Baby boomers and mobile apps




One time during my early working years, I tried to convince the President of our company to equip us field people with portable phones, which some companies have started using. The early mobile phones at that time were as large as ladies' handbags and could sometimes weigh up to five kilos. The answer I got from my boss was a quick one. He will instruct our cashier to give each of us five pesos worth of coins daily to make it easier for us to call from those corner red public phones. 

Baby boomers like me are so lucky. We have lived through a period of unparalleled technological transformation unlike any other. We have witnessed firsthand the incredible pace of innovation that has reshaped nearly every aspect of life today. Our lives have unfolded alongside the rise of personal computers, the birth of the internet, and the explosion of mobile technology, fundamentally altering how everyone works, connects, and access information. This remarkable journey, from a world of rotary phones and typewriters to the era of instant global communication and artificial intelligence, has undoubtedly shaped our experiences and continues to do so in our golden years.

Rich people then would have hefty wallets stuffed with cash. If anyone wanted to find a restaurant, they grabbed a phonebook the size of a dictionary, flipped through endless pages, and scribbled directions on napkins. Remember the rotary phone? One had to meticulously finger those holes to dial a number and forget about caller ID – you never knew who was on the other end until you picked up! Now, you whip out your fancy smartphone, which is more powerful than the computers used to land on the moon, tap a few buttons, and have a dozen options with reviews popping up faster than one can say "chow time."

Mobile apps have undeniably changed how baby boomers live. But don’t get me wrong, if you ask any of them, most would say they still miss the weight of a real newspaper in their hands, the satisfaction of a handwritten letter arriving in the mail, the sound of the rotary phone, and the noise of the typewriter. Back in those days, life moved at a different pace. People were not glued to these little glowing rectangles in our pockets, constantly bombarded with information and notifications. 

I am sure baby boomers can still remember those long-distance calls where every minute felt like an eternity, ticking away at their wallets. Now, we can connect without the cord. We can see their grandkids across the country clear as day with video call apps, all for free. It's like magic! And forget the days of waiting weeks to see photos from a family vacation. Now, pictures and videos are shared instantly through social media apps, keeping everyone connected in a way we never imagined.

These mobile apps are enabling the convenience revolution. Gone are the days of running multiple errands on a Saturday. Now, with a tap on my smartphone, I can order groceries delivered to my doorstep, hail a ride with Grab, and even refill my prescriptions without setting foot in the drug store. Frustrated with waiting in long lines at the bank? Now, with banking apps, I can check my account balance, transfer money, and even deposit checks – all from the comfort of my couch. With AI-powered search apps, I can access a seemingly endless well of knowledge at any given moment. Need to settle a heated debate about a historical fact? Boom, there is the answer on my phone. It is a constant stream of information, sometimes overwhelming but undeniably powerful.

Now, all these apps are great and all, but they have their downsides too. These little devices are like black holes, sucking up our time. I sometimes pick up my phone to check the weather and end up scrolling through social media for an hour. And don't even get me started on the dangers of online scams and data breaches! We have to be careful out there in the digital world.

A baby boomer friend was at the park with his grandkids when he noticed a group of teenagers staring at their phones. His story made me a little sad. There's a whole world out there to be experienced, and sometimes, these apps can create a barrier to that.

So, here is a baby boomer’s advice to all you young millennials and Gen Z people: Don't let the apps control your life. Put down the phone, look up from the screen, and appreciate the world around you. Strike up a physical conversation, explore a new neighborhood, or enjoy the beauty of a sunset. The world is still wonderful, even with all these apps in our pockets. ([email protected])

(The author is an Executive Member of the National Innovation Council, lead convener of the Alliance for Technology Innovators for the Nation (ATIN), vice president of the Analytics and AI Association of the Philippines, and vice president of UP System Information Technology Foundation.)