The myth of the ‘tech savvy’ generation

We are in the midst of an unprecedented technology revolution. Technology has all but woven itself into the very fabric of society and into the lives of the individuals that comprise it. “Wearable technology” apparently is now the next big thing. What will likely come next after that will be implanted tech. As our relationship with technology becomes more and more intimate, we become less and less conscious of the very technology we depend on — like the air we breath and the blood that flows through our veins, it becomes invisible to our everyday consciousness and increasingly taken for granted. Does that trend, then, make our generation necessarily more ‘tech savvy’?

Gaurav Dhillon, founder of California-based data warehouse management company Informatica is optimistic about the so-called ‘tech savvy’ generation…

The fear of computers has, in fact, left the building. New generations of employees, people who graduated this millennium, my kids — 13 and 6. The Millennials are not afraid of computers — they [may] not be programmers, but they’re tech-savvy. We think of them as citizen integrators.

tech_savvy_generationWhatever the concept “citizen integrators” means is anyone’s guess. For me, it means that we are increasingly becoming the crowd upon which technology propagates itself. We’d like to think we are bringing technology into our lives. I think it is the other way around. Technology is bringing people into its network.

As tech advances, the majority of people do not get “savvier”. Rather, they become more oblivious to technology.

Back in the old days, because computers were ugly and unfriendly machines (not the “appliances” or “assistants” they are touted to be today), you needed to actually understand how a computer works to use one. There was not much you can do on a computer, in those days, unless you had, at the very least, some rudimentary knowledge of a programming language and, therefore, some idea of how a machine “thinks”.

That is what I consider being “tech savvy”.

Today, user interfaces (UIs) are so sophisticated that any ordinary schmoe could use a computer. Breakthrough after breakthrough in UI design has humanised these machines and have made their inner workings a virtual mystery to the average user. And the race is on to develop ever more powerful “virtual assistants” into mobile devices that could listen to and talk to its owners. No wonder we consider today’s youth “tech savvy”. Soon, even babies will be able to use computers. Then again, they already are. We are currently raising today’s babies and toddlers on a diet of digital iPad candy. The next generation will soon forget that these colourful friendly icons and the soothing voice of “virtual assistants” like Siri are no more than cleverly-programmed machines getting better and better at mimicking human behaviour.

If we believe communicating with a machine designed to naturally interface with humans can be considered “tech savvy”, then we may as well all consider ourselves brain surgeons.

We can’t all be brilliant coders, but we at least should gain a bit more perspective around what it means to be “tech savvy”. We need to look back to the original tech savvy generation of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak who, in in the late 1960s and early- to mid-1970s, along with a generation of computer hobbyists that included Bill Gates, conceptualised and went on to develop the first rudimentary UI that would bring computers closer to the masses — the BASIC language. Back then, Woz considered it the “key” to what, at the time, was the masses’ only exposure to computers — video games…

The key to games was BASIC. Bill Gates was unknown except in the electronics hobby world. Everyone in our club knew that he’d written BASIC for the Intel microprocessor. I sniffed the wind and knew that the key to making my computer good (popular) was to include a high-level language and that it had to be BASIC. Engineers programming in FORTRAN were not going to be what would start a home computer revolution.

Through Woz, we are treated to a revisit of the sort of thinking that goes into developing the technology that would go on to deliver hours of entertainment to the subsequent generation of self-described “savvy” computer users…

With the Apple ][ I had the video and computer memory one and the same so that the microprocessor, changing maybe a million (exaggerated) numbers a second, would change a million screen bytes a second. Atari arcade games were hardware then but now the games could be implemented as software, using 6502 machine language programming. BASIC is an interpreted language. BASIC goes over the individual letters of each statement as it executes, determining what to do. It is maybe 100 or 1000 times slower than machine language as a result. But one day I was curious as to whether you could program moving objects just in BASIC and see them move like realistic animation.

I had designed Breakout for Atari in hardware. I wondered if I could program this simple animated arcade game in BASIC? I knew I could program it in machine language. Since it was my own BASIC I went to the syntax chart and added commands to plot color and to draw horizontal and vertical lines. I then searched chip manuals and chose a chip with 4 timers (555 style timers) on one chip. I used that with some software to read paddle positions off potentiometers, dials that changed resistance according to where you turned the dial. Once I had these mechanisms installed (burning new EPROMS for the BASIC additions) I sat down and wrote some simple FOR loops to plot bricks in different colors. I must have tried 30 color combinations in just minutes. Then I added paddles and score and a ball. I could adjust program parameters to change the ball speeds and angles. By the way, I think this is when I added a speaker with 1-bit audio just because you needed sounds when a ball hit a brick, etc.

“Tech savvy” we now say we are? The Philippines, for example, prides itself as being host to one one of the planet’s biggest throng of “social media” users. But as far as being savvy enough to apply all that technology to building collective intelligence, well, that still remains to be seen.

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28 Comments on “The myth of the ‘tech savvy’ generation”

  1. From the moment ‘high tech’ became commoditized, Filipinos have always been early adopters. From televisions to mobile phones to tablets. I imagine Google Glass and its competing products will be creating a new generation of ‘glass-holes’ before long.

  2. I dont^. Glass is just too lame and ugly to look at for it to become mainstream. It’s not fashionable.

    1. They WILL be. Fashionable, I mean. Oakley and Ray-Ban have already signed on to produce their versions of Google Glass.

  3. Same goes with those self proclaimed auto enthusiasts, they imply to know a lot about cars, but bring their cars to the dealers for service and repairs.

    To be considered a motorhead you must have touched and caressed most parts that make your car work. You cannot brag about your latest model car unless you know the very basic thing about it.

  4. With all the tech savvy, cell phone and tablet playing Filipinos around, why do I always have some head scratching idiots, who take 5 minutes to get out some cash, in front of me at the ATM? One of the many questions you will never find an answer to. Maybe I should contact Stephen Hawking and ask him.

    1. That’s what I hate too. I don’t know why Filipinos have to take such as long time at the ATM, a machine which is supposed to make bank transactions faster, not slower.

      1. there are those thick-skinned SOBs who do mulitiple transactions for one card and cards of other users who asked them to withdraw for them. but then there really are clueless idiots who cannot seem to follow the directions plastered on the machine’s screen.

    2. Stephen Hawking will probably need A LOT MORE than ten minutes to withdraw cash from an ATM on his own 😉

  5. Hey, Kevin Warwick has tried impanting chips in the body, attached to nerves. He was able to successfully control devices through his mind, passing through his nerve going to the chip, and the implanted chip sends signal in turn.

    Who knows when such technology will be released to the masses.

      1. If Kevin is working for these organizations I do not know (and I may not know). One thing is for sure – he does real science work, and not some imaginative stuffs, that excites me far more than Google Glass. With this technology, one can interact with different appliances.

        Moreover, surgeons simply placed the chip near the nerves of his hand and, after some practice, his nerves adjusted to work with the chip.

        1. I read it before I made the comment, and I agree he’s actually doing useful scientific work. I thought some people out there would associate him with these conspiracy theories, which I believe to be poppycock.

  6. I don’t think anyone in Mindanao is taking technology (or electricity) for granted at the moment. Thanks to the rotating brownout ‘schedule’ (that doesn’t follow any kind of helpful schedule, certainly not the feeble table on the Davao Light website), I’ve had 7+ hours of stone age living in the past 15 hours.

    At least I work freelance and can set my own hours, I worry about the Sari Sari stores that can’t even offer customers cold drinks when they’re needed most.

    1. Yes Dave, it is un-fucking-believable. It was the same during Cory Aquino, only it was happening in Manila.

      1. From what I gather – I admit my seething anger may have clouded my reasoning – the (monopoly) power company is blaming the hydroelectric dam operators and they’re blaming the weather, because surprisingly it got hot and dry this summer, who knew? You’ll be telling me there’s going to be typhoons in November next.

        I did see one news story where Davao Light admitted it hadn’t been able to provide for Davao’s rapidly growing industry needs since 2010, so I presume they just watched nervously year by year and hoped things would turn out okay. Because if not, they can just offer a quick fix like cutting off all the electricity. If they’re lucky, it might even drive all that pesky new business out of Davao so things can cool down for a while. Don’t you just hate progress?

        1. …and no one is ever held responsible.
          Meanwhile in related news:
          Malacanang says it’s people own fault, why did they not buy generators?
          Fuckers!

        2. I’d buy a generator/solar if I owned my own place, but I just rent a few months at a time. 30 days until my next flight, it’s going to be a long month.

          As for those people who can’t afford or feel they shouldn’t have to buy generators… fuck ’em, right? What are they going to do, switch to an alternative power company that doesn’t exist? They have us by the balls and ovaries.

  7. We are all Tech Savvy, because, we blog at GetRealPhilippines…computers will become more powerful and cheaper…technology is now advancing fast. Every six month, there is a new development on computer technology…computers will become more user friendly…this is a must to the designers and companies that manufacture them…to get their products sold…

    This “Information Technology” generation will be more advanced in knowledge than the previous centuries of human species’ generations combined…we are glad we are born in this generation…

  8. “…along with a generation of computer hobbyists that included Bill Gates, conceptualised and went on to develop the first rudimentary UI that would bring computers closer to the masses — the BASIC language.”

    Just a correction… BASIC is a programming language not a UI.

    1. It is a programming language. But it was also a UI in the sense that it at the time bridged the gap between a computer’s machine language and the need for a more intuitive way of getting useful stuff done on a microcomputer.

      1. You are right in saying that it bridges the gap. BASIC and other high level languages make it easier for programmers/developers to create programs. Higher level languages are more intuitive since the keywords they use resemble human language, which means that by just looking at the code you could more or less tell what it does.

        A UI is used by users to interact with the computer while a programming language is used by developers to create the programs on a computer that the users or computer system would use.

  9. These computer programming languages started with the BINARY CODE (0,1/on-off). It began with the first generation: Assembly Language -machine level programming….ACPI Machine language and CAML (Categorical Abstract Machine Language)…BASIC came; then FORTRAN (formula translation); then COBOL (for business purposes). It went to C, C++; then, PASCAL for the defense industry.

    The fifth generation are now: MODULA 2, PL/1 (for generic programming). Then, PEARL, JAVA, 4GL, SQL…for Artificial Intelligence..

    There is even a: SIMULA which is the first programming language to support object oriented programming…

    Dudes, I did not develop the SIMULA, for your information… even if, it is in Pilipino word…

  10. on a positive note, project save 182 was able to “save”, for now, most of those trees in SM and suspended the mall’s unneeded expansion that would have basically translated to more income for Mr. Sy and more vehicles getting accomodated in the city.

    on the other hand, where were these same tree-huggers, Mr. Bengwayan et al., when big, fat developers (or destroyers actually) bulldozed trees on hilltops/sides near and around Baguio to make room for subdivisions and residential lots? There were definitely more than just 182 trees lost over the years.

    Just recently, a big chunk of a foot of a hill along Buhagan(Bokawan) Road — with dozens of trees that have helped freshen the air in that area for so long — was flattened for Toyota Motors Phils.(afaik) to build a facility there. Were there any newsworthy protest actions by ANY environmentalist group that time? Nope.
    (sigh)

    1. It’s what I’ve been saying all this time: there are NO credible environmental groups in Baguio. Save 182 only goes for the media mileage, claiming hundreds of thousands in membership support but very little action on their part; they’re basically the Tea Party of the Philippines.

      1. Jack: I have to comment further, though: why is your comment about Save 182 here on this article about technological innovations?

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