Not long ago, I happened to catch a rerun of All the President's Men on television.
The story was as familiar as ever. What seemed dramatically different was the newsroom where Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein worked.
They wrote their stories on, get this, typewriters. The phones had dials. And when Woodward needed to find a phone number, he went riffling through phone book after phone book. No e-mail. No Internet. No word processing. No cell phones. No beepers in that Watergate world of the 1970s. Technology has dramatically reshaped the world of work in most industries, this one not excepted. But the biggest revolution may not have even happened yet. While we've all been busy getting used to new tools, a generation of future employees is being raised with them. To that generation, technology is just part of the air, said Don Tapscott, author and analyst of the new cyber culture. Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation (McGraw Hill, 1998, $22.95) is the title of Tapscott's latest book. Tapscott is chairman of the Alliance for Converging Technologies, a Toronto-based think tank that is investigating the effects of the information highway and new media on business, government and society. "The culture of the N-generation is about to become the culture of work," Tapscott said. By the year 2000, there will be more than 80 million people in the United States and Canada between the ages of 2 and 22. This so-called Net Generation is bigger than the baby boom, Tapscott said. And it is fundamentally different as well. Baby boomers, who have also been called the TV Generation, grew up passively absorbing information. Net kids, in contrast, are growing up interacting with computers and the Web. They are surrounded by computers. Two-thirds of children over age 6 know how to use computers, he said. "It's cool to be online." It is changing and shaping the way they think, gather information and interact with others. Tapscott stumbled on this premise in his own home. He watched how effortlessly his two children, ages 11 and 14, worked with the new media, gleaning and organizing information into knowledge. "I thought they were prodigies," he said. …