Growing Up Without the Internet

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As an early Gen Xer, I grew up without the internet. In fact, most of my primary school life was spent without computer technology. It was a huge deal when Dad got me and my siblings an Atari game console as a Christmas gift. Asteroids, anyone? (If you’re of a certain age, you’ll know exactly what I’m referencing.)

I remember one computer that was available to students in a middle school math class. If students finished their work early, they could use the computer. The boys in class wouldn’t do their work, claim to be done, and hog the machine. I don’t think I ever saw any of the girls using it. Not that we didn’t want to … I sure did. It was a crummy racket that encouraged boys to slough off.

In high school, computers were available in the business department and in a computer lab in the math department. Computer technology was still very limited, unlike today, where our school district provides an iPad for every student at a certain age. I didn’t get a chance to use the math department computers much, but I distinctly remember the time I spent on computers … Commodore 64s … in the business department. A large assignment in one class, an assignment that would make up most of our grade, had each student programming a computer in order to complete a specific task. We got to choose what we wanted the program to do. Being an overly ambitious sort, I chose to write a program to figure out taxes using a personal check register. What was I thinking?

This was also the time of floppy disk drives, wherein the floppy disks were 5 1/4″ square, dot matrix printers, and a lot of unreliability in all of this equipment. Anything could go wrong and any time and you were at the mercy of the machines.

I worked diligently on my program, coding and testing and sharing my progress with the teacher. It was the last day of class and I finished the last of my coding. We were required to print our program in order to hand it in. And, kaflooey! The printer didn’t work. Refused to work. Okay, no problem. Save the program to floppy and print it from on a different printer. (No wireless printers, no way to easily disconnect a printer from one computer and reconnect it to another.) Only, the floppy drive refused to save the last of my program. And the disk was corrupted so what had previously been saved could no longer be read.

Can you guess that I was FRANTIC by this time? And in tears?  There goes my grade.

Thankfully, the teacher, who had been regularly checking my progress on the program and knew the work I’d put in, took pity on me and gave me a good grade on the project anyway. The whole process taught me the importance of backing up data on multiple devices, a habit I practice regularly to this day.

Now, then, this has all been a detour on my way to discussing a thought I had today while walking the dog. (A lot of good thinking occurs while walking the dog.) Up until just before sitting down to blog, I hadn’t checked my Facebook page. When my kids were in high school, they practically lived on Facebook, having to check in daily. While the Facebook habit is strong, it’s not so strong that I have to visit daily. I can easily go an entire weekend without signing in and I don’t miss it. Don’t even give it a first, second or third thought, really. Same with email. Or being online in general.

I attribute this attitude to growing up (mostly) without computer technology or the internet. It’s easy to spend time on other things because I spent my formative years doing just that.

This is not to say that the way I grew up was better than how children are growing up today. Gosh, what a curmudgeonly attitude! It simply means that disconnecting causes me no angst.

Oh, and that coding experience I had in high school led me to teaching myself HTML and continues to foster a desire to learn new code.

 

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