Tech & Work

The technological version of "Why, back in my day..."

We've all been there. You're complaining to your parents about something and they come out with some horrendous story about when they were young.

"When I was young, I had to walk to school barefoot through three feet of snow carrying a thousand pounds of firewood on my back while rabid wolverines nipped at my elbows" or "When I was young, we didn't have houses. We slept in hollowed-out tree trunks."

This tactic NEVER works. But I've discovered an interesting phenomenon with my own son, who is now a teenager (aka a complete stranger who would not claim to know me if he were drowning and I was the only person on shore with a life preserver.)

Technology is the key. If you want to drive some hard-luck stories home with your kids, if you really want them to know how deprived and empty your childhood was, talk about the technology you didn't have. They'll want to organize a telethon for you!

If parents and grandparents start off with "In my day, we didn't have MySpace…" then you'll get the kids' attention. But be careful, you don't want to break their hearts. One time I told my son that when I was a kid we only had three television channels and he teared up.

Now there is a fine line between garnering sympathy and garnering ridicule. When your son is whining about some new accessory he needs for his iPod, it really won't help to drag out the boom box or 8-track cassette player that you used to listen to. He will just laugh. A lot. You will be the Fred Flintstone to his George Jetson.

And while technology deficits can work for you, you don't want to go too far and come across like a Shaker. When my son was five, he asked me if they had music when I was a kid. I told him we had the occasional Gregorian Chant. (Tip: Sarcasm does not work on five-year-olds.)

With the fabulous rate that new technology happens, who can say what our kids' kids will have access to? Maybe opening a file on the desktop will simply involve blinking one's eyes. Then your kids will be telling their kids, "In my day, we had to double-click those icons." Let the sympathy begin.

About Toni Bowers

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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