I remember as a teen, watching a TV cartoon series called The Jetsons—a futuristic view of a family living a typical life with mom at home, dad zipping to work in his flying saucer, robotic household helpers, a dog, and, of course, kids.
It was kind of like the Flintstones in the space age. Set in 2062, there were aliens, holograms, futuristic contraptions, and everyone was hunky dunkie happy. Probably not what 2062 will really look like, which I think will be pretty much like it is now only more so, maybe warmer, or colder. Who knows?
I was thinking lately that much the futuristic ideals I was brought up on have never come to pass. We are still relying on fossil fuels, still pretty much earthbound. People work harder than ever for less when you take into consideration how much is left over at the end of a pay check.
I remember seeing films of how people would live in the 21st century. A platter full of Edenic stuff was fed to us: no pollution, and cars that ran on solar power, through the air, or on electronically controlled highways so we didn’t have to really “drive.”
Food was going to be fully nutritional supplements or pills that expanded into complete meals when heated with water. People would be able to replace body parts as easily in almost an outpatient way. No fuss, no mess. Surgery would always be laser.
No one would go hungry, crime would be wiped out due to technological advances in crime detection. No more wars. We had learned our lessons in WWII and Korea.
On the other monkey, some of the things have come true, and more: computers, surgery performed with lasers, and we have sorta-kinda gone into space. Uber high-definitionTVs are flat and thin and can hang on walls. Microwave ovens have made the job of softening butter or heating tea a breeze. We have instant cough, hack food. Finally, electric cars are available to the public. Some people do have solar power, and to quote Yule Brenner’s King of Siam, “etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.”
What made me slide into this funk of futuristic folly? I got a wave of appreciation for my iPad. It is SUPER!!! In that sector of technology, we have made tremendous leaps and bounds.
I am old enough to remember black-and-white TV and a dad who yelled, “Hey, you! Turn it to channel 4.” I mean, talk about your primitive tech! I had to get up, walk all the way over to the TV, and change the channel manually by turning a clicky dial.
We also had to adjust the “rabbit ears.” For those of you think I’ve gone into the “need medication” mode, rabbit ears were indoor TV antennas that had a half-ball base with two antenna sticking out at angles, they looked like a rabbit with long, skinny ears.
We also had to adjust the “rabbit ears.” For those of you think I’ve gone into the need-medication mode, rabbit ears were indoor TV antennas that had a half-ball base with two antenna sticking out at angles, they looked like a rabbit with long, skinny ears.
On top of that, we had no cable or satellite TV. A satellite was that strange spiky thing called Sputnik that Russia launched. We couldn’t record shows. It was Gunsmoke, Howdy Doody, Bonanza, I Love Lucy, and other gems, many of which had been adapted from radio shows.
Hell, we didn’t even own a TV until I was about eight. Well, that’s not entirely true. When we lived in Spokane, Washington, I was maybe six or seven, we bought a TV. It was a huge wooden box housing a tiny 6-inch screen. It had two channels. We were so hypnotized by it that we would sit and watch the “test pattern.” If you don’t know what that is, ask your parents or grandparents.
Then, we moved to California where we lived in Tarzana a while. No TV or phone. Moved to several places before settling in Los Angeles, where we not only had a phone, but a brand-spanking new TV with a 12-inch screen and a whopper of a blond case. Wow, we were livin’ the high life.
I remember I was around fourteen and living in the San Fernando Valley when Color TV first came onto the market. We didn’t have one but my dad, who was, as my mother used to say, “so cheap his ass squeaked,” bought a piece of plastic that guaranteed to turn your black and white TV into a brilliant color TV. This piece of magic was placed in front of the black and white screen. It turned into color TV all right, but not into anything anyone not on LSD would recognize. My mother threw it out.
One day our picture tube started to go out. Each day, more and more of the screen would turn dark until there was only a small circular area in the lower left corner that had picture. I remember my dad, sitting in his recliner after work, a cat on his lap hoping for some of his beer, staring at that dark and dismal screen as if it were in full flower. Finally, my mother put her foot down and bought a new color TV. We never turned back.
So with TV, anyway, we are in a different era. I have two large LCD flat screen, high-def, TVs and can, through streaming services, watch my choice of a billion shows at my leisure. I don’t know how I lived without Netflix, Hulu, and the like. Before we “unplugged,” we subscribed to cable, then satellite. We had 900 channels! And only 890 of them are crap. Now there’s still a lot of crap on or streaming channels, but I don’t have to pay extra for it.
Another badge of hipsterness in my youth came when I was a young tween. We lived in a two-bedroom, two-story apartment and had one phone for the whole family—heavy black thing with a rotary dial that was hardwired to the wall by the telephone guy who spent several hours installing it.
At first, we had to have a party line—that’s more than one person sharing the same phone lines. But that didn’t last too long and we were on our own! Whoo hoo! A phone of our own. I was allowed to use it 15 minutes a day. My baby brother couldn’t touch it.
Now I have three VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocal) phone lines in my house, each with multiple handsets, and we all have cell phones. These phones save us bookoo bucks a month and have way more goodies to boot. Since the phone uses the Internet in mysterious ways that only God can understand, I can even send my phone messages to my email box. Whoa! Give me a lollipop ‘cause life is too sweet. So much for old Ma Bell and GTE.
Early cell phones just sent and received calls. Now they have to do everything short of the laundry before we even consider them. And, OMG, it has to have a qwerty-to-text. What kind of a backwoods swamp would people think I’m from if I don’t have all the latest bells and whistles? New smart phones take photos better than many digital camera. In fact, they have replaced most point-and-shoot cameras. And why not? They are convenient multitaskers that allow us to record every moment of our lives, post it all on social media to annoy our friends.
On a side note, in my wild days of twenty-something, I worked in the educational film library at General Telephone Company in Santa Monica, CA. This was in the dark ages of technology—way before personal computers, DVDs, and videotape. YouTube was just a molecule of an idea floating in the primal soup. We had cans of film that needed to be cleaned, repaired, and checked on a regular basis. Alas that was my job. Although the Disney ones were colorful as they whizzed through the splicing machine, I needed something to keep me awake since I usually worked on a few hours sleep with a massive hangover. Buckets of coffee so strong it would dissolve a spoon seemed to do the trick.
Taking photos used to be a lot harder and riskier: Open camera. Place film cartridge on left side. Slide film end over sprockets to next reel. Insert tab into slot. Press lever to mechanically wind forward until film is firmly on the other loop. Pray it isn’t in backward. Take picture with either a simple point and shoot or with fancy 4,000 number-and-letter settings camera. Take film out at end of roll. Take film to developing place. Wait a week. Pick up pictures. Discover how many heads you cut off, how many faces are in the dark or too blurry, and that the last shot, your best, was only half-taken because the roll ran out.
Before digital cameras, I became a pretty good photographer. I had a beautiful Canon set-up with lenses, filters, and every gadget possible. I learned how to take good photos. I had a darkroom where I developed my own high-quality prints, called Cibachrome. It was creative and fun, but slow and fraught with danger at every turn.
Now I have a monster-megapixel digital SLR camera that does everything to make my photos amazingly good. I adore it.
Well, let’s see—TV, phones, cameras, hmmm. OH! Can’t leave out music. In my early years, there hwere 78RPM records—large, flat, black disks that broke really easily. Played on a thing called a record player at 78 rotations per minute. I was pretty young when these were the only choices.
Mostly I remember vinyl disks, large LPs that played at 33 1/3 RPM and singles that played at 45 RPM. I don’t know who figured out how all that worked, but, as a teenager, I had stacks and stacks of records, both 33s and 45s. Like a fool, I eventually gave them all away. I would be living on my yacht in Greece if I’d been the psychic I am today. C’est la vie.
Then cassette tapes came out. Wow! I’m leaving out any mention of 8-tracks. Too many bad memories. But, even before that, the invention of the transistor changed everything. As a young teenager, I had a small transistor radio that would fit under my pillow at night. It took batteries so I didn’t need to be tethered to a wall.
Back to cassette tapes. I, of course had hundreds, if not billions. But alas, the glory was not to last, the CD took its place. People bitched and griped that the sound quality was not there. Purists said CDs were a fad and would never last.
Whenever an invention is better, smaller, cheaper, and easier, it always shoves the old tech out of the way.
I had to replace all of my tapes with CDs, as many as came out in CD anyway. I still have a stack of dusty cassettes that I swear one of these days I will digitize. Now, CDs seem to be old tech and MP3 and streaming are the way to go. Fortunately, I can turn my CDs into MP3s and don’t have to invest in mountains of new technology, like when videotape died in the cause of the mighty DVD. Mostly now, though, I rely on streaming music straight from Apple.
I love that I have my whole ginormous collection of CDs neatly stored in I-Tunes. So much better. I have an iPad to listen to my music or I can listen straight from my Quad Core Mac tower or my Mac Book Air. No end to the possibilities. I even have blue-tooth speakers so I can have high-quality sound without being tethered.
Speaking of computers, my first computer was a Commodor Vic. It had 2K memory and I had to use a portable TV for a monitor. No hard drive, no disks. I learned a lot about computers from fiddling with that one. I learned to program in BASIC and even wrote a text-based adventure game about Merlin. Ahh, the good (?) old days. So glad they are gone. I continue to be in love with computers. I always want the latest and greatest. And, yes, I am a Macophile. So burn me at the stake with a stack of PCs to flame the fire.
What about movies? As a child, my family owned a film projector—big, clattery thing that took an Einstein to properly thread the film through. Then it would whirr, cough, spit, and throw up all manner of giant hairs, splotches, scratches, and such over the home movies we played on them. In my early twenties, some of my “friends” used these projectors to show porn smuggled out of Mexico. Commercial movies were simply not available at a price the average Joe or Jo could afford. When videotape players first came on the market, I bought one, a Magnavox. All it did was play, fast forward and rewind. It cost $1500. I bought three movies, Citizen Kane, A Lion in Winter, and Casablanca. Each cost around $85.
Now, I can rent movies off of my TV streaming channel (mainly Apple and Amazon) and watch them on my ginormous, high-def TV. I can also buy movies on Blu-Ray discs. We have so many movies I have to have a special piece of furniture to hold them. Then there is Netflix and Hulu, plus others. Movies, TV shows, documentaries, and more. All at our fingertips.
I love today. With all its complexity and uncertainty, it’s still better than a hard-wired phone with a manual TV that only plays what your dad wants to watch. It’s way better than going to the theater to see movies and never being able to see them again, except on late night TV where they are hacked beyond recognition and sliced up with commercials for laxatives and Depends. I love watching movies in my bedroom with a big bowl of popcorn. I love that I can have a cup of tea in 1 1/2 minutes instead of waiting for the kettle to heat. Well, I believe that traditionally brewed tea is better tasting, but that’s not always the issue.
I love that I don’t have to wait for my butter to soften, then get impatient and try to spread soft bread with hard, yellow fat that tears holes in the bread so that I’m left with crust and clumps of crumbly butter.
And, oddly, in my hurry it up stage of life, I love my slow cooker, but that’s another story. I have every kitchen appliance known to the human race, even if I only use it once a year, like the electric knife. I only use it at Thanksgiving. But I have one!
Life is good if you let it be. Praise to the techno gods. May they ever be innovative enough to hook me into buying the latest greatest must-have thingy.
Leave a comment, rant, or whatever. I love hearing from you.
Anita, signing off. Maybe one day, I’ll go to Mars. Probably not in this life. But I can dream.