As technological breakthroughs such as the cell phone and the home computer (not to mention the new fad that is the personal tablet) continue to expand, it seems our collective memories of the days before such marvels were available are fading quietly (and quickly) into obscurity.
My proof? The fact that your typical child – one between the age of six and 16 (or even 18) – no longer recognizes a rotary phone for what it is. Try to explain it to the youth of today and they immediately ask how one could possibly use (suffer with) such a device, considering the necessary cord that connects the handset (which you held to your ear and mouth) and the phone itself.
However, once it was explained that a person was forced to (gasp!) stand still while talking on the telephone way back in ... oh, say ... 1988 or so, the flood of questions really begins.
“What do you mean you had to stand still? You mean you couldn’t walk around while you were talking on the phone? What if you were in the car? How did you call anybody if you were driving to the store ... or dropping me off at school? How did you text with that rotary thing? Did it take a lot longer? It sure seems like it would take a lot longer to call someone, waiting for that rotary thing to spin back and forth.”
And don’t even get me started on answering machines. It seems that – with the advent of voice mail – the answering machine has also met with extinction, at least in the eyes of today’s youth.
As for me, well, I’m of an age that the days of the rotary phone – as well as both 8-track and record players, the VCR (remember BETA?), cassette tapes (remember the Walkman?) and the non-digital camera – don’t seem all that long ago. It’s the nature of the beast, however, when you consider the fact that the Baby Boomer generation has its own batch of now long-defunct technological wonders, such as color television (yes, kids, TV used to be in black and white ... all the time) and – of course – lava lamps.
None of this should come as any sort of surprise, really, when you think about it. In 1969, we first put a man on the moon. Now? Now it’s just a matter of time until we set foot on another planet, probably Mars. In 1924, a team of United States aviators became the first to circumnavigate the globe by air. In this day and age, that’s nothing. If you’re 15 years old, have your own boat and were raised to think you’re invincible, you can take a shot at crossing the globe all on your lonesome.
Which, by the way, is ... irresponsible, to say the least. Hell, I wouldn’t trust a 15 year old these days with parking the car, let alone traversing the globe by boat. Then again, the times they are a-changing, as Mr. Dylan would say.
The fact is, technology, as a rule, has a tendency to outpace even the most ambitious generation. Personally, I’m surprised someone hasn’t invented the all-in-one social networking device, one that’s surgically implanted somewhere near the frontal lobe of the brain. Such a device would include, of course, all of the cell phone and laptop (or tablet) technology one could ever need; immediate connections to one’s Facebook, Skype and Twitter accounts; not to mention a personal GPS and tracking device, MP3 player, camera and video/audio recorder.
My only question? With such a device, how does one go about texting? Then again, maybe texting, like the VCR, 8-track player and rotary phone before it, will be the next technological trend to fall by the wayside.
Now that I think of it, that, at least, wouldn’t be such a bad thing at all.
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