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The iPad Generation

Photo courtesy of Maggie Cheung

There is a looming sadness over the Cheung household tonight as Phillip and I have been talking about the passing of Steve Jobs and the impact of Apple computers in our lives. I have to admit, at first I thought we (by which I mean Apple fanboy Phillip Cheung) were being a BIT dramatic to have such a personal reaction, but you know, Apple gadgets really HAVE affected life as I know it, especially now that I have kids. 

My dad was something of a computer geek - as technogeeky as you could be in the 1980s - and I won't forget the Christmas my mother gave him an Apple II C computer and how excited he was to see that giant box. My mom was a primary teacher, my dad taught sixth graders, and you bet there was plenty of educational computer gaming going on in our house. We played typing games and math games and spelling games on that noisy machine with the black background and neon green graphics. I can still hear the sounds it made while booting up. Later on my dad bought a Macintosh computer with a MOUSE. Craziness! I cannot tell you how many hours I spent playing shufflepuck on that thing.

I have to say, I've never been into computers or gadgets or electronic hardware of any kind. I went to college and got by using the computers in the library, which seems totally Days of Yore-ish now that every freshman arrives with a laptop. I did, however, have a humiliatingly huge crush on a guy who would grow up to be the manager of an IT department. Not only did he avidly follow tech news and developments, he was (IS) a First Adopter. You know these people. They ran out to buy the very first iPod, the very first iPhone, and are seriously deliberating trading in their year-old PERFECTLY FINE iPhone 4G for the iPhone 4Gs.

Somewhere in our house is a drawer full of Gadgets That Used To Be The Next Big Thing. Do you even remember what the original iPod looked like? That thing is a brick, a useless pointless shiny white brick, and Phillip still won't get rid of it. A few years ago he bought a fancy MacBook and you'd have thought he was married to THAT instead of ME. 

I've ignored - no, PLEASANTLY TOLERATED - all this computer stuff. Life amongst plastic bins full of cables and cast off laptops that someone swears he can fix one day is just part of being married to Phillip. I didn't pay much attention to any of it, not until he 1) bought us both iPhones and 2) started going on business trips. 

Have you heard of this thing called FaceTime? It's videoconferencing ON YOUR PHONE. I hated it at first - did he REALLY have to FaceTime me when he was just calling to say he'd be late coming home? But once he started traveling it was a way to connect with the kids every night. He could "show" them around his hotel rooms, let them see what was out his window, and the kids could show him art projects and funny faces and the books they wanted to read before bedtime. It's hard to get Jack and Molly to talk on the phone, but talk to a face? That they could see? Jack and Molly are totally down with that. 

It got even awesomer when the grandparents bought us an iPad and we could FaceTime on THAT. All of my kids' cousins live states and states away, but suddenly the distance seemed so easy to overcome. We now regularly FaceTime with cousins and aunts and uncles, all of whom we see in person maybe once or twice a year. But now we're showing them how we play with their Christmas gifts, showing off Halloween costumes, and performing gymnastic feats in the living room to an audience on a screen. How great is that? 

And some people won't be impressed with the nine thousand kid-friendly apps on our phones and tablet, but there've been times when I'm not sure how we could have made it through the day. Especially now with a new baby in the house, that iPad can keep a pair of preschoolers happy during the endless nursing and burping sessions. It totally boggles my mind when I think about how ubiquitous the touch screen is and how my kids won't know anything different. And to think my first computer experience involved DOS commands! 

It only makes sense that the kids of an IT guy and a blogger would be computer literate before kindergarten, but it's also just part of living in this age. I agree, we could definitely cut back on the time we spend planting flowers to fend off hordes of zombies, but I love that my kids have access to this technology and know how to use it. And it's not just for fun, and not even just for educational purposes. The laptops, the phones, and the tablets keep us connected to family in ways that I never dreamed up growing up. How wonderful it would have been for my family, who spent years living overseas, to be able to FaceTime with my grandparents. My kids are so lucky! 

So thanks, Steve. And Apple and the other tech companies and all the millions of technogeeks who make these things possible. The next time my husband wants to ditch a brand new gadget for the newer practically-the-same-thing version I'll try not to complain too much. These innovations are pretty amazing - just ask my three-year-old who, when her sleep-deprived parents couldn't get Netflix to work on the TV, gave us a bored look and said, "Why can't we just watch Barney on the iPad?" Like, DUH.