The cable industry, with help from the SCTE, does a nice job of promoting the rising generation of technologists. At the Conference on Emerging Technologies, we meet the Young (under 30 years old) Engineer of the Year. The Milton Jerrold Shapp Memorial Scholarship goes to one outstanding college-bound youngster with family ties to the industry. Apart from spotlighting rising stars, a technology-based industry does well to connect with the younger set for other, market-related reasons. Cell-phone usage among teenagers, for example, is a topic that frequently accompanies talk of wireless-wireline convergence. Along those lines, amidst last week’s impressive digital video recorder (DVR) shipping data from Motorola and Scientific-Atlanta, technology journalists had a change to hear about how this technology looks from the perspective of a 10-year named Jacob. Top five gadgets Representing Motorola, the Garfield Group described this youngster as an "avid baseball fan, an iPod junkie and a DVR user." Based on questions and answers forwarded by this agency, the boy is in a Comcast system, has had the DVR for about five months and ranks DVR third in his list of top-five technology gadgets, below iPod and Play Station Portable (PSP) but above Xbox and PS2. (Note to market research: keep tracking portability.) A quick conversation revealed that the lad has a good, basic understanding of technology. He knows that a Gigabyte "has something to do with the amount of memory"(his iPod is a 4 Gig Mini) and that the way to navigate the DVR is via the "My DVR" application. That appears to put him ahead of his parents on the early adopter curve. "They have it, and they use it and they like it; but if there’s, like, a new show coming out that they want to record, they’ll call me and say, ‘Could you set this up?’" And how do you set it up, Jacob? (Note to parents: pay attention here …) "If I’m looking on a channel and I see a baseball game that I’m not going to be around for that I want to see, I press record twice, and I’ll bring up the DVR thing. And you just customize it with what time you want it to start, what time you want it to stop, and then you just press ‘Record this program,’ which I think it is the A button." Jacob’s family has a VCR. "I just never use it," he says. DVR in the mainstream It may go without saying, but he also has a computer (a Dell) and a cell-phone. But he’s not exactly pushing the envelope on the latest ways to communicate. For instance, he doesn’t use instant messaging. "I don’t really need to use it." Granted, anecdotal evidence like this can take you only so far. But as a reality check against predictions from the likes of Accenture that 40 percent of U.S. homes will have DVRs by 2009, this conversation with Jacob reveals something of how this technology has mainstreamed itself. We’re not in techno-geek land. Here is one apparently well-adjusted boy, who pitches and plays first base on a baseball team, does well in math and wants to be a lawyer (not an engineer). He is growing up in an era where portability and digital recording of entertainment is a given and where yesterday’s technology is largely irrelevant. – Jonathan Tombes

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