Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When I was Your Age

My youngest daughter (8-years old, soon to be 9) was asked by her teacher (at E.G. Lyons School in Randolph, MA) to write two paragraphs about what was different in her parents lives.  Since I was working she interviewed my wife, but I thought it would be interesting for this community to hear and think about our own responses.  Sort of a reverse Beloit College Mindset List.
  1. We had just got our first color TV, and we got 6 channels on it.  We didn't have to worry about hooking it up to a VCR or DVD player, Satellite Dish, or Cable because those things hadn't been invented yet.
  2. Telephone handsets had wires that connected them to the phone, and that was wired to the wall.  There were only two styles and a limited selection of colors.  We didn't have cell-phones.  Some families still shared phones with their neighbors.
  3. Maps were always on paper.  There was no such thing as a GPS.  In fact, the satellites used for TV stations (not home TVs) had barely been in use for more than a couple of years. The global positioning satellites wouldn't exist for another 20 years.
  4. Kids didn't have e-mail addresses.  In fact, even adults didn't have e-mail addresses.  The whole Internet thing, with e-mail, web-pages, Twitter, Facebook, Google and all that other stuff was at least 20 years away. People did not have computers, but some companies did.  I had to wait until I was twice your age to get one.  Mine had 16K of RAM and cost 3 times as much as your netbook.
  5. Candy was pretty cheap.  A candy bar cost a quarter and there was penny-candy that really cost a penny.
  6. Almost all recyclables went into the trash with all the other garbage (garbage disposals weren't popular, even though they had been around for decades).  Most recycling focused on aluminum cans and news-papers (which I collected from people on the last Saturday of the month as a way to raise money for boy-scouts).
  7. Oh yeah, we got the newspaper daily and the Sunday edition had color comics.  Most news came either from the paper, the TV or the radio: Not Twitter, the web, Google and Facebook, or Fox, CNN and Cable
  8. The Walkman (you'd think it was an old-fashioned iPod) hadn't even been invented yet.  We had portable radios for our music (if we were lucky), and we had to go to record stores (you know, those old-fashioned CDs) to buy recordings of music.  Cassette tapes were also available.
  9. My mother paid 0.55 for a gallon of gas.  That was during the first OIL crisis.  Before that she paid less than 0.40 for it. 
  10. My job didn't exist.  In fact, while the whole idea of the Computerized Health Record had been "invented" by a guy named Larry Weed before I was born, they still aren't used in many Doctor's offices (although they are in yours and mine).
Some of the things you still have:
  1. Instant Hot Cocoa, Frosted Lucky Charms, Captain Crunch, Pop Tarts, Peanut-Butter and Jelly and Wonder Bread, Marshmallow Peeps and snickers bars all existed when I was little.
  2. Milk still gets delivered by the milk man and comes from local cows.
  3. Skateboards.
  4. Motorcross bicycles.
  5. Libraries and Museums.
Looking back on this, what will you be able to tell your children a few decades from now.
  1. Displays used to be heavy and expensive, instead of thin, lightweight, and roll-away.  Every thing used to have its own display instead of working with any display in the house.  People had lots of computers because everything needed a dedicated computer instead of using the cloud.  My dad had at one point in time a computer for work, one for home, one for fun, a tablet, a cell-phone and a GPS, and a garage full of old stuff.  It was really hard to make computers understand people.  And we had to have PRINTERS!?!  Can you imagine all the paper they wasted?
  2. Light used to come from bulbs that had to be replaced every few months instead of being permanently installed and having to be replaced only when something went wrong.  And it took 100 times as much power to generate the same amount of light.
  3. I couldn't get my own inbox (e-mail address) because I was too little.
  4. A phone call overseas was expensive, and a video call not something most people did. 
  5. They used to have to pick up the trash once a week because we threw away so much stuff!
  6. Houses had to be connected to electricity by wires instead of mostly making their own.
  7. You used to have to go to a special office to get shots and stuff to keep you healthy.  The people that worked there saw you a few times a year and a lot of them still kept track of everything they knew about you on paper instead of just beaming it to you or getting you to beam it to them.  Can you imagine having to go to an office for the doctor to look at you?  Didn't they even know about telepresence?
  8. We had these things called cars that could hold 4 and sometimes even 8 people that we drove around in to get places -- and it used GASOLINE!
  9. They used to have these placed called libraries that stored tons and tons of books on PAPER!
  10. Most people never left their own country to travel.  It was too expensive and difficult and there were all these rules about places you could go and wars and stuff.
And for your kids:
  1. Instant Cocoa, lucky charms, pop-tarts, PBJ and all that stuff will still exist.
  2. Their milk will still come from the milk-man and local cows.
  3. Skateboards will still exist.
  4. Bicycles will still be around, but about half the weight and cost.
  5. The library will be a museum.


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