Can’t stand technology sometimes, but can’t seem to live without it
By Jeff Salter
We’re blogging this week about technology — I suppose to assess both the good and bad. The specific question is “Do you remember how life was BEFORE everything was electronic and portable?”
Yes, I remember life before electronics
As one of the Foxes mentioned this week, I remember when transistor radios first came out and everybody thought, “WOW, you don’t have to plug it into the wall. That means you can take it with you!”
I grew up with one household telephone, on the wall just outside the kitchen and everybody in the house could hear every word you said. And that was AFTER we got off the party line!
I learned to type on a manual typewriter and one of my first paying jobs (work on a small daily newspaper) was with a manual Royal desk model.
I remember television from an antenna on the roof… when we got two stations (CBS and NBC) from New Orleans and occasionally could tune in a very fuzzy ABC affiliate from Baton Rouge.
I remember life before photo-copiers. Yeah, the old carbon paper and onion skin routine… and erasing your mistakes on each copy. And back then, we used 3 X 5 note cards to record info from books.
I remember when nearly all batteries (except for vehicles) were either D cell or C cell — plus those big bricks called 6-volts. I remember when re-chargeable batteries first emerged on the retail market. I thought, “Wow, I’ll never have to buy a battery again.” Well, that turned out to be bogus — I’m always buying batteries and yet I’m always out of the size I need. And now they come in 30 different sizes.
I remember when encyclopedias, dictionaries, reference books, and catalogs all were in hard copy only… and you either had to own them or go where they were available.
For consumers, the biggest marvel was electronic storage and memory. Imagine having a full-length novel manuscript and being able to make a few changes and print out an entirely new version… without re-typing every single word and punctuation mark!
E-mail connected people within minutes instead of having to wait 3-4 days for sent mail to be delivered and for reply mail to be received.
What I DON’T like about technology
I don’t like having to create and remember 14 different passwords… and (at some places) having to change them every six months.
I don’t like faulty databases that nobody can fix “because they’re automated.” Most of the credit card companies check their account names and addresses against a master list run by the U.S. Post Office, supposedly. We live near a cemetery and its name is on the road with our house. Yet that official USPO database spells the name of our road “cemetary.” For the first five years I lived here, each month I sent a change of address with every bill I paid… along with a note explaining our situation and providing the correct spelling, “Cemetery Road”. For those few who did actually make the change, sometimes only after a phone call to customer service, it was switched BACK to the incorrect spelling the very next time that entity ran their account list against the post office database.
Problems that didn’t exist (to much degree) before technology allowed them
I don’t like hackers, spammers, phishers, identity thieves, or any of the other scummy vandals who ruin people, their credit, their reputation, and whatever else can be destroyed.
I don’t like cyber bullies – of whatever age or location – who, with the relative anonymity of technology, can stalk, harass, intimidate, and terrorize relatively helpless people.
What I DO like about technology
Mileage is a lot better now (than with the old mechanical carburetors)…
Most electrical appliances are more energy efficient than they were a generation ago…
Digital TV is much higher quality than analog…
Cable internet is much faster than dial-up…
Thumb-drives (or, if you prefer, flash drives) are much more portable, have far greater storage capacity, and can be used in many more applications than floppy discs ever could…
Battery-powered tools (like saws and drills) are just as powerful (or more) than the kind with cords… and they can go a lot farther than the kind tied to your wall.
I like being able to check the real-time score of an on-going ballgame… rather than waiting until the next morning’s newspaper.
Good and bad
The internet has allowed society to put everything on-line. That means EVERYTHING. All the ugliness, hatred, violence, and exploitation is right at our fingertips… along with the digitized Bibles, art masterpieces, literary classics, and architectural wonders of the world.
Digital publishing has transformed what can be published and purchased. It’s become possible for writers who otherwise might never have broken through the gatekeepers to see their material released. Yet is has also flooded the book marketplace with a lot of really inferior text.
Traditional print magazines and newspapers are rapidly dwindling in usefulness and timeliness… yet we now have access to hundreds / thousands of sources of information and it’s often up to the minute.
Sometimes, I am appalled at the amount of time I spend “networking” on Facebook, email, and Twitter. Yet, these technological marvels have allowed me to reconnect with friends and loved ones, and have provided opportunities to meet wonderful new friends and colleagues. They also let me to keep apprised of developing situations.
I like the convenience and portability of a personal cell phone… but I hate how complicated and unyielding they are.
If the national grid had gone down during the 1930s, probably half of the nation would not even have been aware of it. If that happened in the 1950s, we would’ve been without radio or TV or traffic lights for a few days perhaps – and my mom would’ve tossed the few perishables in a cooler chest with ice – but nearly everything else could have gone forward. But if an electro-magnetic pulse goes off over North America NOW and fries every circuit and wipes every byte of memory storage, what will happen to us?
What do you remember about pre-technology?
[ JLS # 274 ]