This week we are discussing if we remember how life was before everything was electronic and portable.
Boy, do I!
No young person can imagine how hard it was to communicate over distances before express mail, email, instant messaging, cheap phone communications or Skype and the like. I fact, when I was a kid and read Dick Tracy cartoons, (look it up if you are too young to know of what I speak!), I never believed that his “two-way wrist radios”, (where they saw the person speaking as well as heard their voice), could ever come to be.
Well, I was pretty wrong about that! As much as I’d like to talk about how technology has improved my life, we touched on that topic previously. I will go back in time, although to many of you, I AM back in time. I seem to be always two-three steps behind, tech-wise.
I missed last week’s post because my PC got zapped from a power surge and I felt lost at sea. Had it not been for my computer and the Internet, I would not know the lovey people here nor be writing with them, but I would be writing.
A few things about ‘the olden days’ stick out in my mind. For instance, we didn’t have copiers.
My mother had a ‘photostatic copy’ of my sister’s birth certificate. She had to send away for it and it was in reverse; back with white lettering and the print was fuzzy. I was fascinated by it . The schools mad ‘mimeograph’ machines that also made fuzzy copies, the ink came off on and they stank. I never would have dreamed I’d have a copier right next to me that would make crisp, clean copies of anything I want.
I had a demanding First Grade teacher. She went through all of the classes and took the students she felt had the most potential. Not only would we not have been allowed calculators,(had they existed), we were not, at the time, allowed erasers. You goofed, you started all over. No word processing here!
In the late 1980s my husband was teaching in a small , private academy, working part time for a grocery chain,( mostly for us to have health-care benefits), when he re-enrolled in his alma mater for one class; his college was one of the few which demanded a thesis for a Bachelor’s degree and he not done one. We saw very little of him for many months and although I tried to help him put it together, I had never taken typing classes. We didn’t have a computer or a word processor, but we did buy an electronic typewriter with memory and spell-check. It saved us for the drafts, although a friend with a computer polished the finished product.(And my husband got an “A”). FYI; I have developed a pretty effective 3-finger-on-each –hand typing method on my own over the years by using computer keyboards.
We had nothing like video games when I was a kid. We had four channels on the TV and I watched plenty, but I read more. I seem to have lost things that I wrote as a kid. I never showed them to anyone; I was too shy. I barely showed the teachers what I had to write for school. Under that pressure, though, they weren’t very good.
But one ‘writing’ I did for myself that I thought I might show one day was a cartoon that consisted of mostly stick people. I had gotten a pen that wrote in gold ink and was inspired to do a story: The Golden Potato. (Probably because I could not draw well and a potato was easy!)At any rate, I placed the story in Idaho and it involved a boy who lived on his uncle’s potato farm, where he found …well, I bet you could guess. Anyway, bad men stole it, it was retrieved and quite a story went on in between. However, since I did only one word of dialogue in very few scenes,(I know I used“Hey!” a number of times), when I looked at it years later, I had no idea what was really going on most of the time…I simply didn’t remember nor did I leave myself enough clues in the sparse pictures.
Not in my wildest dreams at that time would I guess that many years later I would actually move to Idaho, right smack in the middle of potato country!
I was bored beyond belief.
I have mentioned before that I took a minor award in a prestigious songwriting contest and Idaho was the reason; I had nothing better to do and my sister got me started on songs, which she liked to write. Idaho is inspirational that way. If you don’t believe me, Roger Miller wrote his huge hit, “King of the Road” while bored out of his gourd in Idaho.
I also wrote incredible letters while there, most of them to my husband-to-be. We had a friendship and a rocky romance before I moved 1,700 miles away to Idaho. While he was ‘in the neighborhood’ to attend a job interviews in Denver, he came to see me and we realized that we belonged together. However, he went back to Northern Virginia for several months…back when long-distance phone calls were expensive.
To try to catch each other during ‘off-hours,’ when calls were cheaper, (between 11 PM and 7 AM), was really difficult with the time zone differences, so we wrote.
The calls got very expensive when we moved to Kentucky, ten years after my family had followed me to Denver. But my mother put it all in perspective. As I was leaving with my children, she said to me. “This is hard,[letting me and my children move away], but I keep thinking of my own grandmother. She had to let my mother leave for America with grandchildren that she would never see again, and knew there would be more she would never see. There only were a few letters that would come in from her. We will see each other; we can call.” And we did;(AT&T stock must have skyrocketed at that point), and she moved here a few years later.
Can you imagine how many letters got lost, how many people lost touch, how many misunderstanding there have been for that very reason?
My mother had seldom called her own mother because of the expense, even though we were only a couple of states away. When I would visit the relatives in her home state, she could only give an occasional call, and sometimes, she’d have to go through an operator, making it more expensive.
We missed many calls, even the ones from my brother as he was leaving for Viet Nam. It was hard on us all. (I have access to my kids no matter where they are. I love that.) We missed many opportunities by not being right by the phone. Considering my current family situation, I would be stuck at home waiting by the phone, if we lived back then. I remember looking for pay phones, hoping I had change and that the person I was calling was available to help when I was stuck or in need of help .It was terrible. I am glad those days are gone.
On a lighter [musical] note, I remember keeping the radio on and waiting until a favorite song came back around, (they played them in order quite often), and trying to make out the words…I am often surprised while listening to the oldies station with good speakers and digitally remastered versions today to find that I had lyrics wrong for decades! I enjoy hearing oldies, those were seldom played when rock was in its heyday.
Are we ‘slaves’ to technology? I may well have gotten more written if I didn’t visit blogs and go on Facebook as much, but on the other hand, would I be writing as much or in as many different genres? I doubt it very much indeed. I get support and inspiration online that I never would have foreseen.
Waiting to hear by mail about submitted writings, having to write it all before even getting it considered, was very hard and time-consuming. Now, having access to more writers, publications and publishers is beyond belief.
But to be honest, I miss a few things that I found easier, although low-tech. I truly enjoyed looking in the library card catalogs so much more than I enjoy using their computers! In fact, although I do enjoy the comparison shopping and convenience of ordering online, I really miss real catalogues about as much as I prefer physical books.
Is there anything low-tech that you prefer?