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I'm a software engineer at Apple. I write here occassionally.

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Ancient Technology with Modern Kids

In the study in my ENGL 1101 of Digital Natives, the main focus is how my generation and future generations are digital natives. They know how to use any device with a transistor, know how to surf Facebook with their eyes closed, and they know all the little tricks to getting around the school firewall to watch YouTube videos. They know pretty much everything.

Strike that. Digital Natives know pretty much everything about today’s technology. What about yesterdays?

Well, what is considered “ancient technology” by my and today’s generation? I would define it as any technology we have little or no experience with or have never seen. To list a few, I have no memory of using a tape player, never have used a record player for it’s intended purpose, and never have used a film camera.

Being a member of my high school’s robotics team, there are tons of now ancient tools that have been made obsolete by new technology. Take the analog caliper for example - most mentors on the robotics team, because of being older than the students they mentor, are quite fond of these calipers rather than their modern day counterpart. Most if not all the tools using in mechanical drafting have not changed since they were used for drawing out isometric views. Do the students who use them know how to use them immediately as if they were born with it? No, students who use “ancient” technology are not born with the ability to use it as they can with today’s modern technology.

One of my CS 1331 TA’s, who shall remain nameless, attempted to use an overhead projector and said, “I don’t use technology older than me”. Here thereafter proceeded to blind himself with the beam of light generated by the projector.

Though the TA may have considered his statement to be that of a joke, but it is an interesting thought anyway. My generation knows less and less about the things that came before us. We have no interest in history.

To me, history of technology is a fascinating thing. Figuring out how yesteryear’s technologists and inventors found these ways to do items that we now think as never before possible without modern day precision of microchips and processors is fascinating.

One of my favorite examples of yesteryear’s fascinating technology is an old-fashion calculator called the Curta calculator from the late 1940’s. The Curta, as it was called, was a handheld device about the size of a salt/pepper shaker that would multiply, divide, add, and subtract based on the position of various pins placed along the height of the device. To calculate, one would simply rotate the top handle until the desired answer appeared. I find this simply fascinating and amazing. Doing calculations with a mechanical devices is simply something unheard of today.

Wrapping up, what are some things that you find “ancient technology” to you? How does this affect you? Do you have any desire to learn about the past of technology? Answer the questions in the comments.