“So explain again, what is a postcard?” I must admit I hadn’t been expecting that question at a recent conference. Both myself (a Boomer) and my colleague (a Gen X) hadn’t realised that our audience of Millennials had no clue what we were referring to when we started talking about postcards. They couldn’t comprehend why you would pay for a piece of card with a random picture on it, then also buy a postage stamp (a concept they also had difficulty with), write a few words in a tiny space on the back, try to recall the address you were sending it to (fail and have to look it up in an address book), try to find a postbox to put it in and then discover it takes around two weeks to be delivered (if at all).
When you put it like that, it does seem pretty archaic. Of course their solution was infinitely easier. Post a status on Facebook. With an appropriate selfie of course. And geo-tag. It’s free, takes seconds and delivery is guaranteed. No contest.
And all that got me thinking… what else do we take for granted from the past that the younger generations don’t really understand?
Occasionally it is language that has become obsolete. Technology has killed off certain expressions which we have all come to know and love. To epitomise what I mean, let me recount a little anecdote about a conversation with my 12 year old daughter… So to set the scene, I am in the car with her and I need to call my wife but haven’t switched on the bluetooth hands-free so I ask my daughter to call her on my phone. The conversation went something like this:
“Georgie, can you get my mobile from my jacket please?”
“What’s a mobile?”
“You know, my cell”
“I mean my phone, of course!”
“Then why don’t you call it your phone, why do you call it a mobile?”
“Well because it’s err a phone, that’s err mobile”
“Don’t be silly Dad, all phones are mobile”
So I triumphantly declare: “Well landlines aren’t mobile”
“What’s a landline?”
“You know, like the phone at home”
“Oh the one we never use?”
“Hmmm. Well that can move around as well so why don’t you call that a mobile too?”
Ah the undeniable wisdom of a pre-teen. Anyway, undeterred, I pressed on…
“Anyway can you just dial your Mum’s number for me please?”
“What do you mean ‘dial’ her number?”
“Well I mean call her”
“Then why did you say ‘dial’? There is no dial on your phone”
Another battle lost.
“OK, just call her for me would you?”
“It’s ringing Dad… There is no reply though”
“Right then, just hang up and we will call her back later”
“Hang up? What does that mean?”
Game over. Made me feel about a gazillion years old. It cast me back to a conversation I had with my Granddad many years ago when he referred to the ‘wireless’ (he meant a radio by the way, not a router) and I remember thinking how old-fashioned he was. And now, some 40 odd years later and I’m on the receiving end.
Familiar phrases and words to me have all but disappeared for a new generation. And some of them are not as antiquated as you might think. When I talk about using our Mac at home as a ‘PC’ it is always met with incredulity. And giggles. Whilst on a trip to the beach and in need of some cash, enquiring to a bunch of teenagers the location of the nearest ‘ATM’ was met with a sea of blank faces.
And the ultimate ignominy? Whilst rummaging around in a drawer, I came across my original iPod Nano. It had been sat there forlornly for several years, waiting patiently to be recharged. I was actually quite excited to find it. It had been my pride & joy and I was keen to offer it as a gift to my 8 year old. Almost inevitably that conversation ended just as badly as the previous chat about the ‘mobile phone’ with her elder sister…
“Hey Lexi, look what I’ve found! It’s my old iPod!”
“What’s an iPod?”
“Well umm, it’s like an early version of the iPhone”
“Oh right. It doesn’t look much like an iPhone. Where do you talk into it?”
“Well actually you can’t use it as phone”
“I see. OK so can I go online and play Minecraft”
“Nope. It can’t access the internet”
“OK so what can you do with it?”
“You can listen to music!”
“And what else?”
“Well, err. Nothing else”
“Seriously? OK so can we listen to some music then?”
“Sure. Let me get some headphones”
“Why do you need headphones? Is the speaker broken?”
“No sweetheart, it doesn’t have a speaker”
“Huh? So you can’t use it as a phone, you can’t access the internet, or play games on it, it doesn’t have a touch screen, it only plays music and it doesn’t even have a speaker?! Rubbish”
And with a flick of her hair, she turned heel and left me to it. A technological icon diminished to no more than a fossil in less than 2 minutes by an 8 year old. And the real epiphany for me? I bought that iPod in the same year that she was born. So as I stood there staring at the electronic equivalent of a dodo, I was only left with the growing realisation that I should never (ever) try and explain my CD collection to my kids…