October 27, 2015

I will not be Old

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 6:31 am

Annals of obsolescence

This distinction isn’t as widely understood as it should be. Most new technologies make our lives easier without changing them other than superficially. The compact disc, for example, was a convenience, not a revolution. Unlike the iPod, it didn’t alter our relationship to the world of music. The answering machine, by contrast, really did transform the way in which we used the telephone by making it possible to screen incoming calls. As soon as that possibility became a reality, the place of the telephone in daily life underwent a profound change, and never changed back.

Not everyone is open to such change. Sooner or later each generation comes to a great technological divide, a chasm that most of its aging members are unable or unwilling to cross. For my mother, who was born mere weeks before the Great Depression, that chasm was the invention of the personal computer. She owned an answering machine—I bought it for her—but she never screened her calls, nor did she learn how to use a computer. When the PC became a routine part of American life, she was officially old. The world had passed her by.

The author and I are kind of in the same boat, roughly the same age, and we’ve noticed the same things. I recall when I first wrote something on a computer — actually, with a halfway decent word processor (WordPerfect 5.1, which roooooolz) — and I thought that it changed everything. I could cut and paste text! I could delete it completely! NO MORE WHITEOUT! I didn’t do too much writing on a typewriter, to be honest. I guess in college I did some papers on one, but I don’t remember spending a whole lot of time on them. But I adapted to computers and the Internet easily.

I also adapted to iPods (and the like) and smart phones, although I took my time with those because frankly I didn’t really need one until I started doing CRM. Nowadays I text like a sumbitch. I adopted Facebook and blogging, but not Twitter or Instagram. I happily read books on an iPad. I have, however, promised myself (or perhaps it never occurred to me) that I shall never Act Old. I am not going to be one of those people who have no clue about [insert modern technology here]. I may not use them all, but I’m not going to be stuck in the comfortable past.

Interesting observation also on how certain technologies change the way we do things, as opposed to just making incremental changes to things we already do. You can apply this to the past, obviously. Ceramics, when being made as maybe heating stones, didn’t really change anything, but once people started making vessels out of them it opened up a whole new range of activities. I’m sure some archaeologist somewhere has come up with a whole terminology for this. . . .

1 Comment

  1. Come term paper time, a lot of women who hadn’t been getting a lot of attention to that point became popular. Many of them could type.
    Quicker to type your own letter than dictate it to a stenographer.
    I don’t Twitter. I use facebook to make sure I congratulate an old friend whose kid got into college or out of prison or something. But I don’t tell people what I had for breakfast, nor opine on somebody else’s choice of corn flakes. Somebody said facebook is the hugest invention in history that never made any difference.

    Comment by Richard Aubrey — October 29, 2015 @ 5:50 pm

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