Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Some Things Kids Growing Up Today Will Never Understand

After the popular "Technology We Grew Up With: On its Way Out" post back in February, I received a slew of suggestions for other ways technology has differentiated today's kids' experiences from our own. It's pretty incredible to recount the swiftness of technological change over the last 20 years. Things have very quickly become significantly more convenient, but they're also aging us at an equally rapid rate. While in other generations our childhood technological experiences should be reasonably well-matched to those of children ten years down the road, our own are proving dated and obsolete after a short period of time. Pretty depressing, right?

Not necessarily, it turns out. Nostalgia for the disputably existent "Good Old Days" is a thriving marketplace of discussion, ably summed up in the thesis "Kids today just don't understand." Just 15 years ago, we were right there with DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince lamenting the lack of understanding among parents. How quickly the "just don't understand" tables have turned. Soon we may not even have the energy to rap about it.

Before we all turn into old coots grumbling about our simpler lifestyles, let's take some time to bask in the glow of our once taken-for-granted but now nearly obsolete pre-2000s technology experiences:

Being Out of Touch (unreachable by phone, text, implanted homing device, etc)

Gone forever are the blissful days of being dropped off by a parent at the mall or movies with a quarter (a quarter!) in your pocket for emergency purposes. Instead, today's kids have the added mischief-thwarting stress of cell phone GPS tracking and parents' persistent text messaging. We've all but pet-style micro-chipped our children, ensuring that parents know of their children's exact whereabouts at all time.

Getting Lost

I'll admit this still happens to me, but mostly because my on-hand portable technology is far behind the curve. For the majority of us, finding our way from point A to point B is as simple as inputting the destination address and letting a robotically polite voice do the guiding. Even the worst case technological scenario involves a printout from an online map service. It's tough to recall a time when we relied on the more primitive "Take a right on Main Street"-type directives scrawled on scraps of paper during a phone call.

Not Knowing who's Calling When You Pick Up the Phone

Once upon a time, you could lift a receiver with a flutter of hope and mystery regarding the identity of the person on the other line. Today, whether it's a potential date or the automated call service from CVS pharmacy calling to remind you of a prescription pickup, you know before even accepting the call. Where's the intrigue and allure in that?

Calling MovieFone

Imagine never having the joy of hearing the jovial deep intonations of the MovieFone guy. Sounds pretty sad, right? Now multiply that sadness times every child out there today who will never experience the joy of MovieFone. Sad, right? A little? Okay, fine, it's not a huge loss, but I'll miss it nonetheless. It's been real, MovieFone guy.

Looking Something Up in the Encyclopedia

Or better yet, looking something up on an encyclopedia CD-ROM. Before the days of the internet, this seemed like a high-tech research breakthrough. We could search for articles, watch videos, listen to sound clips...you know, like what we do now every day with the internet.

Back in the 90s, when we had a query, it was actually possible to come up empty on an answer. A frightening notion, really. There was no Googling to get us out of a quandary. We could go to the library or phone a friend, but failing those options we might actually have to have to write things off as a mystery. When I think of how frequently I type into Google a question about how to get my dog to sit still (positive reinforcement and/or high-grade tranquilizers) or why I'm tired all the time (possibly anemia but more likely daily caffeine overdose,) it's frightening to imagine a time when I'd be resigned to not immediately identifying an answer.

Not Being Able to Place an Actor or Actress
It used to be a source of frustration to see a moderately familiar face in a TV show, movie, or commercial and not remember the 37 other shows in which you'd previously seen that actor. The unanswered question would haunt you, hanging over your head and enshrouding you in a state of generally distracted confusion for days at a time. These days it takes minimal effort to access the internet and putz around for a few minutes on IMDB. Sure, you might learn something, but you're left with that cheap feeling of not really earning it.

Finding a Number in a Phone Book

You know, those moldy old books that get stacked up outside your house or apartment building when you never bother to bring them in out of the cold? After all, why should you? They serve a pretty limited function these days outside of killing a good chunk of our dwindling forest populations. Any and all relevant contact information can usually be found online. Also, there's no real need to speak to an actual person now that an email can serve in its rapid-response stead. Why talk to a human being when some passive non-confrontational typing will do?

Renting a Movie

Pretty soon, I imagine they will just beam a movie directly into our retinas. I can't imagine what other way they could elevate the convenience of watching movies at home. We used to peruse a local video store, picking out physical copies of our intended films. Today, you can easily access any movie your little technology-savvy heart desires at the click of a remote control button. It's hard to imagine them making it more convenient, but I'm sure they'll find a way to do it. Whoever they are.

Partying like it's 1999

This is a major one. They really have no idea. Unless they plan on living another 990 years, these kids will never get that feeling that Prince so eloquently described through the art of song. Heck, to them, he's probably just the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as a symbol formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince. The words "Party over, oops, out of time" mean absolutely nothing to these kids. For shame.

It may not be much, but we've got to cling to whatever makes our generation uniquely us. Sure, it's just MovieFone and encyclopedias, but someday we'll be amazing our technologically superior grandchildren with tales of our cavemen-esque childhood existence. Unfortunately, they won't even get our well-timed Encino Man references. It's too bad, really, because I'm sure we could have set up some great ones.


Angela_Baker said...

I really do miss renting movies. I haven't seen the inside of a video store since 2005, thanks to Netflix, On Demand, and the internet. Kids today will never know the joy of browsing the horror section of Blockbuster and wondering if all those movies were really as awesome as their scary covers made them out to be.

nikki said...

As a video store clerk from 1994 through 1996, the renting movies one is tough for me to let go. Within the last five years I went from being in a 1/2 mile radius of THREE video stores to having to drive 15-20 minutes to get to one. Sad days....

That said, I wouldn't give up imdb for the world :)

Melanie's Randomness said...


Kristie said...

I love this!!!

Anonymous said...

how about tv guides.. Zero reason to ever have one ever again

Children of the 90s said...

@Anonymous Good point. I just saw that the free TV guide magazine is about to change over to a paid subscription publication, so they must know they're in trouble.

Lil' Woman said...

Remember card catalogs at school...I don't even remember the last time I saw one of those.

rsparks said...

I've said it once and I'll say it again. I LOVE THIS BLOG!

Sadako said...

Oh man, it's been so long since we didn't have IMDb, I'm afraid to think about it. And writing things off as mysteries--no!

Anonymous said...

Ok, your whole Prince name thing is genius! I remember when we got my aunt's old computer and it came with the encyclopedia CD-ROM. I thought that was the coolest thing since sliced bread. English terms were so much easier to write out. @Lil' Woman I was just in my library a few weeks ago and they had this big old-timey display and they had a drawer from the card catalog layed out. Hehe.

John said...

Funny you should mention the demise of video rental stores, as of right now the only video store left in my town is starting to close down. This particular store has been here for 15 years. I'm really going to miss it, but at least their is a small silver lining: they're selling their entire stock of movies and games at ridiculously low prices.

Bibliotender said...

What about looking up information in a physical encyclopedia? I can remember being very distraught because I couldn’t find the volume for C because my brothers misplaced it and I had a report due later that week.

dragonzflame said...

This is why I'm so glad to live in New Zealand, where we still retain some vestiges of my childhood. I don't have caller ID on my home phone, I don't have satnav (though Google maps is helpful before heading out I guess), my dad still has a full set of Encyclopaedia Britannicas (not that I've used those since I was about 12), we still use the phone book and Yellow Pages (the local site has a lousy search function), and I last rented a movie three weeks ago - in new subdivisions around here they actually still build new movie rental shops, so I don't see that changing anytime soon. (I think that's because our download speeds are relatively slow.)

It's funny though - my partner was saying that his younger sister, who's only four years younger than me, doesn't remember not being able to get in touch with people. Apparently, she actually asked what you did in that situation, and was horrified to hear that you had to keep trying and just accept it.

Andhari said...

I so remember when my parents would give me a quarter to call them when I need them to pick me up lol so funny.

RAY J said...

hubby and I had a conversation about this a few weeks ago, how our kids won't have a clue as to what a VHS or cassette or even an 8-track is, among other things!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE imdb. I am one of those people that couldn't even enjoy the rest of the movie until I could figure out who I was looking at that looked familiar LOL

I have to say though that I looove caller ID because I HATE answering the phone if I don't know who they are..

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