Photo Wikipedia: 1950 Leica IIIf-600
The world around us is changing vertiginously. It’s not that I am getting older and my perspective has slowed down; technology and the way we live are being fundamentally transformed under our own eyes, but we are too busy to notice.
We seldom ponder how far and how fast technology has forever altered our lives and who we are as people because of it. We have become the automatons we’ve been warned about decades ago when we thought it was just science fiction designed to entertain us. But here we are.
In my six decades on earth, my life went from riding a rickety, smoke-spewing Diesel bus with holes in the floorboard, a bus that took one hour to transport us six miles to grandma’s house, a wagon full of grain or hay pulled by oxen which took me and grandpa to the corn and wheat grinding mill, a pink Pegasus bicycle with a white banana-shaped seat and a basket, and a soot-smelling train that stopped in every little village and took all day to go 100 miles, to fast-speed trains, supersonic airplanes, fast boats, trucks, SUVs, eighteen-wheelers, and fast cars.
And Americans went from wagon trains in the American West, cowboys and settlers who made their slow and deliberate journey through the harsh landscape of the new world, to Ford’s Model T which helped eventually create the vast network of highways and interstates that crisscross America from “sea to shining sea.” With them came freedom, mobility, and a new way of life that cannot be matched anywhere else in history.
But the global elites are socially re-engineering this new-found culture of freedom into a controlled environment that would be given back to nature and re-wilded, while humans will be crowded into huge urban settlements, all with the idea to save humanity from itself, from climate change Armageddon.
From the humble communication beginnings of the telegraph and the beautiful gas-lit streets in Europe, we eventually got electrified, no more candles and oil lamps, but wood-burning stoves and charcoal-burning outdoor pits remained.
People bought rotary-dial phones but service was hard to get and expensive; often four customers were assigned to a line and we had to ask nicely the other three parties to get off the line if we wanted to make an emergency call or to call at all. And we had to listen for the clicks to make sure they were not listening in on our conversation.
The female operator, and it was always a female, would assist us in dialing an international line. We had to wait for hours before she would call with a connection to a number in a country across the Atlantic. And it sounded like the phone cable was swimming underwater and the voices were garbled as if they were drowning in the ocean. The call was very expensive, $10 the first three minutes and then $3 each additional minute, depending on the country called. A loved-one’s voice which did come across thousands of miles of underwater phone cable was very precious. And then one day phone connections were made via satellites deployed into space.
Now phone calls are cheap or free, but most of my relatives, the ones I really cared about, have passed away or are lingering in nursing homes. In 1989, I spent over $1,000 in a three-week period talking to strangers who were taking care of my dying father. I never got a chance to speak to my dad, but I was stuck with a phone bill from South Central Bell that was very hard to pay. As a college student, finishing my doctorate, it was way more than I was making in a month. And my babies needed that money for food and shelter. But, the bill was paid after my Dad passed away. I would give anything to be able to talk to him again.
When my children were small, I could not afford the very expensive camcorders, thousands of dollars, to film my precious babies. Today, a relatively inexpensive smart phone can videotape anything and everything and people take it so for granted. The social media is inundated with selfies and videos from wannabe photographers and videographers.
When the first cell phone came out in the 1990s, they were bulky, grey or black, expensive, often tethered to the car, and the minute-plans were very expensive. Only really well-to-do people could actually afford the luxury of owning one or the service. Within a decade, cell phones got smaller, more colorful, and minute-plans a bit cheaper. It was relatively easy to run up hundreds of dollars in phone bills each month and many people did get in trouble. And then cell phones became smart phones.
In high school, we were taken to a data processing center in my hometown. One large computer occupied an entire building. And they literally got computer bugs, a moth to be exact. Later they sized it down to a very large room.
Desk top computers arrived but were very bulky, and the small screen was green or black and white. It was quite a step up from the Remington typewriters or the IBM Selectric typewriters from college. In a communist country, we had to have special permission from the security police in order to have a Remington typewriter in the home and few were so lucky. We had to give them a written sample so they can identify the specific way our typewriter printed, the strokes of each letter, so they can later isolate us if we published any kind of political materials they deemed unacceptable and anti-communist.
Computer users had to learn so many different computer commands just to do word-processing because nothing interfaced. And the large 8-inch floppy disks, which were used with the floppy drives invented at IBM by Alan Shugart in 1967, filled up fast. The smaller 5.25-inch disk was developed that was used on the first IBM personal computer in August 1981.
I lost twenty pages of my dissertation because I ran out of computer space. Research was cumbersome, we actually did have to go to the library and paid the librarian to run one search at a time for about $28 which often did not yield much usable information, depending on what key words we used, but it sure printed hundreds of cards with perforated holes; if dropped, the cards would be out of order and unusable.
My first personal computer was an IBM and it cost $5,000. It was a gift from IBM since I was the first teacher in 1990 to impart knowledge to far-away high schools on a fiber-optic network that could communicate two-way instantaneously all over the country. It was called MS Fiber-optic 2000 and it prepared me for both radio and television as I was teaching from a room with half a million dollars-worth of equipment, no students, TV screens filled with classrooms far away, with whom I was instantaneously interacting, and only a technology person present. The companies that sponsored this effort thought that I needed my own computer at home. It was a good thing since I could not have afforded the price tag on my young teacher salary.
In the early 1980s through the 1990s we used VCRs to play movies rented from Blockbuster or Movie Gallery. Sony’s Betamax was in competition with VHS manufacturers such as JVC. The video cassette recorder had its down side as it was sensitive to humidity and temperature changes and could often damage tapes. Moisture or dryness could affect the magnetic tape.
The first cartoon that I taped for my children on our first VCR was “Stanley, the Ugly Duckling,” followed by hundreds of hours of Disney cartoons. Very expensive at first, upwards of $500-700, eventually the typical VCR model price dropped to $50. In time, the VHS blank tapes became rather inexpensive as well and could only record a set number of video hours. The DVD player took off and VCRs became obsolete. The movie rental places survived for a while but most have gone out of business as movies on DVDs became cheaper and cheaper.
There was a lady in Romania who used to translate through 1990 all the American movies smuggled into the country. She would translate the dialog on screen and write the subtitles in Romanian for later viewing in private homes. She did this for so many years because Romanians were not allowed to watch what movies they wanted, only what the communist party censors would allow.
During my teenage years in Romania, if a person owned a cassette recorder, they were really well-off. Prior to that, reel to reel expensive German players were available on the black market, usually smuggled on a cargo ship. When tape recorders/boom boxes became available, people paid huge amounts of money to own one. The audio cassettes made it easy to record music which was not available or forbidden by the communist government. Cassettes were eventually made obsolete by the Sony Walkman, portable radios, CD players, iPods, mp3 players, and the iPhone.
The phonograph, invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison, called later the gramophone, and in the 1940s the record player, is still used today by people who love to collect vinyl records. I have a pretty good collection myself but no record player with the diamond needle to play it on.
My husband gave me a small boom box in 1977. I sold it for $150 so I could pay the tuition I owed to the communist government for high school and two years of college. A very cheap price to pay considering how expensive education was in the west. I should not have had to pay anything at all because all Romanians were guaranteed free education. But it was suddenly no longer free for me because I was marrying an American and somebody else was going to reap the benefits of my education. Some cassette recorders sold for upwards of $300. That is still a lot of money today for many Romanians who earn on the average about $400 a month.
During Ceausescu’s communist regime, people were forced to use strange things as commodity money, cigarettes, cassette players, cassette tapes, soap, shampoo, makeup, panty hose, and other things in short supply, better produced in the west, economically forbidden to the proletariat, or grossly mismanaged by the communist party.
In the late 1970s, I was shocked to find that there was such a thing as an eight-track tape. Very popular in the United States from mid-1960s to late 1970s, it was relatively unknown outside the U.S., U.K., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. Then it was replaced by the compact cassette tape.
My uncle Ion owned a manual Leica camera with Carl Zeiss lenses. It must have cost him a fortune back then or he traded rationed food for it. Nobody else in the family owned a camera. The photos were black and white, no color film was available. I am grateful because his camera captured a few moments in my early life in communism that otherwise would not have seen the light of day and the special moments would have been forgotten. I never owned a camera myself until I moved to the U.S. and bought a Kodak with disposable flashbulbs and an Instant Polaroid camera.
Today people take for granted the relatively inexpensive digital cameras that are so affordable. Smart phones have become our cameras, computers, compass, maps, weather bulletins, TVs, theaters, typewriters, VCRs, printers, and spying devices that liberate us but have also enslaved generations of young people more than the Bolsheviks of the former Iron Curtain could have ever dreamed of.
Most people now own a smart phone, sharing every snippet of their daily lives with the world on social media, while technology is charging full-speed ahead with Nano-technology that will further alter our lives in ways that even the sci-fi novels and thrillers of the last century could not have ever imagined.
Household goods have made our lives infinitely better, freeing America’s chores and cooking time. Vacuum cleaners, microwave ovens, convection ovens, dishwashers, washing machines, driers, coffee makers, refrigerators, and air conditioners have made life more enjoyable and shortened the time people spent in the kitchen or cleaning. Air conditioners made hot climates more bearable; refrigerators/freezers helped store food and reduced daily trips to the grocery stores significantly.
Push mowers created verdant and well-manicured neighborhoods to the frustration of the U.N.-driven globalists who think that suburbia represent “urban blight” and thus “unsustainable.” They say nothing of the third world slums. Instead of creating a better life and environment for those people, globalists are interested in destroying our middle class suburbia.
Despite all technology, we seem to have reached a paradox of technology affluence, the more gadgets we invent, the busier and more overwhelmed our lives appear to be; it is a paradox of invention overflow and information overload. What was meant to help us has turned into so many choices that people are turning back to the old adage, less is more.
People were afraid to use microwaves in the seventies. Large signs warned shoppers in stores and restaurants that microwaves were in use. Most people were so fearful of getting cancer that many potential buyers did not purchase them for years until they finally became conventional and prices dropped.
Not so long ago most people had only two television channels to choose from, in our case in black and white, and running mostly communist propaganda. No remote controls to change the channels, viewers had to get up and do it manually. And reception was achieved by rooftop antennas and rabbit ears, often adorned with aluminum foil to improve picture clarity. And TV sets with their huge tubes were encased in large boxes, made from plastic or nicely carved wood like Curtis Mathis sets. By midnight, all stations signed off with a patriotic song. But then color TVs became more affordable and cable companies started offering a variety of newly-minted channels which offered night-owls non-stop television choices. We now have 500 plus channels but we only watch about ten on a regular basis.
What will become yesteryear’s technology in the future?