Hanging out in the tech store is an adventure of a new kind nowadays. There was a time when the generation gap between early adopters and those who have now grown up wholly in the personal-computing age was a crevasse of seemingly un-breachable magnitude. Now, the first generation of techno-babies has come far enough into their majority and the era of common computing has drawn enough of their elders into its mainstream that the paths are beginning to converge again.
It’s most evident in the staffing of technology stores, I think: customers of all ages are finally being served by experts of all ages. It’s an oddly comforting phenomenon to a middle-ground, middle-aged slow learner like me. I’m not as cowed by the expertise of youth, who, like those well-versed in so many other complicated fields, grew up knowing of their art and science’s nuances in ways that earlier generations couldn’t know. Neither am I so dubious of the expertise of people my age and older, who have now had enough years of immersion themselves to become equally, if not so innately, well-versed. It’s no longer that the people who were on the cutting edge of that first computer-building wave are utterly obsolete, but that they are—like my 88-year-old father in law, who worked in computing when it was still a universe of room-sized behemoth machines and basic binary punch cards—so curious as to have now trained into able manipulators of the current tech as well. It is a rich environment in which to learn and practice as I muddle through.