Today I turn 51 years old. Some would say that makes me too old to be actively making a living working in tech. It’s true that the tech world does seem to be dominated by young people. I think that’s great, it means tech has a great future. But does it mean that there is no place in tech for those of us with a few more candles on our cake?
Some of us, me included, have been dabbling with computers since DOS was the operating system. We remember Windows 3.1 and that horrible screeching sound of a modem connecting over phone lines. Our first websites may have been hosted on GeoCities and our first website software might have been FrontPage. We remember when something as user friendly as WordPress was a fantasy and working with frames gave us migraines. We recall the bulky laptops that only the rich could afford. Many of us could never have imagined a day when what we used to only be able to do on a rather large desktop with a monitor that required a 24” depth clearance could be done on a cell phone that could fit in your pocket. Or that we’d be able to take classes or learn new skills by watching videos on a tablet smaller and lighter than any text book.
I think of how magical it would have seemed to me at 17 to have a 7 inch, flat screen that would allow me to carry every book I owned around in it and purchase new ones in an instant. Actually, my 17 year old self, while quite forward thinking for 1980, would have deemed the ability to be constantly connected to an internet where all I had to do was type in search terms and be served up the answers I was looking for as fantastical as the J.R.R. Tolkien novels I was immersing myself in for the 3rd or 4th time.
Rather than these memories of the antiquated methods of tech relegating me to being too old to find relevance in today’s technological world, I think it makes me uniquely suited to having a place there. The saying goes that we should never forget the past. When we do, we fail to appreciate the now or understand the immense possibility of the future. As an older member of the tech community I like to think I bring a unique perspective as well as a certain amount of wonder at the current offerings that technology has to offer. What the younger generation takes for granted the way I did the telephone and automobile, I still find awe and wonder in when I stop to think about it.
But what about others of my age who didn’t dabble with computers until more recently? Do they have a place in the tech world? I strongly believe age doesn’t matter if you truly want to accomplish something. If you don’t believe me, consider the following:
- At 51 years old DaVinci painted the Mona Lisa
- When “The French Chef” TV program first aired Julia Child was 51
- Lincoln was 52 when he became President of the United States.
- The McDonalds franchise was bought by a 53 year old Ray Kroc
- The Cat in the Hat was penned by Dr. Seuss at age 54
- Sully Sullenburger III was 57 when he landed the flight that is now dubbed the Miracle on the Hudson
- The KFC franchise was started by a 61 year old Harland Sanders.
- The Little House on the Prairie books were written and published when Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her 60’s
- When my beloved Lord of the Rings trilogy was published J.R.R. Tolkien was 62
- Nelson Mandela was 76 when he became president
If these people aren’t proof that age is just a number I don’t know who is. So today, as I turn 51, am I too old for tech? What do you think?