Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Before Technology Became A Part Of Our Lives

I'm a part of a very unique generation. We were here before today's technology existed and then became so prevalent and all encompassing in our lives. We know what it's like to exist before all the technological advances came to be and yet they are now a major part of our lives. My son on the other hand will never know what it's like unless something cataclysmic happens to the world, which isn't so far fetched an idea.

When I was a young the only remote control for the television was the youngest child in the room. I can remember only having three or four channels to watch and that was dependant on the antenna being turned in the right direction. As a matter of fact, at about two or three in the morning those channels went off the air. That's right, there was nothing on the TV until the local stations started airing morning programming about four or five hours later.

My grandmother Adkins lived in three houses out in the country and I recall all three quite clearly. The first had no running water. You had to go outside and there was a pump in the yard that you had to hand crank to get water. Then it was brought inside and heated on the stove. To take a bath you had to fill water up in a tub and clean yourself. Need I mention that the tub didn't get emptied and refilled with clean water for the next person who needed to take a bath and instead it was reused? The toilet was a standard outhouse and I was always terrified that a snake would crawl up and bite me on my butt. I'm not sure exactly why I had that fear but it was there. Her next house employed the same setup except that at least it did have running water in the kitchen. The last house had complete indoor plumbing although it was built on the side of a hill and had no front yard to speak of. But hey, beggars can't be choosers.

My mother remarried when I was in fifth grade and I remember quite clearly when my step-father (henceforth to be referred to as "the jerk") brought home Pong. It was the greatest day in my life up to that point. I was amazed and transfixed watching that little dot bounce from side to side for hours at a time. Of course it wasn't very long before that progressed to standup video games strategically placed in stores and later their own arcades and I also thought that it couldn't get any better than that. Then that also was taken to current unbelievable levels.

My mother had 8 tracks when I was growing up but by the time I reached high school they were starting to die out, soon to be followed by albums. I still have many of my albums and singles and tend to refer to music releases by that name. Cassettes followed and I hung onto them dearly for a very long time, perhaps longer than I should have. I'll admit that I didn't give into compact discs for far too long. As a matter of fact it was until years past the very end of them being offered that you could still find me making mix tapes from my cds. What ended up really pushing me past my love for cassettes (besides the music industry abandoning them) was the fact that I volunteered at Marshall University's radio station (WMUL) and did my own ska and reggae show which netted me a massive amount of free music, almost all of it on cd.

It wasn't until more than a decade later that I gave into getting an mp3 player of which I went through several cheap ones until I ended up with an Ipod by chance and luck. Armed with the Ipod I now listen to a variety of podcasts without having to do very much to receive them freely and easily. Finding good podcasts is another matter however and I've searched high low to find them and am still searching for one to play my kind of music. I guess that means I'll have to do one of my own to find happiness on that front.

My first computer was acquired very cheaply around 1998 by a friend at Marshall's bi-annual sale of all computerized things old and obsolete. Remarkably it had a 2 gig hard drive and once I hooked up my telephone modem I was in business. A horrendously slow business but at least I was catching up with the world. This past December I finally got a laptop which has let me be free to roam and leech what free wifi I can find as I continue in my quest to become a better writer. It amazes me to think that about 20 years ago it would have taken a room full of hard drives linked together to do what a smartphone does today. They are no longer just for making telephone calls and instead are little computers really that you can take videos and post them on the internet or have a video conference while downloading music or buying concert tickets while talking to your friends. I shudder to think where we'll be in 5 years at the pace that technology is moving.

Still, I can't help that things were better when we didn't have all of this technology. We weren't so hung up on instant gratification and had more patience. Plus I didn't have to hear the conversation that the person in front of me in the checkout line was having with their friend about why so and so is a piece of crap jerk and needs to go away or why their mother is wrong for not allowing them to have sex with multiple partners. Back then people were so much less likely to share their pathetic lives with the general public and I have to admit that I do miss those days. Do I miss them so much that I'm ready to give up on technology completely and revert to my old form? Let's not be too hasty here. It's just interesting to remember what life used to be like, if only for a little while. Who am I kidding? I love it all and wouldn't give it up for anything. It's too much of a part of my life now to go back.

Published by Don Leach

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