It's a special day in the history of, well, maybe not the entire world. Thirty-two years ago on Sept. 13, two of the most famous plumbers in the hallowed annals of drainage embarked on their most epic task. Fungus is a matter of occasional concern for some of us, but these guys really had their work cut out for them. Equipped with nothing but their wits, fists, and rather extraordinary jumping ability, brothers Mario and Luigi set out to liberate the entire Mushroom Kingdom.
That's right, Super Mario Bros. is 32 years old today. Some might question the relevance and importance of the venerable siblings to the IT realm, beyond the obvious fact that without IT, there would be no such thing as a Goomba stomp, or cascading lineup of Koopas felled by a single shell kick. You have to look at this, however, from the perspective of, say, Star Trek. It's not the immediate impact of playing a video game — entertainment — that matters most.
Rather, consider the number of young boys and girls who forged their first strong bond with the realm of personal electronics in particular, and computers and technology in general, by battling against Bowser. How many of those youthful adventurers, weaned on the sweet nectar of secret 1-UPs and Super Stars, grew up to become the system administrators, or network engineers, or information security analysts of today?
One tends to see a lot of hand-wringing among IT observers and commentators about the failure of the educational system, particularly in the United States, to engage young learners in the bits and bytes of computer technology. Where will the next generation of IT workers come from if kids don't start to care about computers when they're young? There's probably not a straightforward and simple solution to the problem (insofar as it actually exists — it's debatable whether we're failing as badly as some think we are).
Sometimes we focus so much on problems, however, that we fail to recognize solutions, even if just at the level of glancing backwards in time to acknowledge the triumphs of the past. Sept. 13 should be a day to celebrate the accomplishments of Mario and Luigi. Not their awesomeness at tripping turtles or bouncing on bullets, but their continuing legacy of connecting kids to technology. That's something we can all celebrate.