Sometimes it’s hard to keep up. It seems just when we figure out the system, it changes. I was reminded of this thought recently when I looked through a box of old family photos. Life was hard for our ancestors. Cooking, cleaning, child rearing, working the land, making a living, maintaining a car were all difficult. During their lifetimes, many people witnessed travel transition from horse and buggy to owning their first automobile and observing the first commercial flights. It is fun to think about all the change they experienced. Then I thought about my own life. Even though I consider myself still “young,” (well kind of young), I too have experienced a great deal of change. When explaining a childhood experience to my own children and grandchildren, they look at me with confusion. To them, life in the 60’s is somehow co-mingled with the discovery of electricity and the biblical account of Noah’s ark. Although those of us who lived it know it was just a few short years ago!
My first experience with a microwave oven occurred at the county fair. I purchased a hot dog and watched with fascination as the refreshment stand attendant removed it from a small refrigerator, placed it in a magic box for 15 seconds and served it to me hot on a bun. I have no recollection of how that hot dog tasted, but I will always remember the first time I saw something cooked in a microwave. I thought we were surely on the brink of living just like the Jetsons! Flying cars couldn’t be too far away. I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my mother about the exciting invention I had witnessed first-hand at the fair!
The telephone in our living room during my childhood connected us to the world. It wasn’t the old wooden box with a crank we saw in movies or books, but a sleek, modern, rotary dial, black instrument that allowed us to speak directly to family, friends and businesses. Most of us had 3 or 4 digit phone numbers. Larger towns had word prefixes such as Crawford or Lakewood preceding their numbers. The rotary dial that connected us to friends and family continues to be a point of confusion for the under 40 crowd. Our son rode his bike to my Mom’s house on a Saturday morning in the early ‘80’s. I told him to call me when he got there just to check in. He replied stating he didn’t know how to use Grandma’s phone because it had some kind of wheel on it.
Then there are televisions. Who ever thought a TV would be slim and hang on the wall like a decorative picture? I recall the first tv I saw hanging on a wall. I thought it was somehow built into the wall and the workings were recessed into a wall cavity. I just could not understand it.
As life progressed, the list only lengthened of things I didn’t understand. Video conferencing, FaceTime and sending documents by FAX. I attended a school communications workshop in the early ‘80’s. The presenter demonstrated how we would soon be sending copies of school records over a phone line called a FAX. I scoffed a bit thinking about the many thick packets of school records I had mailed over the years. How could that ever work? How could a document be sent over a phone line? Then came the internet. My mind stretched again to the point of near collapse. Instant communication, text messages, conference calls, webinars and email would all add new methods to the way we communicated and conducted business. Along with all the change came new rules and protocols. We were in uncharted waters. Who among us hasn’t panicked when realizing we hit the “reply all” button when responding to an email?
Yes, life has changed a lot in my lifetime. I can check my bank balance on line without waiting to receive the monthly envelope of cancelled checks. I turn on my fireplace with a remote, check the contents of the refrigerator with my phone and start my truck in the parking lot with an app. I can transfer money or buy my wife a birthday present while waiting in the drive through line at the coffee shop. While sitting in my lounge chair, I can track the whereabouts of my family, check my heartbeat and see what day of the week I was born on some 60 plus years ago. Who would have ever guessed?
As I returned to that box of old family photos, I smiled thinking about the change witnessed by my parents and grandparents. My thoughts go back to my Grandma talking about her excitement when electricity was run to their house in the country. She said she felt so modern to be rid of kerosene lamps and actually have a bulb hanging in each room to light the way. Likewise, I continue to be amazed at the change I have witnessed in my lifetime. I can only imagine what technology and science will bring to our lives in the future. Will a time come when the modern technology of today will be considered, “old fashioned?” Who knows what the future will bring? I think I’d better buckle up-here come the Jetsons!