Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Christmas party

I went to a Christmas party hosted by a long-time friend of mine, Jim Smith. Jim and I go back to 1985, when I first met him at a Central Florida Computer Club meeting. This was 'back in the days' when only the 'serious' attended, and by serious, I'm talking folks running MPM on S100-based systems, Unix on the nearly-new IBM AT. Not too many people even bothered to mention Microsoft and DOS because it was just too primitive and immature.

Jim and I worked together through those years on various projects for his company, specifically during that first decade. And because of that working relationship I got invited to Jim's Christmas parties pretty regularly. Jim threw them for the regular members of his Friday night bunch. The Friday night bunch was composed of the more hard-core of the CFCC attendees. We talked computers and politics and humor and politics and more computers, until it hit early Saturday morning and we went back home. My last regular Christmas party at Jim's was in 1996. After that my life got extremely hectic.

Then early last week I got an email from Jim inviting me to his 2006 Christmas party. It had been so long (10 years) since the last, that I made the decision to go to this one, if for no other reason than guilt. So I showed up at his place at 6:30 pm and stepped back in time nearly 10 years. That's not to say that Jim hasn't advanced (he has), but all the memories from the earlier get togethers came crowding back. One important factor hadn't changed after all those years. Jim's wife Dot prepared an excellent meal, and I enjoyed wonderful food and companionship with everyone, including Jim.

There were some changes. The crowd's gotten a little thinner, and a 'little' older. But the enthusiasm for getting together and talking tech hasn't changed. There was one older gentleman, in his late 90's, who sat in with the group and interacted in such a way that you'd never know he was 98. He commented on the emails he'd sent and gotten that day, and one of the emails he sent out to Jim had a video attachment.

What's so special about a 98-year-old man using email? I keep read articles about usage gaps and skill gaps between generations, and then one evening I meet an individual who was born in 1908 (nearly a century ago) who is quite capable of reasonably living in a digital world. Not because he simply reads email, but because of all the ancillary skills he's also picked up along the way. Skills that I because aware of during conversation. No, he doesn't run around with an iPod and ear bud headphones, or manage his own blog (although I think he certainly could). It's just that using services such as email is no big deal to him. Computers and the services that now come with them have become so polished that they're just another appliance-like tool. And frankly, that's the way it should be. That man now has a richer way to communicate with his friends and associates, to remain engaged and relevant. I just hope I can live that long and remain that with-it along the way.

And here's hoping I don't wait another 10 years before the next Christmas party at Jim's.

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