It used to be a hilarious joke last Century to say that a house with no teenagers in it always had flashing red and green numbers in every room. Only teenagers, you see, were savvy enough with the gadgetry to set the date up properly on the Betamax and the bedside alarm.
This came back to me yesterday when I picked the van up from a major service. As the young chap guided me through the enormous invoice in the way they do these days, he drew my attention to a small problem. When the mechanics had reconnected the battery, they'd been unable to set the time on the clock. Because they couldn't find the instruction manual. That's right, they'd serviced a vehicle that would be charging down motorways at 80 mph but they couldn't, er, set the dashboard clock without a manual.
It occurred to me that things move on so quickly the young mechanics who worked on the car had never set a digital clock in their lives. Most clocks in our house are now governed by a digital TV signal or an atomic clock somewhere which sends a radio beam from Rugby to keep everything seamless and deadly accurate without the need for human intervention. Our bedside clock, our phones and even my wristwatch pick up millisecond accurate timing through the ether.
Apple are partly responsible for moving us all away from a "tinkering" generation towards a World where the secrets "under the bonnet" are not something we need to worry our pretty little heads about. I've had my iPhone for 2 years now and it is welded to my person and my second best friend, but I have not the remotest idea how the time displays accurately or indeed most of the wonders that go on in its back rooms. The functionality is so well done and intuitive that I've come not to care.
It's not all good news, however, as the "tinkering" stage at which you had to wrestle with settings and programming is also a learning stage from which invention blossoms. I was interested to read that the standard of computer basics is now so poor amongst undergraduates applying for Cambridge that it has prompted the production of the Rasberry Pi to get students back to the nitty-gritty of developmental programming.
Perhaps they'll be able to set the dashboard clock in my van so I'll know what day it is.