You are of the I-generation. You have arrived into a world of I-pads and I-phones. Our phones are not just phones – they are cameras, navigation devices, calendars, calculators and video cameras, with the internet there at our fingertips. We have tablets, and laptops that turn into tablets. We store files in a Cloud. We can access information anywhere, any time. We read novels on computer screens. (Well, I don’t – I am one of those people who stubbornly refuse to read on a tablet, and quote ‘the smell of books’ as a reason for loving their paper form. I have frequent conversations with your uncle Andrew about Kindles and declare that I will be the last person to still buy books, to line my shelves with paperbacks. Maybe me and your grandfather, David).
At 7 and a half months old, you sit in front of an I-pad while we FaceTime with your relatives. It will not be strange to you that my friend in New Zealand can sing you nursery rhymes, that you can wave to your great aunt in Kent. You will soon learn to swipe at a screen, and slide your thumb and index finger away from each other to enlarge things. This is all you will know, it will be normal to you. Recently I have been thinking about the world in which you will grow up and I cannot even fathom what your brave new world will be like. Technology seems to be hurtling forwards at break-neck speed, it is hard to imagine what the world will be like when you are a teenager. What I do know is that it will be hugely different from the world in which your father and I grew up.
The world we knew as children was a place without the internet, social media or mobile phones. We listened to tapes and watched videos. We had (wait for it) four channels on the TV. Four. I remember when they introduced channel 5, and the excitement of this extra channel. There were no cordless phones so when I used the house phone, I had to pull it into the hallway, shutting the long, stretchy cord in the door of the sitting room to get some privacy.
At school we hand wrote essays and even at university I used floppy disks to save my work. (How incredible that it was less than 10 years ago since I graduated and it was still a time of floppy disks…). I didn’t properly learn about computers until I was 12 years old (in my first year at secondary school) and I think we first had a computer at home when I was about 14 or 15 years old. When we first used the internet it was a dial-up connection, with a buzzing drone and crackling sound as it connected. There was no Facebook, and tweeting belonged solely to the birds. (I have to say, I am incredibly grateful that I grew up in a time when I couldn’t be tagged in photos from my nights out). We couldn’t google things to find answers to our questions (we used books). Emails and mobile phones came along towards the end of my time at secondary school. I was the first person in my group of friends to get a mobile phone – it was literally the size of a brick. (Imagine, I had no one else to text to begin with…).
One day we will enjoy telling you all about our childhoods and I am sure that my stories about phones with cords and four television channels will make you shriek with laughter and incredulity. You will ask how we managed without mobile phones, and we will smile and shrug, trying to remember what life was like. And probably we will tell you it all seemed much simpler then…