New Year’s Tech

When I was a little boy, a mother’s lap was the only car-seat a kid needed. Dictionaries were large books with finger tabs for quick access by letter. Encyclopedias were purchased at the supermarket, one book per week. We often browsed catalogs and filled-out order-forms that were mailed-in with personal checks — we received our packages at some indeterminate time in the future.

Fancy TVs had real wood cases surrounding the picture tube, they were thick and heavy. To change the channel we got up and turned a dial that clicked into place for each corresponding number, luckily there weren’t many channels to choose from. We watched TV shows at designated times. If we missed an episode we could catch it again in a rerun. With limited TVs, fighting or tantrums often controlled what was watched.

If we wanted to talk to a friend we called his house, asked his mom or dad if he was home, then talked until someone else needed the phone. A busy signal meant we kept calling over and over until whoever finally hung up. If events were cancelled, people would call around to let everyone know, some wouldn’t get the message and just show up, waiting for the party to begin.

If someone left the house, we typically wouldn’t hear from them until they got back home. Trends often traveled by cousins or clubs or camps. If we had questions about life we could ask a parent or sibling, our friends, or a teacher. If we needed a more extensive answer we could go to a library and browse through some books in the related category.

If we wanted to rant, we wrote cursive inside of notebooks that nobody read. If we were bored or lonely we had to make do. We had little to no contact with those outside of our immediate surroundings. Games typically required other participants. TV had limited programming and at times aired only reruns. Stores had limited hours and required transportation.

I appreciate the technological advances of today. When the Internet came into being it was like discovering a new world. Through the Internet I found companionship and purpose. I’ve spent about half my life within this virtual realm — exploring, observing, and interacting. It turns out that the next frontier wasn’t outer-space, but cyber-space — the world-wide interconnected consciousness of mankind. And through communication, we find unity. So it is with this thought that I welcome in the new year.

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