The ironic part about this article is that I don’t have to be a senior citizen to recall a “life before technology.” In fact, the greatest degree of change has been in the past decade, not from when I was a child. Yeah, we had some quaint stuff from when I was a kid, but it can’t compare with the changes we’ve experienced in the last ten years.
For instance, when I was a kid we had phones that had spiral cords that connected the headset to the telephone, and a finite length of telephone cord that connected the phone to the wall. There was none of this galavanting about the household while talking to a neighbor. You had perhaps 3″, which, if you were a lucky teen, could manage to get you into either a coat closet or to the first step of the basement stairs for some small degree of privacy.
And, if you were on the telephone and someone tried to call your family’s telephone number, they got a “busy signal.” This signal persisted until you hung up the telephone. There was no such thing as “call waiting” or the ability to leave a voicemail. Jeez, at this point, there weren’t even answering machines to leave messages on when no one was home to even answer the telephone.
At both grandmothers’ homes we were treated to what we considered the recreational activity of “a party line.” Why else would it be named thus if we weren’t implicitedly invited to listen in to the conversations?
To finish out my childhood media experience, we had a television with two VHF channels and one UHF station – the fuzziness of the picture being adjusted periodically by physically twisting a roof antenna. Television began at perhaps 5 AM and ended sometime shortly after midnight with a washed-out photograph of an American flag and a recording of The Star Spangled Banner. Then the screen went black.
The common denominator to these two types of media and communication is that they were limited. They stopped at a certain time or were tethered in such a way as to be limited to one place.
Thus, we left our homes – and the telephone (singular, as in one per family) – behind, trusting that should anyone try to call in our absence, they’d call back again after we got back home. We had dinner and returned home and watched TV until Mom or Dad sent us to bed. There was no incentive to try and stay up until 2 AM for some forbidden movie to begin.
Media now – the cell phones, cable TV and now the PC – ensure that we’re almost never out of the web. We rarely get a “disconnect” and are almost unnerved now by the experience.
Have you seen my iPhone?