One of the hallmarks of histories of innovation is how quickly the origins of new technologies are lost, and how easily radical changes slip into longstanding customs. How quickly, in other words, we forget.
It’s surprising to my students that the internet (as we know it) is only 14 years old–counting, as I do, by the emergence of Netscape, which triggered the rapid diffusion of servers and users. More surprising to us professors is that some of those students are younger than Microsoft Word. So quickly we forget what life was like before these changes.
It’s with this perspective somewhere in the back of my mind that I watched as the Stanford Women’s basketball team defeated top-seeded University of Connecticut, 82-73, to reach the NCAA finals. It was a great game played by two great teams. It was made meaningful (bloggable) by a couple of emails I received during the game but didn’t read, of course, until the final buzzer.
The second note was a blog post by Mariah Burton Nelson which described her early days playing basketball at Stanford in the from 1975-1979: Escaping from Roble. An elite high-school athlete, she started playing at Stanford when the team had no uniforms and played in the student gym. The men, of course, had Maples Pavilion. It was during her tenure, and through her commitment as well as others, that they took the first steps forward. Now look at them–two national championships and on their way to the finals again.
30 years ago, women were just getting the chance to play the game (as we know it). By contrast, Dean Smith was in his 15th year of coaching at UNC. Now look at them. Which brings me to the first note I got, A good jest from a colleague that drove home how far they’ve come:
"Stanford, where the men are men and the women are champions."