Technology Languages & the Generational “Leg Up”

All this TEI, XML, HTML, NFL, TMZ…what?! It’s got my head spinning! Being a kid born in the early 90s, I grew up learning a significant amount about technology as it was invented and introduced to the public. Kind of like when my Dad recollects waiting for the next Superman comic to be released, or how it was basically a national holiday when The Wizard of Oz was on TV in color once a year,¬†many people my age express the same sentiments about their new video games or cell phones. My generation is readily equipped to understand the way these new technologies function.

I used to consider myself to have a leg up on most people in the technology department. My parents both worked at Kodak for the duration of my childhood and into my adolescence, and our household was always a well oiled machine of the latest cameras, PCs, and other gadgets and knick-knacks that we got to test out. I grew up learning that the problem can’t necessarily be fixed with “esc” or “ctrl-alt-del” and how to properly troubleshoot, that backing up your system is important and should be done regularly, and that you can never get enough RAM. During my last three years of college, it’s become clear that all those things are basically common knowledge, and the reality of my knowledge compared to others was usually less…a lot less.

Because where does interaction with technology take place? Freakin’ everywhere! In my little world, desktop computing was the end-all be-all. Now there are smart phones, the endless slew of apple products, eReaders, even touch-screen check ins at the doctor’s office! My set of skills is horridly outdated when put up against all the other possible sets of skills applicable to all of these other things. Only goes to show…there is currently lots to learn, and there always will be more to learn!

As a student of language, I use the analogy “to speak” quite often. I crack the joke “I don’t speak car” to tell someone who tells me they drive a Chevy Equinox Jeep Mazda CR2750 Honda Cavalier that I have no idea what that means or looks like. So, given the above, do I “speak” technology? I wouldn’t say that I’m fluent, but I would hazard that I have a basic command. If I was “dropped there” and had to ask for directions to the nearest train station, I’d make it.

Ok, ok. So enough with the analogies. I ‘get’ technology. Most people my age ‘get’ technology. As far as ‘speaking’ it though, analogies aside, we’ve learned that there¬†is an actual language, of sorts, to this stuff. Hyper text markup language. Extensible markup language. Text encoding. These are all called languages, and they are the language that our technology speaks! It’s fascinating, really.

What’s most fascinating to me is that I’m capable of using all of this technology without having a good command of the actual technology languages. How’s that! It brings me back to the start of the circle, but with questions. Sure, technology comes second nature to people my age. But these languages sure don’t…is that generational, or will it always be the case? Are there kids in elementary school who are being educated in and on technology, being taught HTML, etc? The technology languages, while they feel foreign to me…are they second nature to the next generation as operating a smart phone is second nature to me?

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