Like many of the people reading this,I was born in the mid 1970s.* It’s a very confusing fact. The 1970s seems like such a long time ago, but I’m only 36, and that’s still… sort of young, isn’t it? Or am I middle aged? Is 40 middle aged? Is 30 young? I have friends who were born in the 1990s: how can that be, when the 1990s were only a handful of years ago? What, in summary, has happened to time?
I think a lot of my generation feels weird about this. I’m not saying this makes us unique or anything, you understand, but we do have some justification in feeling a little unsettled. Many of my friends have careers that our school careers advisors wouldn’t have even known existed. I was a website editor for a while, in 2001. When I was doing my A-Levels, that phrase would have meant so little to me or anyone in my school that we’d have assumed it was perhaps someone who investigated the location of spiders. (A job, incidentally, that would be very very low on my list of career options.)
There is technology not yet invented when I was born, that is now obsolete. My parents first used a video recorder when I was 14; my daughters will never have used one. (Although I do still have a cassette player and have taught my older daughter how to use it, so some of the old ways survive.) There is an MP3 player in a drawer in my house somewhere, like a forgotten high-tech fossil, and if either my parents or my children ever come across it, none of them will have any idea what it is or how to make it work. (I can’t remember how to make it work either, to be fair.)
So we have a responsibility. We are the custodians of our technology, our fleeting, new, antiquated technology, pressed like a flower between the black-and-white TV of the 1960s and the mind-controlled multidimensional virtual reality software that is doubtless going to be implanted in my children’s brains when they reach the age of 16, and we must guard and remember it, because it may define us.**
Possibly the reason all this is on my mind is that I have just achieved my lifetime ambition, but not in a way my younger self would have recognised. My first novel*** is going to be published as an e-book, by Ghostwoods Books. Not only did e-books not exist when I was born, they didn’t exist (as far as I know) when my seven-year-old daughter was born. But here they are, e-books, in that weird space that isn’t physical but isn’t just in your mind either, cyberspace – an old-fashioned term in itself – and I’m going to be e-published as an e-author and tell people about it on email and be for sale on eBay (maybe). It may be the most common letter in the alphabet, but I could never have guessed that the letter E would become so important to my life. Here’s to being an e-person.
* This isn’t a comment about the median age of internet users or anything, just that the vast majority of my readers are people I know, and a lot of the people I know are roughly my age. In case anyone was wondering.
** And also because a lot of it was quite good, to be honest. I liked cassette recorders. You could stop playing music, and when you started again they would carry on playing from where they had stopped. (This feature is of course returning now we’ve stopped using CDs and started playing music on our phones instead, so I don’t really have any excuse for missing cassette tapes except nostalgia, but never mind.)
*** My only finished novel, in fact, although this will change.