Musings of a Digital Immigrant
Musings of a Digital Immigrant
Welcome to TechTlk 😉 our new column that will appear periodically in these pages. I’ve been thinking about some kind of regular feature that deals with the world of technology for some time now, so here goes!
A caveat: If you’re a hardcore technophile, you might want to go buy a copy of MacAddict instead. This column is written by a “digital immigrant” for other digital immigrants, or those who are perhaps thinking of immigrating to the world of bits and bytes.
So right away you’re asking yourself, what the heck is he talking about? What’s a digital immigrant? And how do you identify one? Do they have accents? Well, turns out they do. Check out of this definition of digital native in Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org): A digital native is a person who has grown up with digital technology such as computers, the Internet, mobile phones and MP3. Marc Prensky claims to have coined the term digital native, as it pertains to a new breed of student entering educational establishments. The term draws an analogy to a country’s natives, for whom the local religion, language, and folkways are natural and indigenous, over against immigrants to a country who often are expected to adapt and assimilate to their newly adopted home. Prensky refers to accents employed by digital immigrants, such as printing documents rather than commenting on screen or printing out emails to save in hard copy form. Digital immigrants are said to have a “thick accent” when operating in the digital world in distinctly pre-digital ways, when, for instance, he might “dial” someone on the telephone to ask if his e-mail was received.
Put more simply, the Urban Dictionary defines a digital immigrant as, Someone who grew up before the digital age and is fairly new to the internet. Basically anyone over the age of 28.
To put my own digital immigrant status in perspective, I was born in 1959 (yes – I just turned fifty). In 1967, Dr. John Kemeny of Dartmonth College said, “Knowing how to use a computer will be as important as reading and writing.” What’s self evident now-a-days seemed pretty far-fetched back then. Even though the computer was invented in 1942, it would be years before it became accessible to the everyday person. In the 1960s an IBM computer cost as much as $9 million and required an air-conditioned quarter-acre of space and a staff of 60 people to keep it fully loaded with instructions.
Fast forward several decades. The IBM Personal Computer was launched on August 12, 1981 at the Waldof Astoria ballroom in New York City. It had a price tag of $1,564.00. Not only was the new machine relatively small and inexpensive, it could process information much faster than those early machines. And today’s computers, whether Macs or PCs, make those early PCs look laughably slow and clunky.
While it seems like it took a long time for the computer to develop to the stage it’s at today, in evolutionary terms, it’s as if the first fish crawled onto dry land, developed lungs and legs and then turned into a combination of Albert Einstein and sprinter Carl Lewis, all in the blink of an eye.
The magazine you’re holding in your hand* has created using a mixture of old and new technology. The final stage – the printing and the binding – are done using technology that’s been around for years. Everything up to that stage, however, is completely reliant on digital technology. Articles are written on computers using word processing programs and e-mailed to me. Photos are shot using digital cameras and either downloaded or e-mailed. All text and images are laid out on a computer using page-layout software. Proofs are sent out as PDFs (Portable Document Format). Once all proofing is done, the final Bulletin is turned into a high resolution PDF and sent to the printer via FTP (File Transfer Protocol). The next day, the finished Bulletins are delivered to Nikkei Place, ready for mailing. Consider then, that the first Bulletin was put together 51 years ago by Mickey Tanaka and a group of fellow volunteers using a typewriter, pen and paper, and lots of good old fashioned elbow grease. It seems a lot longer ago then it really was.
And look at that – out of space! Next issue we will get in-depth and personal, looking at ways technology can serve us, rather than the other way around . . .
*Assuming you’re reading the hard-copy version of The Bulletin of course. Maybe you’re reading this online (jccabulletin-geppo.ca), in which case the entire publication is created digitally, except for the cartoons, which are created by hand and then scanned in. Ironically, the two cartoonists, Emiko and Alexis, are digital natives.