January 11, 2016

The Amazing Time We Live In

Nothing will make you feel old faster than sharing a childhood memory and have a teenager or child laugh thinking your joking because it seems impossible to them someone lived so long ago. Yet, considering how quickly technology has changed and is continuing to change, is it so surprising? Advancements that used to take decades or centuries are happening in just years, months, or even weeks these days as technologies compound exponentially.

Think about it. In your lifetime, what changes have you witnessed?

I don't know. Maybe it's exaggerated in my experience based upon where I grew up, and when I was born. The area we live in is a strange contradiction in some ways. There's a state highway not far away, and in less than fifty miles, you can travel from a bustling R&D town where technology is king to an extremely rural area. I grew up somewhere in the middle of that fifty miles, but I had family living on either end. Through my everyday life and visiting those family members, I saw first hand how where you live can influence what services and technologies you use every day.

Also, I was born in 1981. Depending upon which metrics you use, Hubby and I are either at the very tail end of Generation X or the leading edge of Generation Y. The tech bubble was just beginning to grow when we were babies, but it took a bit for it to start impacting our everyday lives. More so for me than Hubby because of our parents' occupations, but that's a different matter.

Our grandparents were anywhere from infants to preteens when the Great Depression began, and those years of want shaped their personalities to a greater or lesser degree depending on their age and how badly their families were impacted. Our great-grandparents were young married couples with small children to feed and clothe. You better believe it shaped them!

Hubby barely remembers the one great-grandparent he met as a child, but I was a bit more fortunate. Four of my great-grandparents, and a step great-grandmother, and my childhood babysitter's grandmother, who was of the same age, were all still alive and active on up into my childhood. I knew and spent time with them all.

You know the phrase, "Waste not, want not?" They lived it. No matter what it was, they didn't throw anything out until it couldn't be fixed anymore and was either just completely worthless or flat out dangerous to keep. Watching them as a child, they seemed almost magical with their knowledge on how to do at least a little bit of everything. And they had some of the most interesting things!

Because of this, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," mentality, my Dad's maternal grandmother still owned and used a cast iron stove on up into the mid to late eighties. Gas stoves started becoming common in the 1920s, and the electric ones followed soon after. I honestly have no idea when they built their house, but I do know it took a bit longer for gas and electric lines to be laid out where they lived. I assume they chose a cast iron stove because it was the most practical and cost effective option for them at the time, and they kept it because it still worked perfectly well, thank you.

This looks like the exact model I'm talking about.
I just barely remember seeing it in her tiny kitchen, but I can remember sitting at the table with Granddaddy and eating some of the fluffiest biscuits you can ever imagine that were baked in it. They didn't even need central heat in the winter. The stove kept the kitchen and nearby living room nice and toasty. I must have been absolutely fascinated with it and just devastated when they finally made the swap to an electric stove because I do remember the last gift my great-granny ever gave me before she got sick.

I have no clue where she found it, but she gave me a perfect scale model of her cast iron stove for my seventh or eighth birthday. It was just about the right size for having a barbie doll cook at it. It came with everything, a tender basket, a shovel and bucket for ashes, a skillet, pots, a dutch oven, and even removable eyes and the handle to remove them. If I concentrate, I can still feel the cold weight of it in my hands.

I can't remember exactly what happened, but that old toy disappeared out of my life sometime in my teen years, which is a right shame. It would have been something I'd have liked to hand down to my girls.

My mother's parents were late comers to the idea of a home phone. Papa always said that if he wanted to talk to someone, he wanted to do so face-to-face. (We'd find out years later this was because he was hard-of-hearing and depended on lip reading to understand conversations.) And once again, they have a very, "Use it as long as you can," attitude, so they still had the original wall mounted, rotary phone they got in the mid 70s when I was a small child. I used to love getting to call Mom on it because it was different and neat the same way Great-Granny's iron stove seemed so cool because it wasn't a "boring" old electric one.

We would compete like you wouldn't believe for a chance to play this game!

The first computer I ever saw was the gigantic PC they put in our classroom back in sixth grade. This was back when there was just one computer per classroom, usually for the kids to share, not the teacher. And it was still a few years before computer labs became a regular thing. If we were well behaved enough and got good enough grades, we were allowed to play Oregon Trail on it every so many weeks. Even years later, the keyboarding class was still taught on the electric typewriters students in my parent's day vied for because they were new and just beginning to overtake the old manual ones. I think they finally got enough computers to accommodate the keyboarding class my junior year, and the five or six remaining dos computers were relegated to giving multiple choice tests on a rotating schedule.

I typed my first story submission on an electric keyboard with a correction ribbon I borrowed from Auntie G back during my senior year of high school. Not being the best speller and having no idea what the little chirps it kept emitting meant, I turned it in chock full of typos and spelling errors. I'd never heard of spell check before, so I had no idea how to use it.

Our family got its first home computer my freshman year of college, which was a huge boon to me, even though it was in the middle of the living room. (It irritated my parents when writing a paper took more than half an hour because the fact I needed an overhead light on and relative quiet put a damper on  watching their evening shows in the days before DVR and Hulu.) Classes were beginning to require papers to be typed, and having a computer and printer at home saved me hours at a computer lab. It was great for word processing, but dialup was the only internet option available where we lived for the entirety of my college career. We had a fifteen minute time limit online because we only had so many minutes per month for all of us to share, and being online tied up the phone lines.

Remember when this thing was boss?

My maternal grandmother gifted me my first cellphone when I started driving to college. It was one of those Nokia bricks that probably still works today. It was huge, clunky, and slow by today's standards, but it seemed impossibly small and sleek back then. I was just getting used to the idea of a cordless home phone, and the few mobile phones you'd see on television shows were still on the big side. (Seriously, go watch the first season of X files. It's hilarious now.)

From microwave ovens and rotary phones being the height of technology to having touch and voice activated computers we can carry in the palms of our hands in less than forty years! Is it any wonder today's children can't imagine the childhoods we experienced, let alone the ones our grandparents or great-grandparents had? Even though it may be mind boggling to think about for those of us older than twenty, is it really any wonder kids are being assigned to study how homes were different eighty, fifty, even just twenty years ago?

What amazing times we live in!

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