I grew up in the dark ages, long before gizmos, gadgets and whatnots. Back in the day when they were just beginning to test the limits of commercialism on TV, and had yet to discover the boob tube’s potential to educate. We’re talking pre-Sesame Street, which has been on for a gazillion years. Everything on TV in those days was innocent, silly, and a bit primitive. Think Uncle Miltie, The Mickey Mouse Club and Topo Gigio. Talk about a bunch of happy misfits!
We watched our favorite TV shows when they were on. There was no such thing as recording them to watch later. In college, I had friends who would plan their class schedule around their favorite soap operas, so that they wouldn’t miss a single installment. Ah, how times have changed.
In high school, we had a class on computers but there was only one computer for the entire class and it was ginormous. For all intents and purposes, I do not recall it having a keyboard, let alone a mouse. The good intentioned teacher cajoled me into taking his class on account that I happened to be walking by his classroom as it was getting started and I was the only girl he could sucker into it. I mean, no one was interested in learning binary language, least of all me.
I soon dropped out. Me and my forward way of thinking had me questioning the value of such a class. I was convinced I’d never have use for a computer. After all, it seemed only financial institutions had them, and they were too big to ever imagine a day when they’d be in every home. Preposterous!
Without all the bells and whistles we have today, I depended on very archaic ways of communicating, like talking in person, writing letters that got mailed through the U.S. postal system–yes, we used snail mail!–and Ma Bell.
A word about Ma Bell. AT&T wasn’t called that until much later when the federal government forced it to break up the monopoly it had. Before said breakup, there was only one way to get telephone service in your home, and that was through AT&T. And you could only rent the phone, not buy it, and said phone came in just one color: standard issue black.
I could spend hours spinning my index finger in the wheel of the rotary phone, and dialing up friends to chat with, until some parent would yell,
“Stop hogging the phone! You’re not the only one who needs to use it!”
Yep, everyone in the house had to use the same phone line, no if’s or and’s or but’s. We didn’t each have our own phone, like we do now.
And here’s another thing you need to know about the dark ages: Unless you were filthy rich and had a phone in your Rolls-Royce, you had no way to instantly communicate with loved ones when not at home. Sure, we had phone booths on nearly every corner, but it was pretty much useless to use one to place a call if the person at you were calling wasn’t at home. And it wasn’t as if you could leave them a message because there were no answering machines! So, when you went out you were pretty much incommunicado. Boy, were we roughing it.
I’ll never forget the time I was supposed to meet my college boyfriend at the George Washington Bus depot.
I was two hours late!
And if there’s one thing you should know about me is I pride myself on being on time. Even early. But never late.
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was so darn late, I felt terrible and anxious because there was no way on earth to get word to him and I was pretty sure that he’d be gone by the time I did arrive. Luckily, I was wrong about that.
Maxwell Smart the secret agent battling C.H.A.O.S., was the only man I knew with a portable phone. Of course, it was in his shoe. Sure, it was a ridiculous concept–not the one about having a shoe for a phone, but the idea of having a portable one. Yet that’s what made it funny and we all laughed, never imagining a future where such a thing might actually come to pass. Although I’m still waiting for my shoe phone.
As for video games, they didn’t show up on my radar until the early 1980s when some retailer handed me the first Pac-Man game and I was immediately hooked. Prior to that, we played board games and when outdoors, we’d ride our bikes and play games like Mother May I?, Simon Says, and Red light, Green light.
Which brings us to today. The world has changed and then some. Just about everyone has a smart phone. Email has replaced snail mail and texting has taken over the art of talking on the phone. No one listens to records, eight track, cassettes or even CD’s, and video games are everywhere. TV shows can be watched anywhere, anytime, catering to you and your needs.
For better, for worse, we’ve come a long way, baby. Some might say we’ve lost something in the process, like that physical contact and connection we used to make, human to human. If you’re too young to remember, ask your mom, dad or any Baby Boomer you know, as to what it was like. They’ll happily tell you.
Who knows what the next fifty years will bring? Maybe one day we’ll all be living in individual pods that are wired to the hilt, but no physical connection whatsoever, with anyone else. Maybe then it’ll be you pining for the old days (aka, these days), much like my oldest brother, who hasn’t acclimated to all these advances, does now. But if that happens, I’ll tell you what I told him:
Progress will get you every time, so you might as well accept it. Now, good night and good luck.
How about you? How are you dealing with all these whiz-bang advances in your life?