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Couple of Decades Make.
A week ago was my fifty-something birthday. I’m not being coy about my age, god knows when your four-year proclaims, ‘my Papa is really old’ to her twenty-something swim teacher, there is nothing left to be coy about. I just would rather not give out my exact age out of some overly paranoid fear that someone will be able to trace things to the real me.
But, being half a century old (and then some) I tried to remember what it was like when I was only a quarter century old (and then some). Twenty-five years ago was a long time ago, I know, but on some level, I don’t feel much older than the person I was twenty-five years ago. I should. I mean I look older. I am older, I’ve had all those experiences over the past two and a half decades, but I don’t think I feel as old as I used to think a fifty something year old would be. I’m probably deluding myself, I know.
One thing that is undeniable is things have changed in those years. Twenty-five years ago there were no cell phones, iPhones, iPods or iPads. Music was still mostly played on cassettes, especially if you wanted it to be portable. The Discman was invented but cost outrageous sums of money and then didn’t work so well because the music would skip as you walked. That meant we used a Walkman. Imagine how primitive it was to be limited to the radio or one single cassette tape of music when you went to the gym, out running or were on the metro?
Remember long distance calls? Right? Before people had cell phones with their portable numbers, long distance was a big deal. It cost a lot of money to call people far away. Hell, you had to be careful you didn’t call someone in your area code that wasn’t in your calling zone, or else you paid for that too. How primitive.
If you were out, somewhere, no one could reach you. Not even with a text. They had to leave you a message, at home, on an answering machine. And you’d have to wait until you got home to check on it. (Well you could call your machine and listen to them remotely assuming you were in the same calling zone or else you’d pay long distance fees.) Imagine that. You were detached from everyone except those around you.
Speaking of phone calls, ‘lil q asked to call her grandmother this week. To her, a call means you see grandma on the iPad or if you must, over the radio in the car. Try giving her the phone and say ‘talk to grandma.’ She’ll look at you like you lost your damn mind. Calls at home require you see who you’re talking to. It’s all she’s ever known.
Another interesting thing from a four-year old’s perspective, she doesn’t understand the concept of network—or cable—TV. She knows videos. On the iPad. That she can choose what she watches and when. Sure there are commercials that you can skip after a couple seconds, but if she’s watching a show on the TV, she tells us to pause it and she’ll come back to it. Fortunately we have a DVR and we can record shows, but what would she do twenty-five years ago when if she wanted to watch the rest of her show, we had to find a blank VHS tape, switch on the VCR, find the channel she was watching and then hit record. Our dinner would be cold by the time we finished, but she’d be able to see her show—maybe.
Did you know that the World Wide Web wasn’t available to the public twenty-five years ago? It wasn’t, not until August of 1991 at least. (Okay so twenty-five and three months, but it’s not twenty-five years ago today.) But what did it matter? There was nothing on the web to surf. Most of us were still using DOS. You remember that crazy operating system which ran on monochrome screens, and had floppy disc to hold information and you had to remember which backslash letter to use to get the system to do what you wanted. Microsoft came out with that brand new system of DOS 5 in 1991.
Or how about Airbags? They were first introduced twenty-five years ago. I remember Dana Carvey doing his “Grumpy Old Man” skit on Saturday Night Live and talking about how when he was young, they didn’t use no fancy seat beats. If they braked hard, they went flying through the windshield. (That was actually twenty-six years ago, but here’s a link to the skit if you want to see it. A Grumpy Old Man.) Now they’ve got driver, passenger, and side airbags. All you need to worry about is powder burns.
Most people bought coffee in a can—Maxwell House or if you were rich you bought the premium Folgers. Starbucks was around then, but it wasn’t common and it wasn’t synonymous with coffee like it is now.
I could go on, because lord knows there are a slew of things we take for granted now that didn’t exist back then, but I’ll leave with this last one. There was no Facebook, blogs, eBooks, ePublishing. ‘Social Media’ didn’t exist, there was Google because there was nothing to google. In short, I probably wouldn’t know 99% of you reading this post. That alone makes progress worth it. Even if I do harken back to the ‘good old days’ now and again.
~Andrew Q Gordon
About Andrew Q Gordon
Andrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting with technology, he now takes his MacBook somewhere quiet when he wants to write.
He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his partner of twenty years, their young daughter and dog. In addition to dodging some very self-important D.C. ‘insiders’, Andrew uses his commute to catch up on his reading. When not working or writing, he enjoys soccer, high fantasy, baseball and seeing how much coffee he can drink in a day.
On his website: www.andrewqgordon.com,
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/andrewqugordon,
On Twitter: @andrewqgordon,
Or just email him: email@example.com
Ashes of Life
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