Late nights fueled by instant coffee and Jolt Cola, researching the old-fashioned, painstaking way by checking out books and journals from the library, or scanning over microfiche, and then jotting down your notes and quotes on a stack of 3x5 cards. Your drafts were usually written by hand, on a yellow legal pad; the final draft punched out on a manual—electric if you were “lucky”—typewriter. Mistakes, which were not tolerated by my teachers at Jesuit High—more than two typos on a single page resulted in an automatic F—were corrected with Liquid Paper. Mistakes too big to paint over with correction fluid might oblige you to retype the entire page. (Better hang on to that original draft!)
At the risk of sounding like my my old man—who walked for an hour in waist-deep snow in his bare feet, mind you, just to get to school where, if the commute didn’t kill you, the teachers would thrash the pupils to within inches of their very lives, every day—let me just say that kids today don’t know how easy they’ve got it.
All nighter? No problem! Just pop one of these prescription uppers, and presto! Research? What the hell’s that? Just Google it, and whaddya know? Mr. Wiki has done the research for you! 3x5 cards? What are you, high? Copy and paste, copy and paste, copy and paste, copy and paste. Can’t spell if your life depended on it? Auto-correct! Grammar ain’t your forte? Microsoft Word or Grammarly will come to the rescue.
I was fortunate to grow up when I did, with my adolescence falling precisely at the time when the world was making the transition from analog to digital technology. Where I would enter high school using a manual typewriter and would in a few years go on to use an electric typewriter (which had a correction ribbon—what’ll they think of next?), by the time I was entering college, computers were starting to make their way into the average home. I worked part-time at a computer store during my freshman year, but it wasn’t until Apple came out with the original Macintosh that I started to have an inkling of the potential of computers. Before long, I was doing most of my writing on one computer or another, storing everything on 5 1/4-inch floppy disks.
Today, I have more computing, communicating, and researching power—not to mention fun—in my back pocket than I could have ever imagined only ten years ago. I’m looking forward to discovering what will happen in the world of technology over the next decade or two. I suspect, though, that the kids of the future will take their jet packs and phasers for granted just as much as kids today do their smart phones.