The other day we found a beautiful little program called Delicious Library, which lets us put a visual face on our expanding collection of digital (and some physical) media. If you haven’t seen it, and you have a Mac, you should definitely check it out.
It got me thinking though, as we used our Firewire camcorder to scan in and automatically index our books (via the bar code on the back) about the technology we grew up with and consider normal. Specifically I got to thinking about those things that seem common-place to us, but that Benjamin will probably view as antique and laughable as he grows up. Here’s the list I came up with…
Even CDs are starting to become irrelevant now, and cassette tapes are becoming almost as funny to look at as 8-track tapes. Yet, who reading this site doesn’t remember making a mix tape? Or listening to the radio with “REC + PAUSE” already pressed, ready to record if your current favorite song came on?
The thing with tapes is, as they get old, they retain none of their appeal. The old LP is still something of an art form. The large size lent itself to some really beautiful cover art, and although the technology is dated, the media is still pretty impressive in its reproduction of sound.
Tapes are little boxes full of metres of magnetic tape. They may have been ubiquitous, but looking back, they were never really that cool.
Almost hand-in-hand with cassette tapes is their big brother, the video tape.
I remember distinctly when the VCR was the pinnacle of home entertainment. Back then, the average middle class family couldn’t afford them yet, so when dad rented a VCR and Star Wars for us to watch at home on our own TV, that was a big deal.
But that was 20 years ago, and thankfully this old technology is finally disappearing. Does anyone still have a VCR at home? I know we got rid of ours a few years ago after not having used it for anything more than a TV tuner for ages.
Rotary Dial Phones
This might be going way back for some of you, but we know at least one person who still has a rotary dial phone in her house — she actually has to pay more money a month for “pulse” service now.
I remember how much it sucked if you realised, half-way through dialing, that you’d made a mistake and had to hang up and start again. There was no way to dial those things quickly, and if you tried you drastically increased your odds of making an finger-numbing error.
Thankfully the old rotary phone is almost completely gone now, and I can imagine that if Benjamin ever sees one, he’ll be completely astonished by it.
Remember chatting with your friends, tangled up in the long, springy cable of the kitchen phone? I’ll bet Ben won’t.
I’m going to go even further out on a limb here and predict that by the time Benjamin has his own place, getting a phone line installed won’t even be a consideration.
Already “cord cutters” threaten Ma Bell, and most younger people I know don’t even bother with a land line. Nicole and I had one briefly during our first year in the States, before Skype became viable for long distance, but otherwise haven’t had one for at least half a decade.
Game Controllers with wires
OK, this is going back to early VCRs, but I remember on Saturday afternoons if my dad had some work to do at the school, he would bring us in with him and let us in the Library where they had a VCR and a TV on a cart, with a whole bunch of educational videos we could watch. I remember this because the VCR had a remote control — on a wire. And that seemed cool to me at the time.
Its hard to believe that only one generation back, game console controllers all had wires. The technology has been around for ages — even the Atari 2600 had a (huge) wireless controller you could buy for it — but its only recently that wireless has become a requirement for most consumer tech.
Benjamin is fascinated with the XBox controller, and if we give him one without batteries, he loves pretending to play with daddy. I imagine that when he looks back at the video games I used to play he’ll be confused by the additional wires.
Computers without Internet
I mean really, how useful is a computer without Internet these days anyway? What can you do with it? Solitaire and Word Processing, maybe but you can’t chat with anyone while you do it!
Even a telephone without Internet is starting to seem a little backward.
I actually think this is pretty significant because my generation learned the two technologies separately. We had computers, and we conquered them, THEN we got Internet and learned that. It will be a few decades before my son is more comfortable with technology than his dad, but its weird to think that he’ll probably rarely experience a computer that isn’t connected to thousands of others. He’ll probably never know the significance of the “OS” war, or that different kinds of computers were, at one time, unable to exchange information with each other. A computer and the Internet will be inseparable concepts in his mind.
Now this is a slightly more risky prediction, but I’ll bet by the time Benjamin saves up for his first TV, the CRT will be completely dead.
For over 75 years, guns shooting light down a tube entertained us, but I’ll bet a big heavy TV will be a very laughable concept for our kids. Sure they might see them in Goodwill, or in old movies, but they’ll know them the way we know black & white televisions. Just some residual junk of the early days of TV.
In fact, it turns out that our 30″ tube TV is too heavy to move back home — the additional cost of moving it actually exceeds its current value. So it seems we’re going to have to jump on the LCD band-wagon before we go back to Canada (the land of over-priced electronics.)
1080p, 10000:1 contrast ratio, 3 HDMI ports, $600 off… twist my rubber arm…