Showing posts with label Just because I'm young doesn't mean I understand technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Just because I'm young doesn't mean I understand technology. Show all posts

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.

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 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.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Children of the 90s is now on Twitter!

Yep, it's true. Children of the 90s is on Twitter, though I have yet to learn the intricate workings of this stalker-centric world of 140-character minutiae. Suggestions and advice are not only welcome, but probably necessary.

I'm not really sure what the verbage is...Tweet me? Does that sound right? Let's go with that. So, tweet Children of the 90s: The "the" wouldn't fit, so I hope none of you are offended by being classified as "Children of 90s".

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