Thursday, October 16, 2014


I don't remember how exactly I got on the line of thinking; it just kind of happened.

When I was 10 years old, we didn't have cable TV. Cassettes were the latest and greatest, CDs and even videotape weren't around in any capacity yet, and video games were limited to arcades - certainly not anything in the home. We had radio stations, broadcast TV, and movies in the theater (and 187 years later when they came to broadcast TV).

About the only thing I had that my dad didn't have when he was 10 was cassette tapes. He had broadcast TV, radio, and movies in the theater. While I could go to a video arcade and play Space Invaders, he could go to the soda fountain and play a pinball game - pretty much a wash when it comes to the generations.

Well, my son's 13. Three years ago he was 10. Three years ago, we had a Blu-Ray player, a big-screen TV, MP3 players, OnDemand for movies, etc. Oh, and high-speed internet with pretty much all of recorded human history available at the push of a few buttons. Home computers - unheard of when I was a 10 year old, are so commonplace as to be unworthy of note. TVs are dirt-cheap, and we have literally hundreds of channels to choose from.

We have tiny computers capable of doing our banking, shopping, and basic human interaction living inside the phones we carry around for instant communication. My iPhone can do more than could the communicators in Star Trek - the 1960s vision of humanity many hundreds of years in the future. All of this is so readily available to my son that he thinks nothing of it whatsoever - it's part of the background (that's not to say he's not grateful for the things he has, mind you, just that it has always been a part of his life).

My dad brought home a VCR in the mid 1980s, probably 1983 or 1984. At the time, that was the most dramatic change in family dynamic I had ever seen. We could go to the neighborhood video store (what my son might think of as a giant RedBox), pick out a movie that had only 6 months prior been in the theater, and watch it in the privacy of our own homes. This was earth-shaking.

Friday nights would see us getting a couple pizzas at the local pizza place and renting a movie as a family. From National Lampoon's Vacation to Goonies to Indiana Jones, we watched the latest and greatest from Hollywood in our living room, on our own comfy couch, while eating popcorn we made for pennies. And we thought this was the single greatest thing that humanity had ever devised.

It's just weird that in the thirty years between my father and I, the biggest advance was in how we listened to music, whereas pretty much everything changed in the thirty years between my son and I. Had my father at age 10 been transported to meet me at age 10, not a heck of a lot would have surprised him. Sure, we had more than one TV, and the largest screen was a whopping 19 inches, but the basic device would have been familiar. Ditto the record player. While dad might have puzzled at the cassette tape, the basic concept would be familiar from a reel-to-reel device.

It would certainly be different for 10 year old me being transported 30 years in the future. The iPod Classic, smaller than the FM radio I thought was pure electronic magic in the early 1980s, can hold hundreds of hours of music with exceptional quality. TVs are larger, clearer, and more affordable now. We don't even need recorded movies - we can order them up through our cable TV service to watch literally any time we want. Need to research something for a paper? No need to run to the library and rummage through the card catalog; nossir, we just Google it.

It does make me wonder what my grandson's world is going to look like...

That is all.


skidmark said...

Not once in this post have you muttered "Get off my lawn" or "Pull up your pants".

To say I am disappointed is to damn with faint praise.

OTOH, I wait with bated breath the next steps in your devolution towards curmudgeonhood.

stay safe.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a conversation I had with the 20-something in my office last year. He had never heard of, nor seen a 'pay phone' and could not understand why we didn't carry cell phones way back then.
Even the changes in cell phones over the last 15 years is astounding.
--mrs. doubletrouble

Paul, Dammit! said...

As Mrs. DT pointed out, pay phones are an anachronism now. Walking into a convenience store when my kid was seven, he stopped and pointed at one, asking me what it was. When I told him, I got that dog-hearing-strange-noise cocked head look.

Now that he's older, last time we went into that same store, he pointed it out again and said that it was very nice of the store to keep a phone open for low-level drug dealers to do business. I got a giggle out of that. Who else uses them?

Dave H said...

I'm tempted to invent a pay phone that uses the pay-with-your-phone feature that Google and other corporate big brothers are promoting. I want to see if anyone gets the irony. Or if it catches on with drug dealers.

There's another change that's happened over the years. When I was a kid such people were called pushers, not dealers. I guess political correctness has come to the drug trade.

Ted said...

Not so much political correctness as it more accurate terminology.

Pushers are trying to grow their customer base. Where as Dealers are mearly servicing thier marketplace .

The war on drugs is over......... Drugs won

ASM826 said...

And you wrote this thoughtful post on how things have changed and posted it here for an audience that potentially includes anyone with computer access. 30 years ago, it would have been something you mentioned to a friend at lunch.

NotClauswitz said...

Still don't have Cable TV, but now we have color!

Stretch said...

Scene: S. King St., Leesburg, VA
Time: 2008
Walking to local diner I pass the payphone on the west side of the street. Young lad, maybe 5, is on the phone with mother standing behind him. He says:
"Dad, It's me! Mom is letting me use a 'pay phone' here. You put coins in and you can call places!"

I looked at his mother, she shrugged and said "He's never seen one before."

That pay phone is long gone. The only places I see them are Interstate rest stops, large truck stops, and bus/train stations.

David said...

My Grandmother took her first car ride when she was 18. She didn't own one until she was 35. Remodeled her house for an indoor toilet when she was 40. Got a phone in her house when she was 53. Rode in an airplane when she was 55. Watched the Apollo 11 moon landing on her black and white console TV when she was 63. Used a microwave oven for the first time when she was 83. Died when she was 92, we buried her with her walkman and her Frank Sinatra cassette. Talk about living through changes...

Anonymous said...

Your grandson will either be watching the music concert being performed on a life size 3-D Holotank in his moon habitat;
Listening to the traveling troubadour in a dirt floored public house by the light of lanterns and the fireplace.

Heath J said...

I read through all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books as a kid, and thought it was something that she lived through being a pioneer in a covered wagon, to automobiles and flight, to nuclear weapons and men in space.

Your post just made me think of that. And of the same family movie nights, renting a cassette and getting pizza. Good times.

Old NFO said...

Good one! I can remember three channels on the B&W TV, and Vietnam and the moon landings. Kids today have to look it up in the history books! I paid $300 for my first HP calculator, now you can buy a full up computer for less than that!!!

Angus McThag said...

It's going around. I posted something similar on the 13th.

Anonymous said...

Some of the stuff I miss is actual mechanical linkages for major car components. Throttle bodies, carburetors (I really miss those), brake linkages.

I miss being able to actually work on cars. Now, the ODB II code readers are nice and help with identifying the problem, but the brain boxes are a lot more complex and report out when something is slightly out of whack that has no impact to the operation of the vehicle. But anything electrical, I typically don't touch.

I remember sitting in the living room at 5 years of age, eating cookies, and watching the Watergate hearings on PBS.

Yeah, I'm not quite as old as some of you guys, but I'm getting there.

Joseph in IL