A few days ago on Twitter a hashtag prevailed (for those who do not frequent this social network it is a theme to write on) called “in my time”.
This phrase, which we have all heard spoken at least once by parents or grandparents, today offers an enormous amount of possible considerations.
Until a few decades ago, when an old man said “in my time” he referred to his youth, generally at least half a century earlier. That was the minimum time for human evolution to bring radical changes in lifestyles. Today, ten years are more than enough to be able to repeat that phrase to their children.
The technology has speeded up the transformations of everyday life both in private and in the professional field, making sure that the two areas often no longer have a marked borderline. This overlap has radically changed the habits of many families.
Almost like a game I started to reflect on the things I could tell my children talking about “my times”. Most are eleven, a child at the registry office, an adult for technology. I have limited the analysis to the sectors that most directly affect daily life and interaction between people, without taking into account inventions or discoveries in the medical, scientific or other specific fields to speak of which would require a real treatise.
I have identified five determining elements in the transition between the twentieth and the twenty-first century. Here they are.
The speed of information retrieval
I remember the early years of the Internet in the editorial office in the mid-nineties. The network was accessible from a single computer and was a container still to be filled. We journalists sailed in turn, more out of curiosity than out of real necessity, because all we needed to write our articles could be reached almost exclusively by telephone or fax. The photographic material arrived strictly by mail and sometimes there were moments of panic when one had to go to press but one or more images were lost. Often, to be able to identify a useful contact, dozens of calls were needed. Writing was only the final phase of a long and complicated search path.
From oral to written communication
Few years back making a phone call was the quickest and most effective way to ask or to let someone know something. Writing a letter was a gesture that took time and was reserved for those who were very far away. Then the e-mails and the SMS of the cell phones arrived and the distances were shortened little by little. Sending multimedia content and instant chats are just the last link in a chain that those born after two thousand cannot even imagine.
Books and media: from paper to tablet
The advent of electronic media to read books and newspapers is perhaps one of the most debated issues of the moment. Reminds me of the old diatribe of the nineties between those who had a cell phone and those who were not aware of it. I remember people who were convinced that, if someone had looked for them, the answering machine of the home phone would have been more than enough to have news.
Today, not having a mobile phone (or better, a smartphone) is like being a kind of alien. I believe that in a few years the same fate will touch those who have never read an electronic book.
I love to see my paper volumes well aligned on the bookshelf, and in the bed every night I hold a printed novel, I find it useless and anachronistic resistance of those who insist on denying the advantages of tablets. When I travel I take hundreds of books with me in a plastic rectangle that fits comfortably in my bag and weighs less than my makeup bag. Why should I renounce it in the name of tradition? It is no coincidence that the International Book Fair of Turin this year has as its theme the “digital spring”. A title not very likely fifteen years ago.
Even the Kindle or the Ipad will be overcome, just as it happened for videocassette floppy disk or DVD. The card has lasted for centuries and will continue to show off on bookstores, but we will have to adapt to new formats continuously. Maybe one day we will project texts in the air by pressing a button on the phone, like the holograms of science fiction movies.
Children who today download applications, music and games from the internet and at school work on interactive whiteboards do not even pose the problem because for them technology is never an opponent.
One of the biggest differences I try to explain to my children when I talk to them about “my times” is that before their birth, almost nothing was instantaneous. Today, however, everything becomes “social”. You video game live with other people in different countries, you chat, tweet, make friends in Facebook.