The passing of the tactile generation

Pray for the loss of a generation. Ever wondered what it is like to watch the passing away of a generation?

Well just look around you because it is happening before your very eyes; or better yet – your computer monitor. With each MP3 downloaded, with each e-book read on a cell phone, every movie saved to TiVo  and every friend added to a social network we are seeing the gradual passing away of a generation where to touch and to hold gave us that indescribable feeling of newness and specialness.

Like Jason over at webomatica I to miss the days of the album. I still remember the pride I felt when I bought my very first album called Yes Songs by Yes. I can still feel the rush when I played my second album Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson Lake and Palmer for the very first time. Or the incredible Halloween night where two of my friends and I sat on a hillside killing a 40 pounder of Tequila as Uriah Heep’s Demon’s and Wizards blasted from the stereo in the converted one room schoolhouse as the bonfire reached for the stars. It is memories like that which are all associated with a physical thing you could hold in your hands that are forever ingrained in my memories.

And it isn’t just albums that can invoke those memories for just like them I still remember the reading the night away as I made my way through A Stranger in A Strange Land by Robert Heinlein for the first of many times. Then there are the times I spent at Walden Pond with Henry Thoreau where each turn of the page made one feel like the words were alive. Will the future look upon the opening of a cd case of the Library of Congress with the same bated breath as those that discovered and studied the Dead Sea Scrolls – I don’t think so.

Then there is a thing called friendship which has been reduced to nothing more than a link in an email or a checkbox on some electronic page. Friends have become icons with miscellaneous ramblings beside them. That isn’t friendship. Friends come from being able to look at one another in the eye, to be able to shake hands, to share hugs and to share tears in times of joy and in times of sorrow. Those things can never be replaced by checkmarks or webcam images. Friends aren’t networked one’s and zero’s – they are a real part of what makes us who we are.

In our rush to a digitized nirvana I fear we will lose one of the most important things that make us human. The ability to touch the world around us and the things that make it up. The tomes of knowledge which by the very touch of their pages inspires dreams being replaced by PDF’s of electronic blandness. The music of our world being reduced to 99cent bytes of proprietary sound waves devoid of the continuity of Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Center of the Earth or a Bach concerto or the raw soul of Edgar Winter’s Tobacco Road. Then most important of all – friendships  – which are being rendered as webcam images in so-called social networks which reduces our tactile interaction to nothing more than keypresses on a cell phone or keyboard.

As much as those of us who relish in the sense of the touch of a book’s pages or the grooves of an album or the taste of a beer shared with friends on a hot summer eve it is inevitable that we are seeing the last of these things fade with that evening’s setting sun. While the youth of our world will snicker and and text message each other about those silly old farts as they download the newest video montages I feel sorry for them because they will never experience the true power of touch.

And Jason … this is really showing one’s age :)


  1. 07/07/07 at 15:49

    Wonderful points on the tactile quality of a page. What would I do without bookshelves across one whole wall of a home? Yes, I Google when I want information but I grab a physical book when I want more.

    That said, on the friendship issue, it’s lovely knowing people from around the world who can feel closer to than the next door neighbor with whom I have nothing in common. Some of them do become friends, though not someone I hug regularly – if ever.

    For an aging population social media my be the way to stay engaged and connected far beyond what our parents’ generation could have hoped.

  2. 07/07/07 at 21:25

    I saw Yes in concert… but of course it was post Owner of A Lonely Heart and Big Generator :)

  3. 08/07/07 at 1:50


    On the friends aspect I guess upon reflection I would agree to an extent as there are many folks within the WinExtra Forums that I have never met but they are closer friends to my wife and I than a lot of people who live around us.

    But I still feel in context of the post and the general attitude out there that what I stated is just as true.