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  • It is always an odd experience when you realise that two people having a conversation are on completely different wavelengths. Sometimes it's off enough to be comical, other times it's just nowhere near the same ballpark. Sometimes i think that's the case with even those closest to me. In a sense my dad and I live in different galaxies.

    We recently had dinner together, and as we sat around the dinner table discussing technological firsts of our respective generations, I realized just how far the world has come scientifically over the past 30 years.

    My dad was born in 1952. As his 60th birthday approaches, instead of living the peaceful fishing retirement dream he used to fantasize about during long road trips, he is increasingly dependent on technology to communicate with his family, run his business, and reminisce the 'good old times'.

    Consumer technology paved its way to an economically recovering post-WW2 Croatia/Yugoslavia in the late 1950s. Some firsts that my father reminisced about included the local introduction of the magnetophon (i.e. a sound recorder) in 1956-7, the first TV programme in 1959, and the first set of home televisions in 1963-5. His family was among the first in town to get a telephone, but they were quickly disappointed to learn that it was quite a pointless device since nobody else had one.

    He recalls a time when a ballpoint pen was a phenomenon in his hometown of Sibenik, Croatia- a small fisherman/industrial port. Public transport was non-existent, so he used to walk to and from his school every day; that's 7km on average. Not to mention the daily playtime outside. No one ever wanted to be inside since there was nothing to do. Entertainment to his generation was a matter of getting into innocent doses of trouble: stealing apples from an orchard or wild asparagus from someone else's fields, playing small pranks on neighbours, and hanging out by the railway tracks.

    I was born in 1984, just as information technology was on the rise. Because my earliest memories were in war-torn and less economically developed countries, I clearly recall the world pre- and post- mass adoption of consumer technology. My early childhood was marked by a lack of abundance of anything, despite my parents sincerest wishes to supply us with just about everything a child could dream of. But as life would have it, this was not always possible. I now thank my lucky stars for this turn of events. Having experienced the highs and lows of playing with other kids on our dead-end street in Belgrade left an unforgettable taste in my mouth. It was that satisfaction you can only feel when you're lying in bed after a long day of hard work (in this case playing), thinking about the fruit of your labour and creativity.

    And then there's a bizarre patch of memory when everything changed...the moment from when I can barely remember living without a mobile phone, let alone thought-recording and/or -paralyzing technology. I got my first chunky Ericsson at the tender age of...11 or 12. My computer lessons started when a black screen dominated the computer start-up experience, and obscure commands including .dir, .exe, etc. were being lectured to me by my father's "computer whizz" colleague. Within three years the internet was there. I recall a friend saying "Yea, so I got this "internet" thing installed at home last week. I checked it out. It's kind of useless. I wouldn't recommend it." I wish i had recorded her saying this.

    These days I ponder about ways of making technology more human-friendly, less sci-fi. It seems like before moving forward we need to step aside and recall a world where conversation was an art, transport was by necessity, and entertainment meant creativity.

    Having recently become a mother, I cannot help but wish for my son to experience some of the childhood I had, before technology took over the world. Playing with whatever we could find when toys could not be bought due to war/poverty was the happiest memory I have.
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