The great thing about being a parent, and uncle, are the creative opportunities that arise from being given the chance to truly play and engage across the generations.
When looking at the technology that the next generation, of my family have grown up with, I look on in wonder because I know that the best is yet to come!
I have previously written about the fun we had making ‘stop motion’ Lego movies. To recap, I showed them the initial techniques and then proceeded to watch as they developed and then flourished from there. It seems that the technology and equipment has allowed them to continue developing as creative thinkers and makers.
But let me take you back, at least, one generation.
I recently went to the Design Museum to see the Kraftwerk/ Chemical/Brother exhibition. I thoroughly recommend it. Think! Music, technology, nostalgia and the attempt to capture lightning in a jar especially within rooms for the 2 eponymous artists. However it did make me a tad sad. Why? Because they appeared to side-line a bit of technology, the Atari ST! It was just a line on a description, stuck on a table, whilst Theremins and 808s rightfully, for some, took centre stage. Not for me though.
Ok, full disclosure I never owned one, but I knew some friends who did. I was a Commodore Amiga boy all the way, no midi, but no regrets. A teenage crush is a teenage crush.
However If you are used to seeing epic rivalry, the Commodore and Atari fight for the hearts and minds of the 12 year olds of my generation was a sight to behold.
There are more stories to be mined here, but I digress.
The Atari ST had a Midi socket. In short, you could plug in a piano keyboard. So what? I here you say. Well on top of the synthesisers of the bands of the late 80s/90s you could often see these wonderful next generation, 16 bit machines, assisting artists such as Bomb the Bass make tracks like Megablast. We were connected to rockstars….then Bomb the Bass’ music was licenced and formed the soundtrack of the videogame Xenon 2, a scrolling shoot ‘em up, space invaders clone. We were connected to the rockstars by invitation now, it felt. Xenon, the previous incarnation was played on Saturday morning TV, Get Fresh with Gaz Top and Gilbert the alien, and we had it in our homes, we were the zeitgeist. A lot for a 12 year old to take in, but rich, hopeful and wonderful times nonetheless.
So let us make the jump to a little bit before, the now. My little one barely sorted, in relation to his hand to eye coordination, but was using the kinetic, tactile Nintendo Wii controllers, with haptic feedback, to effectively magic wand and manipulate the onscreen happenings. The Microsoft X box Kinect creating emotive Jedi force pushes and voice commands with seamless ease. And then pre-pandemic visits to a cafe with HTC Vive Virtual Reality headsets where a family, generations apart, can collaborate to defend a fantasy land from fantasy creatures. The youngest contingent of the family have all of this whilst being able to learn and be entertained on tablets and phones and then make entertainment using those self same devices.
I would like to think that that is where their creativity ends, but find a laminating machine and they were creating boardgames with 3D printed pieces. So the next generation are creating sophisticated pastimes as well as media for consumption and this was in their 1st decade.
I had recently entered an Architectural competition. I was working from home and looking for inspiration so I asked my son, post lessons of course, if he could turn my thumbnail sketch into something more concrete on Minecraft. We had built one of my real world projects before using a VR phone contraption to view 360 degree photos and pawed over the plans, but carved out a good model of a family home, on the console over a pleasurable weekend. It was at his request, after he enquired as to what I had been doing that week. An opportunity for him to exercise his masterbuilder skills. It was amazing bonding time and it was good enough for me to solve problems in a 3D visual format way before the building reached the site.
So as a result I knew that the house for the competition would pique his interest. He proceeded to prototype in one day and looked at interior photography techniques on YouTube to get the perfect screenshots for my presentation. I later made a sketch over to bring it back to the realms of architectural presentation but still to retain the essence and energy of original sketches and Minecraft model.
However, the writing was on the wall. The next generation inhale technology and breathe out creative new life. I was a consumer of tech as a kid, saving to buy it, playing with it and feeling reflected glory for having a machine that spirited the age. The next generation are making their own entertainment and are able, with the right direction, to engaging in building their own futures.
When I was a kid we watched consumer tech pass us by, on the illuminated TV screens on the Generation Game. But not the new kids on our block, This is because they truly are Generation Game On!