made one critical assumption that was wrong for the last decade, perhaps I’ve made others. So maybe my future lies on a different course. If so, then, the problem is that I don’t know how to find it. And that I feel so very old.
Then again, maybe not.