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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Talkin' about my niece's generation

Tomorrow (Feb. 12) is my niece’s 18th birthday. It is hard to believe. I remember rushing to the hospital and looking through the maternity ward window and seeing her bundled up in a blanket.

I swear she smiled at me that afternoon.

Today, Denise has a driver’s license, is a senior in high school and is looking forward to college next year. She’s smart and nice, and almost always polite.

It is no surprise that she has a cell phone, an iPod and a Facebook page. She is not a technology wiz, but technology is part and parcel of how she lives, whether it is texting her friends or downloading music.

When she was 3 and 4 years old, I lived nearby and happily played the role of the uncle as a playmate. We would build caves out of bed sheets. We sailed across turbulent seas. The vacuum cleaner hose was a deadly anaconda that we had to wrestle to submission.

Her imagination seemed to have no limit.

But at an early age, she grasped the practicality of technology. Her father (my brother George) and I were playing with her once under a bed. There was an old computer mouse lying there. George and I went into this elaborate story about what it was. The story is lost to my memory, but it probably had something to do with being powered by a combination of cheese and magic, and that is was an actual mouse.

“No, it’s not. You use it to move things around a computer screen.” She said it so matter-of-factly, like her father and I were fools to think otherwise.

Denise was probably 4 years old at the time. Looking back, that moment is a symbolic watershed in the history of technology.

Her generation has never lived without a computer in the home. Think about that. I remember getting cable TV for the first time: I was 21 years old.

For her and her friends, having technology at your fingertips is a given. But for them it isn’t about technology; it is about access to friends, music, photos. In other words, access to life.

I’ve told her and her 14-year-old sister that they are growing up in the most exciting time in history.

The current problems with the economy are short-term, even if they last a year or two. The world is changing rapidly and that can be scary, but it is ultimately good and positive.

She has grown up through the democratization of technology, and it is really just beginning.

Hang on, Denise, it’s gonna be a great ride. Happy Birthday.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Feb 11, 2009 at 9:53 AM

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