Tag Archives: generational differences

Douglas Adams on generational rhythms in the adoption of tech

Douglas Adams was the author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  We have just passed the 10th anniversary of his death

In 1999, when the internet was still being greeted with some suspicion in some quarters. (Hey, just a couple of years ago, a group of planners at a big agency were prepared to tell me that social media was just a passing fancy.)  Adams wrote an essay that includes this wonderful passage that segments technology adopters by age:

Then there’s the peculiar way in which certain BBC presenters and journalists … pronounce internet addresses. It goes ‘www DOT … bbc DOT… co DOT… uk SLASH… today SLASH…’ etc., and carries the implication that they have no idea what any of this new-fangled stuff is about, but that you lot out there will probably know what it means.

I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

It would certainly explain those planners.

Thanks for Steve Crandall for telling me about this essay.