You may be too young to understand...

  Wilham 18:19 14 Aug 2004

Some comments in the current thread by VoG™ 'You're never too old..' carry a general assumption that it is difficult for oldies to assimilate modern technology.

Without offending anyone, I'd like to express my view that there are/have been difficulties for the younger generations to understand the elements of modern technology. Perhaps they've had little chance. I give three examples...

Let's start with the Under Seventies...
In the 1930's secondary school electricity experiments were fed from lead secondary cells, clear glass containers, and commonly know as accumulators. After the war and I was teaching I saw the end of lead-acid batteries, as then
called,- to be replaced by black boxes. I taught maths, sometimes in a lab as just a room, and after I'd been rude about the equipment a science teacher fitted up a demo to prove how good it was. The meter was set to 12v and an oscilloscope across the output showed a steady trace. At my bidding he put a 12 ohm rheostat as load, and the trace showed the voltage almost dropping to zero 100 times a second. I think the switch to black boxes then on clouded basic comprehension of properties of electricity.

The second example is the understanding of a car engine; brought to mind in this forum a week or so ago by Jack. He pointed out, sadly, the days of diy on the modern car were over.
To me it implies fewer and fewer of us understand the workings of the internal combustion engine,... advance and retard, and so on.

My last example dates from the time near the end of the BBC computer age. The power supply changed over from the conventional mains transformer + rectifiers + smoothing electrolytics, to Switched Mode. Now every mains driven PC and television is switched mode power supply.

Not many computer experts today have a clue how it works. The over-seventies have retired so don't need to know.

Ah well...

  Forum Editor 18:47 14 Aug 2004

about such things - that's progress. When I was young my father spent time teaching me to set spark plug gaps with a set of feeler gauges. I never needed to do it, and if I open the bonnet of my present car I hardly recognise any of the components - most of the engine is enclosed in an aluminium casing and the engine management system takes care of everything. I wouldn't dream of tinkering under there.

It's not necessary to know how computers work in order to use them either, and that's fine.

As technology advances and becomes easier to use on the surface it gets more complex behind the scenes. That's OK because the chances that any of us will ever have to understand the inner workings of a hard drive or a scanner are remote. The world has changed, and technology has liberated us from all that. Electronic components aren't user-serviceable and modern black and white goods goods are manufactured to work for long periods without needing any maintenance.

We've reached the stage where we've almost stopped making things for enjoyment - when did you last see a group of kids flying model aircraft they've made from kits, or building their own bikes? Some might say it's a sad thing, and that young people lack the ability to understand the physical world through their hands, and they would be right to an extent. On the other hand, watch any 12 or 13 year-old playing a computer game, or sending text messages and you'll see manual dexterity until the cows come home.

Each age has its ups and downs, and all older people are guilty of the "It wasn't like that in my day" syndrome - we'll all do it, whether we think so or not. In truth we are lucky to be alive in the 21st century, the rate at which technology is pushing forward is astonishing, and someone from even 50 years ago would hardly recognise the contents of the average home.

Young people are quite capable of understanding as much about modern technology as anyone else - it's just that they don't need to know about the nuts and bolts any more.

  spikeychris 19:23 14 Aug 2004

So true and I have been banging this out for years, this assumption that kids know how to use computers is a complete and utter fallacy. The older generation think that all kids are "wiz-kids" its just not true. Most know how to move a mouse around a screen at speed (they were born into it, their hand writing is abysmal but they can shake a mouse) They can hit all the right buttons on a joy-pad or games controller of some sort but they don't know how a computer works.

Look at the age of the common member here, I know its way over the wiz-kid stage, if your standard teenager has a problem its system restore or reload or just ignore it, it will fix itself.

Stereotyping I know but I also know this to be true (at least in Lancashire)

Analogy: You live in a beautiful part of the world, say Lancashire :) You never go to Whalley abbey or any of the stateley homes there. You go to the Lake district or Wales or Scotland. If its on your doorstep or you where born into it its not exciting, its just the norm. However if it came along, and you saw its uprising its exiting and worth a visit.

If you HAVE to use a computer at school, you have to type word docs for the teacher to mark or do a powerpoint pres, then its just a run of the mill exercise. However if you had to use a pen and draw diagrams then its a treat to use a PC.

When I was at school I had no interest in how a pen worked, or how how a piece of chalk left an in-print on a blackboard or how a house-brick sized calculator worked. It just did.

Social skills: All teenagers grunt, they always have done and always will but if your informative years are spent in front of a monitor on MSN or email then face to face human contact has to suffer, understanding how to talk (as in speak....with the mouth) to others could end up being a dying art.

So there.

Some people get caught out. For example, on modern trains, the external doors are increasingly push button operated. When visiting a heritage railway for the first time, (with coaches dating back to victorian times on some lines) visitors are seen trying to find the button to open the door until someone shows them how to open it manually.

  Forum Editor 19:53 14 Aug 2004

modern youngsters - people have done it for generations - but by and large I think today's young people are fine. My children are all in their twenties now, and we can all enjoy the same films, some of the same music (they like a lot of the stuff from my 60's and 70's collections. We can talk about many things that wouldn't have been acceptable subjects when I was their age, and I think we have a far more open relationship than my generation had with our parents.

My children and their friends all use computers as a matter of course - they don't see them as hobby items and they're not fascinated by the technology - they use computers as tools because that's the way the world is. I don't think that the older generation see all youngsters as computer whizz kids, although lots of them are, but I do think that lots of older people see computers as alien - they don't see them as being relevant to their lives in any way. Older people are perfectly capable of learning how to use computers - the machine doesn't know how old you are - and when they do they generally see it as a liberating thing, a new world opens up when you can surf the net.

Young and old can teach each other a lot, if only they can cast off a few preconceptions - and computers can certainly be the catalyst in that process. We have forum members in their 70's and beyond, and we have forum members who are in their early teens. It all seems to work pretty well, and I've often seen an older member help a young one (and vice versa) without either of them realising the difference in their ages.

  VoG II 19:54 14 Aug 2004

Whalley Abbey was trashed during the Reformation or Restoration or summat (sorry, history was never my strong point). Also a long time since I visited it.

On a more serious note (ahem). I agree that probably most people don't know "how things work". However my experience is that in using things, especially computers, youngsters are much quicker on the uptake. At least that applies to my daughter ("takes after her dad") and also young people that we recruit at work. Show them a series of left and right clicks to do something and they remember this "instantly" and never have to be shown again. In contrast, older people seem to need to have this repeated several times, or be allowed to practise, or have it written down. Maybe just a part of the aging process or are younger people just more proficient with computers becasuse they have been brought up with them.

Also, we live in a society that, I think, is overly safety conscious. When I did A-level chemistry (many, many years ago) we were given interesting experiments to do. Similarly at higher levels. From what I can gather, in education now the practical exercises are, how can I put it, dull in the extreme. So the "kids" cannot gain an understanding of how things work because it is judged too dangerous for them to find out themselves.

As per FE above, I used to service my old Mini. Fat chance now and have to pat £s to a garage. Grr.

  BIG ben strikes 10 20:06 14 Aug 2004

im thirteen i have built 2 desktops and i own a hp ipaq 4150.i don't do phones though.i don't do air plane making but i do rocket building.i was unlucky the first time i touched a computer was when i was 8 and that was a packard-bell:300mhz cyrix,32mb,with windows was only when i moved up to secondry school that i had a interest in started becouse my freind took me to the ict room and i didn't know how to open up the microsoft interent explorer.he laughed at me and said i didn't know anything about computers.a few months later we had a new computer and it had cd rw in it.but i wanted some burning software.(this where the pcadvisor mag steps in).i saw on the front cover of the pcadvisor magzine:"cd maker deluxe".i thought what the hey.i bought it.(i had a little more experience then (i knew how to open the start menu)).i read the pcadvisor magzine.and it was adding a grafix card i think it was.i first saw the motherboard.and had a little read through the guide.i thought it was quite i read on i ought the next one and then eventully subscribed and thanks to PCA and this forum i have learned alot.later on that year my friend said he would build his own computer and i thought hey maybe i can?.i worked only a few paper cuts from the case and it worked fine!.my freind still has not yet built his.i know much more than him now.i asked him what is going to be the spec of your know what he said?.an AMD motherboard with a laughed at him and got my revenge.and now he asks me

  Wilham 20:08 14 Aug 2004

FE: I understand your argument, 'They don't need to understand'. It's put forward as fact which I grant with sadness.

One or two observations...

Every two years my motor mower starts to play up and I know how to cure it . I remove the sparking plug, hold the top by self-grip pliers, and put a gas blow-lamp on the blackened end tail it's red hot; turns it white. Wire brush and set the gap. Bit of grease on the thread, screw it back in,.. and it'll run fine for another couple of years.
Your father's know-how could be of use (i) if you had a motor mower, and (ii) you get job satisfaction.

A word about understanding computers...

When the Z80 cpu was manufactured it had more than the 178 or so instructions. All of the original 8080 mask was carried over, and the end product contained instructions not listed. They were also not listed in the disassemblers. I wonder if the latest CPU's contain unlisted instructions? A virus structured at this level hardly bears thinking about.

Do you remember the confidence expressed on the security of the 300 digit product of two large primes? How it would take hundreds of years for the fastest PC's in harmony to factorize. Then a Dutchman comes along with his algorithm, after which little has been said.

FE's comments are apt and interesting,- but don't tie it all up.

  siouxah1 20:36 14 Aug 2004

I would agree with much of the above. That which I did not agree with would be merely opinion.

However, as to not needing to know how things work eg car engine. I would suggest that knowing how this works would enable people using one to be what I would call - mechanically sympathetic. This prevents things being driven to destruction. I know some things have limiters built in.

So often I see machinery flogged to within an inch of it's death. So I would suggest that some knowledge is helpful.

I am not suggesting for one moment that the young are more prone to this than the mature, often it is quite the contrary.

I think this applies to all systems, not just mechanical.

  spikeychris 20:56 14 Aug 2004

"I don't think that the older generation see all youngsters as computer whizz kids" I will have to disagree. My work shows these results day after day after day.

  oresome 21:06 14 Aug 2004

The glass accumulators were still in regular use 4 or 5 years ago when I was working in radio communications. The electricity generating and distribution authorities used them as backup supplies in case of mains failure to power their own communication systems.

One of the large building societies I visited also had a large warehouse literally full of them to power their computer systems in the event of mains failure.

So there's still a place for old technology.

With regards to the the black box PSU, it's perfectly possible for it to supply a steady voltage / current providing it's designed for the intended load. The smoothing and reservoir capacitors will provide the power between top ups from the rectified ac. and it's performance will more than equal the accumulators with no maintenance required.

To appreciate beauty, Lancastrians need to cross the border and visit the Yorkshire Dales, but that's a different issue.

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