Saturday, May 16, 2009

So How Did The Baby Boomers Get online in 1958?

First, I am not trying to mock my teenage son. But it shows how, in some ways, the mindset of the present generation is so much different from those of us born only 35 or 40 years earlier.

My son knows about what the computers of the 1950's looked like. People of my generation remember the UNIVAC?

Do you remember the famous "hoax" picture of the 1954 RAND prototype of the first home computer? Maybe that was what son was thinking about when he asked his question.

One evening he asked me "how did you get online when you were growing up? Did you have one of those huge computers in your bedroom?" I thought he was pulling my leg.

He wasn't.

Although he intellectually knew there was no "internet" as he knows it back in the 1950's or 1960's, he had to believe that there was something out there, just something very clunky, probably in black and white, and using technology full of vacuum tubes.


Interestingly, son is also very interested in "old technology". For example, he is looking for a good Betamax player (and has several Betamax tapes). He just couldn't make that intellectual leap. Let's think about this a minute. I bought my first home computer (a bit later than other people, I admit) in 1996 and went online in January of 1997. So my son was 6 at the time.

From his viewpoint, there was a computer in his life "forever".

By the way, when did the Internet start? The answer is complicated. This link has quite the discussion and the answer is..."it depends".


  1. When Eric was starting Bronx Science (now he's 23) I told him some of our history, including about the protracted teachers' strikes in '67 and '68. He wanted to know, "What did you do, stay home and watch video games?"
    I do know all this computer history but only because I took a professional-level computer technology program at NYU.

  2. I know this is a late comment but I'm just catching up to your posts. I find this topic to be interesting since I've been using computers of many shapes and sizes since about 1972. I started using e-mail in 1979 (though I wouldn't call it the Internet by any means). My son who is 33 now has never seen me without some sort of computer device either on my desk at work or even at home (we got our first home computer in the '80s sometime). So communicating via computer or networking to him has been a way of life (and in all honestly I have to confess to a bit of anxiety when I can't check my e-mail within a 6-hour window or less). But he does remember we didn't always have cell phones so he appreciates the "newness" of that technology. At least your son asks questions. I don't my son ever cared how I communicated as a kid.


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