on multi-tasking

Today as I was cleaning up the kitchen, my son wanted to use my laptop for a game on the internet. He’s 9 1/2 and he’s pretty computer literate. He asked my permission and since I had a work-related document open in a word processor, I asked him to minimize it.
Then I followed up with, “do you know what minimize means?”
He said, “of course.” He said something like, “didn’t you know what minimize meant when you were my age?”
And I said, “not like you do–I don’t know how old I was when I learned what minimize meant.”
He asked if I was in school. (I graduated from high school in 1980). I told him that the word has been around a long time as a non-computer word, but he and I talked about it’s origin as a tech-related word. “Computers didn’t always do a bunch of things at one time. You had to only do one thing at a time.” In hindsight I guess I could’ve told him it was more like my cell phone worked, but without all the icons.
(I didn’t make him listen to this reflection, but I’ll let you skim it: I think there may have been one high school in town that had a computer or two, but it wasn’t mine and computing was really primitive compared to what we do today. We had punch cards in college and I typed one long paper on an apple II in the spring of 1985. Not long after that I did some desktop publishing on an early mac, but you had to switch those floppy disks, between the application disc and the data disc, until later when you got dual drives and subsequently a hard drive. At work in the late 80’s to very early 90’s we had an IBM mainframe and later dos PCs. It would’ve been between 90 & 93 when windows first appeared on my desk and I owned my first mac sometime around then. Real multitasking on a computer began happening in my world sometime in the 90s.)

My habits evolved as the tools did.

On the other hand, my son has never had access to a computer that didn’t multitask. Sure he can focus on one thing at a time, but he always has the choice. He has so many more options than I did.

I wonder how all of this will make him (and his generation) different than I am and ultimately how the world will be different? Surely they think differently. I don’t have any earth-shattering thoughts or judgements to pass along. I could speculate, but I’ll save that for another day. Mostly it was just an interesting conversation that got me thinking about him and me and our world.

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