Technology in My Lifetime
It’s amazing to reflect on the technology I’ve encountered in my lifetime. I think back to my childhood when I’d go with friends to the mall arcade and play Galaga and Pac-Man. Most of my friends and I owned Atari back then. We’d play Frogger and Donkey Kong for hours on end.
By the time I was in middle school I had a 13-inch TV and a phone in my bedroom. So I had my own space to watch TV and call girls. But privacy was limited in those days: if anyone else in the house wanted to make a call, they’d pick up another phone and suddenly interrupt the conversation. My parents and brother shared the phone line, so someone usually had to wait to use the phone. It was an exercise in patience, and communication with peers was neither immediate nor constant.
The 13-inch TV worked long enough for me to bring it to college in 1990. I remember watching Cheers in my dorm room and the early years of The Simpsons in the recreation room with other freshmen. My freshmen year in college was the first time I wrote a paper using a computer. It was also the year I began using e-mail, mostly to send notes to my new girlfriend.
I kept in touch with people from high school by writing letters and postcards. It was a way of saving money because most phone calls then cost extra for being “long distance.” It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I bought my first compact disc--so long, cassette tapes! Grunge and hip-hop were the music of the day. Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg were favorites on campus and in bars.
None of us had cell phones, so social life was usually unplanned. Although I could reasonably guess where I could find my friends if I wanted to meet them, there was no way of being sure where people were hanging out. Plans you made earlier in the day often changed. So a lot of times you just showed up at a house party or bar and hoped to see familiar faces.
I got my first computer in 1995 and brought it with me to graduate school. I began using the Internet on a regular basis, but the web was only a baby then. I have no recollection of favorite websites in those days, and surfing the web took forever because there weren’t high speed connections. By the time the 1990s ended, I still didn’t have a cell phone.
Fast forward to 2011. It’s hard for me to grasp all the technology we have in the 21st century. Aside from television, Facebook is probably the most powerful technological force in my lifetime. It’s incredible to me that people document their lives on Facebook. I watch in amazement from a distance; I still don’t have a Facebook page.
I have enough distractions in my life (television being at the top of the list) so I’ve avoided Facebook. But I definitely understand its appeal. Facebook seems to be proof that we truly are social beings. We thrive on being connected to others and being part of a crowd. People can’t wait to share their latest picture or status update. Whenever my wife tells me to look at something interesting on her Facebook page, I see my peers posting pictures of their children and offering every little detail of their lives. Facebook really has blurred the line between front-stage and back-stage. And Facebook has already secured an important part in history, especially if we consider the part it played in the recent uprising in Egypt. An Egyptian family even named their baby Facebook in recognition of the site’s role in the protests.
We also have the bizarre world of Twitter. I’m not sure what to make of Twitter, but if I had to explain it to someone from another planet, I guess I’d say celebrities seem to love it and everybody (famous or otherwise) has a chance to broadcast their thoughts or whereabouts in 140 characters or less. I use Twitter to post links to songs that I like (or old pop songs that amuse me, like this one) and to try to say something clever once in a while.
On a daily basis I take advantage of technological luxuries like a flat screen television, a cell phone, the netbook I used to produce this blog, and satellite radio. I can’t remember the last time I bought a newspaper; I read my news online. I don’t spend a lot of time in bookstores because almost any book I could ever want is available at Amazon.com. Instead of going to record stores, I use iTunes. I used to go to Blockbuster to rent videos; now I get them through Netflix.
I often think about what’s coming next with regard to technology. What are the future forms of communication? How will technology continue to change the ways we interact? How will it influence what we consume? How will it influence our work? What will be the next Facebook? The next YouTube? What comes after Skype? What will replace text messaging? How big can televisions get, anyway? How small can computers get? How fast can they make the Internet?
Most of us have no clue about the answers to these questions, but anyone reading this blog surely is impacted by technology. How is technology a force in your life? Do you always embrace it or try to limit its power? Finally, how do you imagine it will change in your lifetime?