Can you imagine a world with no digital technology? A world without texting, cable, Dish network? A world where Apple is only a snack food? No tablet, netbook, notebook, or even desktop? Can you imagine a world like that? Well, I have been there, spent many years there, even. It’s called… The Past.
What Was it Like?
First, it is easier to say what there was not, and then go on to what there was. There was: no digital revolution, no email, no texting, no cell phone, no internet, no wireless anything. Nor was there cable television or satellite dishes. There was technology but it wasn’t digital, and digital technology is what has changed the world so much in the last 40 years.
What WAS There?
I grew up in the middle of New York State, just 11 miles from the very center of the state. Technology was not high on the list of ‘new things’ there. Until the middle of First Grade, we lived in a “hamlet”- a group of homes with one store and one gas station on a stretch of two lane blacktop road between two “40 MPH” signs. All told, my hometown then had about 120 living souls. We moved to another hamlet, maybe twice as large. They had sidewalks! That was ‘technology’ to me, at that point. How could I have thought of walking around texting someone in Iraq? Today I do that!
Our telephone was a land line. No, not a cordless. Technology then had gotten as far as a wired-to-the-wall landline. It was also a party line: 5 homes shared the one line, in the same way that 5 individuals would share one landline in a single home. Party line means you had to take turns using the line. Rather than a family member picking up in the middle of your private conversation, it would be a neighbor doing the same thing. It wasn’t a matter of using your ‘indoor voice’ or not using your ‘cellphone’ voice. Who then would imagine wireless headsets that let you mistakenly enter into conversation with someone who is NOT talking to you! But our parents did play cards with the neighbors weekly.
Our first TV set was not a flat screen. Not digital. Not color. Not even cable-ready! Our first taste of video technology was a black and white 13″ tube-not-transistor-or-chip television set, loaned to us when I was in kindergarten. It was on loan to our family by our grandparents who were leaving New York to spend the winter months in Florida. For programming, we had 3 channels to choose from. Yep, we weren’t stuck with just one channel! But all three channels went off the air at midnight! Who was up any later anyway? Who would have thought about three hundred channels and most of them on all night! But we did play board games and hide and seek!
Other Technology Differences: Airplanes, Interstates, Microwaves, Frozen food
When was the last time you got on an airplane? In those old days, air travel was for the very well off (not us!). The first Boeing 707 was ‘rolled out’ on May 15, 1954. But even in the 1960s, most air travelers were wealthy people or business people on expense accounts, who flew repeatedly. Hence the term “Jet Set”. I personally did not board an airplane until 1969, a year before high school graduation. I flew alone from New York State to Seattle, WA, to visit friends. It was not at all the norm, even then, especially flying alone.
But driving there would have been even harder. GPS? Nope, not enough satellite technology to make it worth it. Cross country driving was what ‘hippies’ did-maybe!-and even then not until the late 1960’s. Why? Lack of non-electronic technology. That is, there was no Interstate Highway System! President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, when I was four years old. Today, of course, every item we buy has been on the Interstate System at some point.
And microwaves? The first one, just before I was born, was almost six feet tall, weighed 750 lbs and cost around $5000! The one I use now cost us $20 second hand and my wife carried it home from the yard sale. Things have changed with technology.
So, yeah, I guess things have changed some, as far as technology is concerned. Some for the better, for sure. The funny thing? People haven’t changed much at all. Oh, in little ways on the outside, but where it matters… people are still just people.