Is my inability to understand computers and grasp the concept of the Internet and all its wonders nothing more than a result of being born a generation too early? Why does a five-year-old know how to write code and apps while I can’t remember something as simple as my password?
I was recently informed by my web host that my website contained malware and was told that I had to clean my files or they’d be forced to suspend my site until I did. They told me where to find the results of their scan and that those results would tell me which files to delete. I looked where they told me and found more than a few lines of code which may as well have been in Greek.
Subsequently, I had to pay another service all of the money I had in my checking account to clean those malicious files and another $14.99 a month to keep it from happening again. Sometimes I wonder whether or not I’m being scammed because I have no knowledge of their idioms nor do I have any way to verify this stuff myself because when I was a kid we played outside with baseballs and hula-hoops. And, with the exception of the number of times I’ve come close to throwing a fastball at my computer screen, those items are not conducive to learning about computers.
Is it simply that there were no computers around when I was a kid or is the youth of today that much smarter?
When my youngest was seven-years-old, his mother wanted him to have a cell phone. “For emergencies, only,” she said. She explained that she had found a phone from our provider called a Migo. This was back in the days of flip phones. This phone had only four parent-programmable buttons. Using those buttons, the parent created a four-digit password, and then programmed each of the four buttons to specific phone numbers. The phone would only be able to call those specific numbers. It was a little tricky for me as, with only four buttons, the programming parent had to use multiple depressions of the keys in order to enter numbers above the digit 4. I was somehow—with the assistance of the instruction booklet—able to set the four keys to my cell, his mother’s cell, his big brother’s cell and our home phone.
A few years later he informed us that he immediately took his phone into his bedroom, figured out my four-digit unlock code, reset the home number to his cousin’s cell phone, called the cousin to tell him of his new cell phone number and then reentered the home number into the button to which I’d initially set it.
He was seven. He didn’t have the instruction booklet.
A number of years ago, I had a girlfriend who, on more than one occasion, told me that her son had grown into the young man he’d become because of her very strict discipline in raising him. “If he didn’t do his homework or refused to mind me,” she stated sternly, one hand on her hip and the other with index finger jabbing in my direction. “I would take his game controller away and he couldn’t play his video games until I decided he’d been sufficiently punished.”
One evening her son was home visiting on a break from college. My girlfriend had gone to bed and I was sitting on their patio, enjoying a beer with the young man. Without prompting from me, the conversation turned to his grade-school days. He said, “When I was eight- or nine-years-old, my mother would punish me by taking away my game controller. I just got another from my friend. I’d play games after school and when I heard the garage door opening, I’d shut off my game and stash the controller back in my closet.” I smiled at his story but didn’t tell him how proud she’d been of her parenting skills.
You see, I never—well… as far as I can remember—tried to pull anything like that on my parents. Obviously, there was no such thing as computers in my day. OK, they had them on the NASA spacecraft in those early missions, but today my car key is smarter than those computers. Anyway, I’m saying that I don’t think I was intelligent enough to think of conning my parents like this next generation has.
And my father was always three steps ahead of me anyway. One time they were scheduled to go out for the evening and had hired our regular baby-sitter. Dougy, from across the street, had gotten permission from his parents for me to join him to sleep over that night. We were going to “camp out” in the back of his parent’s station wagon. My parents gave me permission and that night Dougy and I became commandos; sneaking around the neighborhood engaging in pre-adolescent mischief. We put some smoke bombs in a few mailboxes, figuring that, when they were opened the next day, puffs of colored smoke would emerge. Our logic, as you may surmise, was flawed as the smoke immediately dissipated.
Of course, we rang the doorbell down at my house, knowing that my siblings would come tearing to the door like a stampeding herd. We did that about three times that night. Of course, the next morning they told my parents that the doorbell rang and no one was there. My mother became immediately concerned and my father just looked up from his newspaper and directly at me and said, “That was Billy and Dougy.” I withered at his gaze and then it dawned on everyone else that his answer was obvious. Of course, it didn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to figure it out, but I was amazed at how quickly he’d known it was me.
But now I’m the adult. Shouldn’t I be smarter than kids? Shouldn’t I be wiser from nothing more than my decades of screwing up my life?! Either I’m just dumber or this generation is smarter than I was or am. I’m simply resigning myself to that reality.