Life Before Today’s Technology
Sometimes I wonder how I ever got along in “the old days” without all the gadgets and technological advances I now have at my disposal. I’ve tried to remember how life was before microwave ovens and cable TV, before cell phones and the Internet. But other than recalling specific events or moments, it’s downright impossible to separate the present from the past. That’s how insidious all these advances were, for there always seemed to be some unspoken reason why we just HAD to have them.
Growing up during the 1950’s, I often watched as my father lit the oil stove in the kitchen. Not only did it serve as our only source of heat, it’s also what my mother cooked all our meals on. Only during the hot summer months was that stove ever allowed to go out, at which time she’d switch to a hot plate to prepare what few hot foods we cared to eat in hot weather. Had anyone said the words “microwave oven” to my mother in those days, she would have looked at him or her as though he or she had two heads.
The same held true for television. My father brought our first new set home in 1955, when I was 5. It was a big square dark brown metal box that sat on a swivel stand and sported a jaunty antenna attached to the back of the set by a wire. Watching TV in those days was quite a process. First, we’d have to wait until it warmed up, which meant staring dry-eyed as the black-and-white picture slowly manifested itself on the tiny domed screen. Next, we’d decide which of three channels we wanted to watch, and spent the next several minutes adjusting such settings as brightness, contrast, and horizontal and vertical hold, features that today all automatically adjust themselves without any input from the hapless viewer. By the time we got all of this done, whatever show we’d wanted to watch was nearly over, so we’d have to settle for whatever came after.
It takes an extended power outage now to remind me of what my life was like before it became possible for me to spend hours communicating with family and friends online and just how precious a cell phone can be when nothing else works. I shudder to think of hanging clothes outside in the winter to dry, or waiting a full 30 minutes for a TV dinner to bake in a conventional oven. When I think of all the time these new devices save me, I’m sometimes at a loss as to what to do with it. Then it hits me. I can check the cable TV listings and decide which of the 300 channels I’ll watch tonight.