Advice to the New Graduate

My son graduated from high school last month and is heading for a college with a strong science and engineering focus next month. The Significant Other and I took him to the local Panera Bread restaurant to celebrate. As we munched, I shared with Shmoikel the fatherly advice gained from my own experiences at Princeton University in 1976-1980, during the glorious Jimmy Carter years. I figured that fashion changes, but technology moves more gradually, and what worked for me in the 1970s would no doubt prove useful for Shmoikel in the 2010s.

“First, you’ll need a good solid desk for your IBM Selectric,” I opined. “They’re excellent typewriters but they are on the heavy side, so you’ll want sturdy support. I’m sure the university will have something designed for one of them. If you want to work on the plane ride up there — I know I need to book the flight on PeoplExpress for you — you can use a portable typewriter. I guess the new term for those is ‘laptop.'”

“Sure thing, Dad,” he said, writing notes on his tried-and-true tablet, which I got him for his birthday several years ago. This is the old-school, reliable tablet, the kind you write on with chalk. They’re great for students on the go who need to take notes.

“You’ll also want to be ready for your programming classes. You may find the punchcards complex in the beginning, but a bright guy like you will get the hang of it,” I explained. “You’ve got good dexterity, just shuffle them and your 75 percent of the way there.”

“I’ve heard about punchcards — they’re still cutting-edge, you think?” Shmoikel said, sounding dubious.

“Oh, definitely,” I said.

“And don’t forget your slide rule,” added the Significant Other, who sent her kid to college several years ago and knows first-hand what’s required on these Eastern college campuses.

We left Panera’s confident that Shmoikel will be ready for whatever comes his way. He’ll be registering to vote for the first time. As a great fan of civic involvement, this thrills me. I’m already prepping him for a repeat of the 1980 election, when a certain floundering Democrat ran against a certain confident Republican, with the Iranians causing problems. I’d like to say he should get on the right side of history like I did, but you know how kids are these days.




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