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For the children of the 1990s, it’s the best of both worlds

We were happy in a brick-and-mortar world, and are equally at ease in the Internet era

Recently, I visited my sister and was amazed to see her year-and-half-old daughter dexterously handling a smartphone. She juggled between apps so deftly and played rhymes on YouTube, that she made me wonder whether I could have done the same at her age even if I was provided with one.

Of course, we didn’t have smartphones then. We had toys and puzzles and games to keep us busy. It is not that today’s children don’t have these novelties; they rather prefer smartphones.

But we, the kids of the 1990s, were born only with toys and games and it was not until the late 1990s that cellphones and the Internet came into the picture. But we have been privileged to be on the front seat during the technological transition that is defining the present. People older than us still depend on their sons, daughters, younger brothers or sisters, in many cases, to guide them through features of their new laptops or smartphones. People younger than us are born with smartphones in their hands. Gadgets are something like an extension of the body for the newer generation. I guess none from the older and newer generation would be able to ever appreciate video- and audio cassettes, Doordarshan National and the plethora of channels available now, let alone handwritten letters.

But we, the children of the 1990s, are different. We were born with cassettes and record players, basic phones and cordless for communications, rickshaws, blackboards for our classroom, comics and TV series for entertainment. Nagraj, Super Commando Dhruv, Bankelal, Mandrake and Phantom were a solace for us from the boring classes of history and we would pray to reach home to catch our favourite TV serials in the afternoon. Sundays offered juicy fare with Duck Tales, Captain Vyom and Mowgli.

But from the late 1990s, we were introduced to the Internet and relatively crude cellular phones with Tetris and Snakes. Being the generation coming of age and curiosity innate at the age, we were the ones to master the trade, even if it was our fathers or brothers who introduced the gadgets to us.

Very quickly, in the blink of an eye, it seems now, cassettes were forgotten in some drawers of the TV cabinet, replaced first by the CD player and later by DVD MP3 players. Basic phones and cordless resisted change for some years but eventually they were also forced to the mortuaries of memories.

The Internet took over social gatherings and Google made the mind complacent. Letters paved the way to SMSs, and SOS calls replaced telegrams.

The change, though it was massive, came naturally to us and we flowed with the tide to become one of the waves. People older than us still lament the good old days as they haven’t yet come to terms with the massive change that has occurred so suddenly and changed life in so many different ways. And the newer kids, they don’t have any frame of reference to compare their lives with.

But our generation, having tasted and imbibed both the phases, is surely the unique one. We are the only generation that knows the pain of forwarding and rewinding the cassette player to listen to our favourite songs again and again. But we are also the generation that selects the song directly from playlists. We know the joy of secretly reading and trading comics in the classroom, braving the risk of having it confiscated. But we also know to search free comic books online. We know the joy of playing cricket in the night and praying for it to be dark only after our turn of batting is over. But we also know to run wearing activity-tracker devices and play cricket online. We know the joy of writing letters and the joy of anticipated replies. But we also know how to make a call or send a message through WhatsApp immediately.

We know the anxiety and thrills of a telegrams and money orders addressed to us. But we also know to transfer money through our cellphone in an instant.

I guess we are, and will ever remain, the only generation that will ever know the nuances of both the eras. We, the children of the 1990s, are in a way special.

abhimanyu.srikant@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 4:53:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/open-page-for-the-children-of-the-1990s-its-the-best-of-both-worlds/article8180002.ece

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