My question concerns this edit to an answer I wrote, but it's actually a more general question.

In the answer, I wrote about "dads" owning or having access to computers in the 1990s. Someone "corrected" it to "parents" with the comment "corrected to inclusive language". Personally, I'd like to change it back, but I'd also like some feedback what you think, because my world view and experience in the 1990s was severely limited. Basically limited to everything one could reach on a bike and be back before family dinner. Maybe it was different outside that range and I would like my answer there to be a general answer that captures at least "the West" in the 90s, not just my little bubble of it.

I agree that today it would be absolutely appropriate to talk about "parents" of all sorts.

However, my text is about "back then". And in my experience it wasn't "a parent's [computer]", but exclusively "dad's". I don't know a single "mom" being anywhere near computers or having access to computers at work. The girls sure had computers or access the same as the boys, but for the parent's generation, it was all males where I grew up.

So my two questions:

  1. Was that your experience as well? Because the whole point is kinda moot if enough of the other people here experienced computer access to be evenly distributed across genders. Maybe my experience was an outlier in that regard?
  2. Assuming it actually wasn't evenly distributed (and I obviously stereotype quite a lot in that post anyway) back then, is it okay to remove the "inclusivity" when in fact it wasn't that inclusive in reality?

3 Answers 3


To me, those changes are fine both personally and stylistically

  • Personally: Nominally, my suburban south LA County, CA, family got an Apple IIe shortly after its release in '83 when I was in middle school, but it was Mom who played Zork and other Infocom games on it and, when necessary, did troubleshooting. Further, my parents owned and operated a small but successful enough real estate appraisal business from the late '60s until the early '00s. There, they clung to typewriters for as long as they could but switched to PCs in the early 90s. Both parents were competent PC users, but they were both incompetent PC troubleshooters. (By then, though, I was an adequate troubleshooter from running a BBS, so I'd do it if a technician were unavailable.)

    In other words, while you didn't "know a single [i.e. lone] 'mom' being anywhere near computers or having access to computers at work," the 90s saw both my mom and dad working on computers.

  • Stylistically: I thought the answer was a blast to read before the edits. I'd upvoted it before I was halfway through. I do think the edits remove some of the causal intimacy of the original, but I also think that's a small price to pay to increase the answer's inclusiveness. Were this answer's audience narrower—were it being adapted to a college application, for example, or being considered for inclusion in a book of your best answers on RPG SE—, I'd recommend changing it back because the original's voice is more strongly you, but as a widely viewed standalone answer answer on RPG SE, the changes make sense.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "the causal intimacy" - I assume this should be "casual"? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jun 20, 2020 at 10:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Yep. It should be casual (and, in fact, a better word would probably be assumed), but on its own it's not worth an edit. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 20, 2020 at 13:28

Most of the answer uses the words "you" and "your" to describe the experience. The target audience for this answer is the general RPG.SE userbase, rather than just yourself.

Maybe your personal experience was limited to dads as the primary computer user, but that doesn't necessarily represent the entire Western world during that period. There were certainly moms who used computers in the 1990s. Also, some people didn't have dads around.

If you're trying to address a larger audience, then it makes logical sense to use the more inclusive language.

A dad is a type of parent, so the edit doesn't harm the answer or change its meaning. There is no need for a rollback.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ That sounds very theoretical. Yes, my personal experience was limited. For example, in my experience single moms could not afford a computer or even the time to use it even if they'd had the money. That's why I was asking. Was it different in your experience? I don't want "inclusive language" to wipe away the reality of it not being inclusive back then. \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Jun 18, 2020 at 17:08
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Is that information really relevant? The question is about the role of CD audio accompaniments in the context of tabletop gaming. It is not asking about the statistics of fathers versus mothers as the primary computer users of their households. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeQ
    Jun 18, 2020 at 17:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, for me, it captures the context and feeling of the 90s. I don't know a single household where "the parents" had a computer. That to me feels wrong and not 90s. And I guess the context and feeling of the 90s is important, because the plain, factual answer what the CD contains is already answered in the wiki link that is contained in the question. It's just that without having context, it's hard to grasp why that's a thing. \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Jun 18, 2020 at 17:16
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt As a point of reference, in the early-to-mid-1990's we had one PC (pre pentium). I used it more than my wife did, as I had to write papers for two of those years, but she also used it. The kids were too young for a PC. If my daughter had referred to it (ages 3 to 8) I suspect it would have been 'the computer' - both parents used it. Not sure if that helps, but it's a data point. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 18, 2020 at 18:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt You were answering a question about what the point of CD-augmented RPG's were. But in multiple comments now you have made the point that what you really want to convey is what YOUR experience was. You are 'asking' whether it is okay to use non-inclusive language because YOUR experience was non-inclusive. You have a right to your experience, and I think reasserting the original language is fine, as long as you add a disclaimer at the start saying, "In this answer I take the perspective of only why CD's were important to ME, and don't attempt to answer why they were manufactured." \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 19, 2020 at 21:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt I think that they have been clear that if the change is made it needs to be factual. Being inclusive is only good if there is actually someone to include. Everyone's post is inherently their own opinion and experience, I don't see any benefit in restating that. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23, 2020 at 0:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt: For a few more data points, I was also a teenager in the 90's. Around 1994, I had an Amiga 1200 with a modem that I'd dial up BBSes with (and I'd just got my own phone line to run my own BBS on) while my single mom used a '486 PC with Windows 3.1 while working at the library and had an old used "portable" PC running DOS for home use. My stepbrothers' family used to have one Windows PC that the parents and kids shared, although by '94 they might've got a second one. My slightly older cousin's family owned an Amiga 2000 and a Mac that both my cousin and his mom used. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23, 2020 at 9:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ … But in any case, I'm sure there was a lot of regional and socioeconomic variation here. Your own experience of "the computer" almost always belonging to the male parent is no less valid or universal than mine. IMO, it'd be fine for you to describe it as you remember it, gender inequality and all, as long as you make it clear that that's what it is. One way to do that could be to include a parenthetical note like "your dad (at least in my experience, very few moms would have or use computers back then)" or even "your parents (in my experience, usually your dad)" or something similar. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23, 2020 at 10:00

From a world view standpoint, I'd like to suggest that yes, yours was a little provincial.

I was an adult in the 1990s (born in 1959). I got my first home computer in 1986, first DOS machine in 1987, installed Windows 3 (on that same machine) in 1990. I was a member of a computer users' group (think "Meetup") starting in 1986 as well. More than a third of the users' group members were women -- including two deaf members, one of them with a bone disorder that confined her to a power wheelchair.

That to say, home computers (at least in the Seattle area) were far from a "Dad's" machine, even before 1990 -- but they were expensive enough that someone had to have a strong interest to spend the money (I paid $1000 for my first DOS machine, with 512k RAM, dual 360k floppy drives, CGA -- 16 colors, 4 at a time, and low res -- and no hard disk or built-in modem, in 1987, when the same money would buy a good used motorcycle or a reliable, if ugly used car).

What you describe, the computers being "Dad's" machines, was a cultural bias (not your bias, but your culture's). Women who hadn't been raised to believe they could or should have technical interests followed the lifestyle they were raised into (mostly), and men, raised to believe machines were their domain, developed the interest and technical knowledge to buy, set up, and operate a home computer in the days when "Plug n' Play" was the new thing that really didn't work most of the time.

In a less rural setting, you might well have seen a different situation, with women owning and operating computers, not necessarily because the women were more technically oriented, but because they had a better concept of what the computer could do for them. The users' group I mentioned was one founded around the social interactions of modem use -- bulletin board systems and such (before broad Internet access), which was more attractive to the women of the '80s and '90s culture than the technical aspects (in most cases). That is to say, those women, at that time, weren't mainly programmers or hardware hackers; they were social users.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate your post, the more data points prove me wrong, the better. But I'm not sure I agree on the conclusion that anything short of the actual Microsoft Headquarters (Seattle Area) is "rural" or "provincial". That makes it sound like my computer was powered by a donkey in the barn or something. I lived in the capital city of our federal state that hosted a major international computer trade fair, I wouldn't call that "rural". There certainly was no livestock or fields to be found in bike range. \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Jun 23, 2020 at 11:42
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Rural is a spectrum. Boise and Salem are pretty rural compared to, say, Austin or Sacramento. And in the 1990s, Boeing was a much bigger deal in Seattle than Microsoft. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 23, 2020 at 15:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ we are same vintage, but I didn't get my own DOS machine until 1988: I got a Leading Edge (AT/XT clone, 8088 processor IIRC). two floppies, no HD, but the awesome Hercules graphics card! 8^o \$\endgroup\$ Jun 25, 2020 at 17:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Mine was a Laser XT -- same company that built the first Apple ][ clone -- and my CGA could be switched to pretend it was Hercules. Later on, I ran the computer for a while with an EGA card on the old CGA monitor (it'd run 16 colors at full monitor resolution -- 640x200, IIRC), and a monochrome monitor on the CGA/Herc. Yep, two screens, in 1988. By the time I upgraded to a 286, I had a 512K SVGA (1024x768x256 colors out of a pallet of 8 bits per channel) and 4.5 MB of EMS, and ran Windows 3.0 on that 8088 processor. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 25, 2020 at 17:40

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