Friday, July 6, 2012

Technologically Sound


I am not yet thirty years old, but today I feel ... old. Ancient and crotchety, actually.

Here's the thing: so much has changed within the last three decades that its almost impossible to imagine going back. And yet we lack awe.

Let's start with one of the coolest advances in daily convenience: cell phones. I have distinct memories of some of the first mobile phones -- they were permanently attached to vehicles because they required a power source, which was provided by the cigarette lighter (er, what are they called now? power point?). And they were amazing. Imagine! A phone you took with you!

Heck, do you remember the first cordless phone your family had? Wasn't it awesome? You could suddenly hide in your room (which, if you were like me, didn't have its own phone) no matter where you originally picked it up.

It's not just phones, of course. Do you remember the TV that was in your house when you were a kid? Did it have a remote? (We had two -- one had a remote. One had a dial. With thirteen channels.) The thing is, that TV lasted years. I think it's still in the basement, and it still works.

How about pen pals? I had several over the years. It took up to two weeks for a letter to reach one of them.

Remember when, in order to build the Burj Khalifa out of Legos, you would have needed several special "beach" sets to get the right pieces? And a healthy imagination, given that there was no Burj Khalifa twenty years ago. Now, it's part of their "Architecture" line.

Remember your first Walkman? Discman? CD player of any kind? Your pile of mix tapes?

Remember your family's first computer? 5-1/4" floppy disks? "Oregon Trail"?

Do you remember the transitions? Your first "designer" set of Legos? The first time Mom sent her cell phone with you because you had pep band and the weather looked sketchy? The first phone you had that you didn't turn on if you weren't using it because otherwise the battery wouldn't last? The first time you used Windows? Do you remember just how awesome all of these things were?

Remember school lessons using laser disc?

Remember the first car you drove with cruise control? Forget GPS -- cruise control didn't come standard for a long time.

Remember the first time you burned a CD?

Waiting three days for your vacation pictures to be developed, only to find that the camera had popped open in your suitcase and overexposed an entire roll? (For that matter, budgeting your film because you only had so many rolls with you?)

Filling out job applications awkwardly at the counter of the local establishment? The first time they sent you to the website to find it instead?

Somewhere, somehow, we stopped being impressed. When did we just absorb it all? When were things no longer surprising? When did talking to someone with only your thumbs become potentially life-threatening? (And why do we insist on doing just that in our cars all. The. Time?! Where are our survival instincts?!) When did your phone ringing in the middle of a restaurant cease to be really, really embarrassing?

How is it we're not baffled every day by all of this?

It's not just nostalgia, folks. We've witnessed an entire digital revolution and somehow -- somehow -- we've managed to take it all in stride. IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE. Yet here I am, typing this all up on a website with better word processing abilities than the first computer I used, frustrated with my laptop (and its Internet connection that I can pick up in any room, including as I recline semi-comfortably on a couch) because it took a whole five seconds to load the Blogger website.

I am not -- not -- here to rally against technology. I love it. I'm a blogger, for crying out loud. I love being able to type this from my living room. I love that in a little while, I'll write an electronic letter to my sister ten time zones away that she'll receive within seconds of me hitting "send." And then we'll arrange a phone call where a) we'll be able to see each other, and b) sound will appear to travel as fast as light.

That wasn't even truly feasible to a regular person fifteen years ago.

How did we make these transitions? I'm sure it says something about our culture and it could even be good. We're oddly accustomed to innovation. We even expect it. We welcome it with open arms.

Of course, there's that odd dependency thing, too. Have I always carried my phone with me everywhere I go? No. Can I imagine leaving it at home now? No.

We expect things to perform at levels that no one could have predicted even twenty years ago ... and then we complain about not having our flying cars yet.

We see things that look like pure sorcery every day when maybe we should be struck dumb with the fact that we can look up movie times a week in advance while sitting in a restaurant. From our phones.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to find a plain paperback book and a lawn chair and go sit outside, away from my laptop and the cable television. I may even leave my cell phone inside.

1 comment:

Andi said...

If you get the economy rental car, cruise control still isn't standard...