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Where's the technology sweet spot between old and new?

For GCN's upcoming 30th anniversary issue, we are going to be asking government IT professionals what they believe are the most important IT innovations over the past three decades and how they think those technologies are going to shape government in the future.

My part of the package will focus on data centers. So if any of you are government employees who know data centers, drop me a line. What are the most important data center innovations you've seen in the past 20 or 30 years, and where do you think the data center is heading?

With that in mind, I recently stumbled across a preview for a new reality show called Forever Young, where senior citizens and young people have to live in the same house. I was going to flip away, until I saw that the tasks they were performing required both old school and modern technology.

In one challenge, the players had to find their way using both a GPS device and a map. The seniors had to use the GPS with a younger person's help, while the young folks had to use a city atlas. It wasn’t surprising that the older folks had trouble with the modern GPS, but I was shocked that the kids didn't know how to read a map. If they didn't have a GPS telling them to "turn left," they were totally lost.

The same thing happened when a document needed to be typed. The seniors had a lot of trouble figuring out how to use the virtual keyboard on an iPad. But the younger people were totally flummoxed when a typewriter was broken out for the second part of the challenge.

Perhaps because I work in technology and am of a certain age, I don't think I would have any trouble with either side of those challenges.  I learned how to type on a typewriter, though I've not used one in about 20 years. And I used to zip around my reporting area using a multi-page atlas. I could navigate the thin back roads like a pro, often arriving on the scene of an incident before the fire department. But I can also program a GPS. How about you?

I suspect most people working in government technology today actually fall into the "sweet spot" where they are comfortable with the new technologies but also able to jump in and use the older gear if needed.

What do you think? Are most government employees you work with totally immersed in the newer stuff, and out of luck if they have to navigate a DOS screen? Or are most people in such a balance that they would never be invited to participate on the new TV show?

Posted by John Breeden II on Apr 03, 2013 at 9:39 AM


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