Spice of Life: Embracing tech: When baby boomers go digital - Hindustan Times
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Spice of Life: Embracing tech: When baby boomers go digital

ByRanbir Parmar
Apr 15, 2024 06:32 AM IST

Now, we live in a world where the internet and smartphones have revolutionised communication, digital cameras have recast photography, and OTT and smart TVs have changed the concept of visual entertainment altogether

The people of my generation, born between 1946 and 1964 to be precise, are known as ‘baby boomers’. We are the offspring of the silent generation and parents of Gen-X or Millennials. I consider myself fortunate to belong to this group as we have witnessed the whole world changing to almost 360 degrees during our lifetime. We grew up in an age when the fastest mode of communicating good or bad news was the telegram. The cameras have to be loaded with film rolls before taking a photograph. The B&W TV, with only Doordarshan, was our sole source of entertainment and we waited eagerly for the weekend for the once-in-a-week movie. Sometimes a person had to climb on the roof to adjust the antenna so that we could get a clearer picture.

The B&W TV, with only Doordarshan, was our sole source of entertainment and we waited eagerly for the weekend for the once-in-a-week movie. Sometimes a person had to climb on the roof to adjust the antenna so that we could get a clearer picture. (Representational image)
The B&W TV, with only Doordarshan, was our sole source of entertainment and we waited eagerly for the weekend for the once-in-a-week movie. Sometimes a person had to climb on the roof to adjust the antenna so that we could get a clearer picture. (Representational image)

The documents were shared utilising faxes, the music was stored on magnetic tapes or cassettes and we had to wait for hours together after booking a trunk call at the tele-exchange to talk to the person in a town a few hundred miles away.

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Now, we live in a world where the internet and smartphones have revolutionised communication, digital cameras have recast photography, and OTT and smart TVs have changed the concept of visual entertainment altogether. WhatsApp and the attraction of social media have made even the older people tech-savvy. Fax machines, teleprinters, walkman, Agfa films, and audio or video cassettes have almost disappeared from the planet along with telegrams, postcards and inland letters. Landline phones are holding on but are increasingly seen as antique pieces.

We certainly felt a bit discomfited when the computer age dawned upon us. I remember joining the newly initiated computer section in our bank and struggling with different operating systems and software.

Though a non-specialist, I adapted myself quickly to new technology. But this was not the case with my colleagues or the people of my generation. Once I was guiding on the telephone an officer posted at a remote branch about running a program for generating a performance report. After detailing all the steps, I asked him to press any key on his computer to extract the resultant statement. There was silence on the line for a while, and then he sheepishly asked, “Sir, I can’t find ‘any key’ on my keyboard!”

At the turn of the century, we were exposed to the benefits of the internet. But computer literacy, at least in the case of our generation, was still not very adequate. I still recall with a chuckle a phone call from my senior friend telling me that he had started using the internet and had even opened an e-mail account. I expressed my appreciation and asked him to send me a message so that I could get his e-mail address. I waited for almost a week and then received his letter by post containing his e-mail address.

As I approach my 75th birthday and the people of my generation are about to cross the life expectancy barrier, the digital age has come up with another surprise for us – artificial intelligence or AI. Computer systems are now able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and generating written content. The day is not far when we shall be reading AI-created novels and poems. Sometimes, I visualise a day a few years from now when my granddaughter, an alpha generation kid, will be telling her classmates at Harvard that her grandfather used to write ‘middles’ for newspapers. And one of her classmates will respond with surprise, “Why? Couldn’t they use ChatGPT for that?”

The writer is a Shimla-based freelance contributor. He can be contacted at parmar.ranbir@gmail.com

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