Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An Ode to Technology: Then and Now

A note to readers: Yes, it’s me, your as of late not-so-faithful Children of the 90s blogger. That is to say, the original eleven herbs and spices blogger, not one in many of the parade of worthy guest bloggers I’ve brought to you over the last few months. Now that I’m married and back from my honeymoon, my litany of excuses to put off blogging are dwindling quickly, especially with the long list of blog ideas I’ve yet to tackle. Don’t call it a comeback, of course, but hey: it’s an effort.

It can be hard to pretend you're still young and hip when so many of your technology reminiscences to anyone more than five years younger than you begin with a crotchety " When I was your age, we didn't have this newfangled (insert new and overly complicated mode of communication here.)" Who would have guessed that within a span of ten or fifteen years, the face of technology and human interaction could be rendered nearly unrecognizable from the simple telephone and instant messenger relations of our youth?

I freely admit I have found myself in multiple scenarios during which interacting with a friend in person has quickly devolved into showing off our respective front facing cell phone cameras to engage in simulated FaceTime. Never mind the fact that we are physically face to face in the same room. Because look how cool it is when we can video chat in tandem after only thirteen minutes and four failed network connection attempts! Now isn't that more interesting than plain old lower case face time?

While we're doling out the elderly style complaints (someone be a dear and bring me an afghan, wont you?) don't even get me started on hashtags. Why exactly does putting what I still think of as the number sign (or alternatively, the most boring button on my phone) in front of awholebunchofwordswithoutspaceslikethis suddenly constitute an astute sampling of social commentary? #imgettingtoooldforthiscrap

Call me a hypocrite for writing this on the Internet (and you probably should, especially since I'm typing it using my brand-spanking new Kindle Fire, albeit with lots of touchscreen misfire typos) but I just can't get behind changing my entire concept of communication and entertainment every time a new piece of technology is released.

Back in our day (and you legally need to be at least 22 to use that phrase, for future complaining reference) most technology existed to serve a single purpose. Even when I was in high school, it was largely unfathomable that someday you might be able to carry around some futuristic hybrid of your phone/camera/computer/calendar/book collecition/music player in your pocket. Barring, of course, the chance that you possessed a great deal of duct tape and/or some very large pockets.

Though there exist endless examples of fast-paced technological change from our simple 90s childhoods to the present day bonanza of ever-changing available devices, here are a few of my favorites that keep me feeling good and old at the ripe old age of 26.

Cell Phones: Then and Now



As any dutiful Saved by the Bell fan will attest, the quintessential “first realization of the existence of cell phones” moment came while ogling Zack Morris as he chatted on what looked like the indestructible little black box from an airplane crash scene. It was essentially a large plastic brick with a keypad and a huge antenna that veered dangerously into rabbit-ear territory and we all coveted it shamelessly.

Enter today, when our cell phones are about one-tenth the size with a thousand times the capability. Most of us have been out to dinner with friends or at some other in-person social gathering when you realize that every single person has whipped out their smartphone, creating a unique situation of socializing by proximity while simultaneously isolating ourselves into the self-created vortex of personal technology. Now that’s what I call a party!

Computers: Then and Now



It’s hard for me even to admit this sometimes for fear of sounding astoundingly middle-aged, but the first computer my family owned actually had a black-and-green-only screen. That’s right, pixelated screen colors hadn’t even broken onto the computer technology scene when I was playing Space Invaders on my Apple II. That’s how primitive our technology was. Scary, I know.

When laptops first debuted, it was hard to imagine computers could get any smaller. “But it can fit on my lap! Surely you can’t shrink it smaller than standard lap-size, adjusted for level of obesity!” But oh, they can. This mysterious “they” has morphed the oversized desktop into a cutely portable iPad or other knock-off tablet. Mark my words, someday we’ll be computing on pieces of looseleaf paper. That’s how thin these things are going to get (end prophecy transmission).

Data Storage: Then and Now



I remember looking at an oversized floppy disk and thinking, “but how did my ClarisWorks file get on you?” My understanding of data storage hasn’t increased, but my fascination with how small or even non-physical we can make it certainly has. Now we’ve got the ominously named “Cloud”, which conveniently stores all of my files in some remote online lair. It’s not perfect, of course. Any disruption of wireless internet means all of my files are dead to me until it’s restored. Damn you, Cloud, and your connectivity loopholes for holding my treasured Pinterest repins temporarily hostage!

Cameras: Then and Now



Remember film? If not, you should probably be reading some younger, cooler blog. Go ahead, I’ll give you some time to find something more hipsterish. Try looking for something wearing ironic black frames pseudo-intellectual glasses with clear lenses. That should be your first tip-off.
Are they all gone? Okay, good, now we can get down to business and recollect some things those kids have probably never even heard of. Seriously, some of them have never even seen a roll of film. They don’t even get what the film pictogram means on the sign that indicates what items should not go through the x-ray scanner at airport security.

Perhaps you remember when it was fascinating to think a photo lab had the capability to process your negatives into full-blown prints in just one hour. It seemed like such a breakthrough. If you can try to remember far enough back to the first time you saw a digital camera, perhaps you can recall just how amazed you were that the picture you just took was already visible on a tiny low-res screen. That was some crazy stuff. These days, we can take pictures with just about anything with an on-off switch, but back in the day, we used to actually wait for pictures to be developed to discover if they were flattering. Perish the thought.

Music Players: Then and Now



Boomboxes and Walkmans. Those words probably sound like no more than nonsensical gibberish to today’s children, whose music players are roughly the size of my pinky toe. I still remember upgrading from a cassette playing Walkman to a CD-playing Discman. At the time, I was almost certain that no, it just could not get any cooler than this.
Even in college, I still had a cassette tape adapter for my car that physically plugged into my external Discman to play burned mix CDs. It all seems so primitive now, considering every song I own is now available at the touch of a button on my phone. How are kids these days supposed to understand the significance of the gift of a good, heartfelt mix tape or CD? How, I ask you?

Books: Then and Now



Okay, I’ll just come out and say it. I’ve switched over to the dark side. I swore that books and I would never end our torrid ongoing love affair, but then my husband bought me a Kindle and I felt like a such a guilty two-timer. I tried to keep seeing books on the side, but they just didn’t have the same spark. Literally. They have no battery component. Bummer. I’m sorry, I promise I feel repentant. It’s just that now when I move to a new house, my book collection weighs one pound instead of 350 divided into 42 boxes. No offense, books, but that sounds like kind of a better deal, at least back-pain wise.

During what I assume was our respective period of childhood (since you’ve self-identified as a child of the 90s by virtue of arriving at this blog), a book was a tangible object and could be acquired at a bookstore or public library. Or a private library, I suppose, but I guess I never got invited to any of those. Of course, I don’t know two many eight-year olds with their own e-readers, so I suppose the Goosebumps franchise may still live to see another gory day.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ten Facts You May Not Know About The Baby-Sitters Club!

By Maribeth Curley of HalloweenCostumes.com, where you can find great kids costumes.

If you were a young girl during the 80s or 90s, you most likely read The Baby-Sitters Club. (I know I did.) You had a favorite sitter, a favorite client, and you probably even had a favorite Super Special. This book series was a big part of many little girls’ literary lives, so let’s take a look at some things you may not know about the BSC.

1. The popular series was created to capitalize on the popularity of another book about babysitting. The book was Ginny’s Babysitting Job, which was published in the early 80s. An editor at Scholastic saw the success of another novel about the hobby and decided that the publishing company needed their own version.

2. Author Ann M. Martin was originally a freelance author when she was hired to write a book about baby-sitting. Martin was responsible for creating the plot-lines, details, and characters of The Baby-Sitters Club, as well as writing the first books. The series was about a club, rather than a single baby-sitter, to help promote team work and unity among young girls.

3. The series was originally slated for just four novels. However, thanks to the success of those four, Scholastic ordered two more, and after that, another twelve.

4. Author Ann M. Martin only wrote about 60 out of 213 total Baby-Sitters Club books. Most of the novels were ghostwritten by other authors, including 43 by Peter Lerangis, who also wrote for a spin-off of another popular teen series of the 80s, Sweet Valley Twins.

5. During the 14-year run of the series, there were 176 million copies of The Baby-Sitters Club books printed.

6. While there were popular spin-off's of the series (Baby-Sitters Little Sister namely), there were also less popular spin-offs. The California Diaries was a series of books based on Dawn Schafer's return to California in her teenage years. It took a slightly darker tone in its writing and touched on subjects such as anorexia, sexual identity, and racism. However, only 15 novels were published before the series’ end.

7. In 2006, a division of Scholastic named Graphix published a graphic novelization of the first Baby-Sitters Club novel. The animated versions were updated adaptations of four of the early BSC books: Kristy’s Great Idea, The Truth About Stacey, Mary Anne Saves the Day, and Claudia and Mean Janine.

8. In 2009, the New York Times wrote an article about the upcoming re-release of the first two novels of the series. Scholastic hoped to spark a comeback of the books with the current generation of readers. Also, that same year, Ann M. Martin wrote a prequel to the series called The Summer Before.

9. Throughout the run of the series, there were five types of novels in addition to the core series of novels: Super Specials, which were longer stories and were narrated by a different girl each chapter; Readers Request, books that focused on non-main members of the BSC; Mysteries and Super Mysteries; Portrait collections, novels that were biographies of the girls’ pasts; and Baby-Sitters Club: Friends Forever, a 13-book mini-series, which ended with the girl’s graduation from middle school.

10. There was an (amazing) 13-episode long TV series named The Baby-Sitters Club, which aired in 1990. The shows were broadcast on The Disney Channel, as well as HBO and Nickelodeon. The other live-action version of the BSC was the feature film, released in 1995. The role of Mary Anne was actress Rachael Leigh Cook’s movie debut, and the film also starred Larisa Oleynik (The Secret World of Alex Mack, 10 Things I Hate About You) as Dawn.

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