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Class of 2012, you can't imagine what lies ahead
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I think all adults have thought at one time or another that it would be fun to go back to our high school or college years. The caveat is that we would want to return with our current level of knowledge.

I don’t envy the Class of 2012, either college or high school. These are challenging times and deciding a career path isn’t easy.

But it wasn’t in my day, either.

When I graduated high school, the space program had brought a boatload of new technology. I remember paying $40 or $50 for a calculator that they now give away as a promotional item.

A friend of mine got a degree in computer science. He learned on the latest and greatest computers of the early 1980s. I remember seeing computer rooms that had giant cables and computers that were the size of refrigerators.

Every computer he trained on in those days has been sent to the scrap yard. The computer I’m writing this on can do more than a room full of computer hardware of a couple of generations ago.

My friend went on to get an MBA and told me it was his writing skills, first honed in high school that helped him advance with the major telecommunications company where he began his career after college.

We knew computers and modern electronic marvels would be coming our way, we just didn’t know how fast they would be invented and become obsolete.

My parents had a hi-fi, a record player that would play multiple albums, but it only had a single speaker.

I saw the evolution of stereo. We listened to music on big speakers. Now, a higher quality of sound can be attained from a device no bigger than your palm with tiny earplugs smaller than your thumb.

In my lifetime, I have seen phonograph albums virtually disappear. I saw the debut and demise of 8-track and cassette tapes. Compact discs, thought to be the greatest in sound, seem to be on their way out.

I entered the news business at a time we were excited about getting an electric typewriter. The first computer I used has long been discarded, but we thought it was such a vast improvement over the lowly typewriter. Now, we think of that computer as so pitifully slow and antiquated.

The point of all this is that we live in an age of change. When those graduates turn their tassels, they will get on a moving ship that has already left the dock. It left the dock before they were born.

I hope they leave their respective schools armed with a good measure of the basics: the ability to write, complete mathematical computations, and know a thing or two about history.

Those are things you should be able to do without the latest computer. It is best stored in the computer that rests between your ears.

We are still in the early days of this century. I sometimes think about what those who lived a century ago were thinking. The car and the airplane were in their infancy. The telephone had not reached many homes and it would be a decade before the first radio stations begin broadcasting.

They couldn’t imagine what would take place in the next 100 years.

And neither can we.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

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