With the passing of Steve Jobs, many of us have reflected on his life, his vision, and his legacy. He was a man that thought outside the box, challenged, and forever changed technology and communication in our world. I mean, if you don’t have an iPhone…you don’t have an iPhone. I’m still one of the unlucky few without one, but our family has iTouches, iPods, and iPads coming out our ears. iTunes integrates into our day the same as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s either time for an update, or time to defrost the chicken. When I think about that, and look at my children as they learn to maneuver this iPod world, I sometimes think that a trip back to 1986 for them would be as much of a culture shock as a trip back to 1496 would be for me.
In 1986, I was in sixth grade. My parents finally bought a VCR after agonizing over whether or not to purchase a Beta or VHS. We had one TV in the house, and I was the universal remote, changing the volume or channel as needed. Our phone was plugged into the wall, and we had to stand at the wall to talk because of the CORD. We had an extra long cord that gave us the freedom to roam around the kitchen, but still, one phone—on the wall. But, life changed with the purchase of our very first home computer, an Apple IIc and dot matrix printer. The monitor was about as big as an iPad, and the entire machine took over our family room. We played 7 Cities of Gold, a game about conquering “The New World,” and watched the little green stick figure shuffle across the screen with a “click, click, click.” It was life changing for many reasons. One, we did not have a gaming system in the house. Let me say that again for the kids reading this, there was no Nintendo, Play Station, or Leapster in the house. If we played a game, it was on a board, with dice and other three-dimensional objects. Two ,with the arrival of Apple IIc, I could type things I needed for school reports, correct my mistakes without correcting ribbon, and simply print the results. I’m sure it was more life-changing for my parents on that end than for me, but I remember thinking how cool it was to watch the printer type out all the words I had written. I had time to reflect on these kinds of things because the printing sometimes took up to thirty minutes. We had that computer, with its floppy disks, tiny screen, and loud printer through my high school years. It saw me through many book reports, science projects, and literary essays. During all those years, we watched as Apple competed with IBM, and we watched as Steve Jobs helped make the “personal computer” not just a novelty, but a necessity.
This year my daughter is in fifth grade. We have a universal remote that controls the TV, the Wii, iTunes, and the DVD. No one has to get up and walk to the television to make anything happen. Not only that, we can pause the actual TV for dinner. There is no missing a favorite show; we just “tape it,” a phrase she told me doesn’t make sense. She recently picked up our house phone, and I had to explain to her that it was not broken, and the “annoying noise” was the dial tone. As for personal computers, we have two notebook computers in the house, and my husband and I each have an additional work computer. If it’s not on our computers, then it’s probably on one of the iPods in the house, and there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t use those. In her school day, she uses a notebook computer with wireless internet and printing; she participates in experiences outside of her classroom through internet streaming via YouTube, Discovery Education, or other web-based curricula. As part of her homework routine, she practices math facts, state capitals, and grammar rules on an iPad that, yes, has an app for just about anything. Her textbooks are in transition, and, eventually, will be entirely online, or again, on an app. Teachers are scrambling to find funds to have one-on-one computers, iPods, or iPads for their students, to speak their language, and for everyone to be “plugged in.”
And even she is living in a different world than the one just ten years ago when she was born. As a baby, she played with Little People and Baby Einstein. Today, I watch in amazement as two-year-olds maneuver iPhones to play Angry Birds, watch Yo Gabba Gabba, or take pictures. Steve Jobs’ vision changed our communication, changed our schools, and changed our childrens’ perspective. That perspective is what will shape the next generation, a generation whose first word might just be iMom.