50 Things: The Yin & Yang of Technology

There is nothing so stable as change.  – Bob Dylan

 

Pinterest strikes again!! As I recently mentioned, I finally joined the social media site that I once thought of as only a female domain and have found a lot of interesting & informative stuff there. My latest discovery is something called 50 Things We Don’t Do Anymore Because of Technological Advancements, which was absolutely screaming to be more than just a pin. It requires context. It requires discourse. It requires thorough examination. And I am just the guy to do those things!! I am old enough to remember almost all of these items, but young enough to not completely dismiss the progress that has rendered many of them obsolete. In some cases the thing being discussed isn’t completely gone, it’s just not as big a part of daily life as it once was, and other items listed are still being done, we’ve just transitioned into an updated way of doing them. Bill Gates has stated that “the advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don’t really even notice it, so it’s part of everyday life”, which is why a walk down memory lane like this is fascinating because oftentimes we don’t reflect on how much has changed in our lives. We’re too busy living in the present and, sadly, fretting about the future, to recognize subtle transformations. That’s probably a good thing, otherwise we’d drive ourselves nuts. At any rate, join me as we come face to face with just how much technology has altered the landscape of our daily trek thru this awesome thing we call life.

 

 

 

 

1       Call Theaters

Thanks to smartphones & The Internet we no longer have to call to see if a movie is being shown or what time it starts. There’s an app for that!! You can even order tickets in advance, although I never do that because hey…plans might change.

 

2       Utilize Travel Agents

I’m not a traveler. I would love to be, but life hasn’t provided me with the means or opportunity. There are a few places that I fully intend to visit someday though. Anyway, travel agencies still exist, and I assume that those still around are profitable, but I also realize that nowadays just about anyone who is computer savvy can hop online and book an entire vacation, everything from plane tickets to hotel rooms to dinner reservations to tickets for shows. Travel agents are, essentially, the middle man that has largely been cut out by The Internet.

 

Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response. – Arthur M. Schlesinger

 

 

3       Use VCRs or 4 Watch Videotapes/DVDs

I’m pretty sure the VCR is obsolete. Oh I assume there are folks that still own one, but I don’t think they are manufactured anymore. And now because of streaming services like Netflix & Hulu there really isn’t a need for DVDs, although plenty of people still own them and both DVDs & DVD players are still sold in stores. We also have devices like DVR & TiVo that allow us to record television programs, and they are so much simpler & user friendly than VCRs ever were.

 

5       Dial Directory Assistance or 6 Call Time

I suppose some folks still make such calls, but it’s really unnecessary now. Directory assistance can’t tell you any information that a quick Google search won’t provide, and even watches & wall clocks have taken a backseat since everyone has a clock on their phone, tablet, or laptop.

 

 

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.  – Benjamin Franklin

 

 

7       Save Change For or 8 Use Pay Phones

Occasionally I still see a pay phone here & there, but almost everyone has a cell phone these days. Save those quarters to help pay THAT bill.

 

9       Purchase Tickets on the Phone

I assume one can still dial an 800 # to order concert tickets or whatever other kind of tickets one needs to buy, but it’s just as convenient to do it online. Actually I think in many cases there might be a processing fee when ordering over the phone now, so you’ll save a few bucks by doing it online, with the added benefit of not having to actually talk to anyone. It’s a win-win. And now you don’t even get tickets mailed to you. They are e-mailed, you print them out, & someone will scan a barcode when you arrive at the venue. I’m not sure how safe all of that is, but it is certainly efficient.

 

 

Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.  – Aldous Huxley

 

 

10     Buy Disposable Cameras, 11 Print Photos, 12 Make Photo Albums, or 13 Get Film Developed

I have inherited my grandmother’s fondness for taking photos, but I haven’t actually gotten a hard copy of any of them in a decade. I just upload all of my pics to Facebook. That’s actually the main reason I keep my Facebook page…as an online photo album. My mother & grandmothers loved their photo albums. Dad still has several. But with digital photography it’s just not really a thing anymore. I haven’t reached the point yet where I exclusively use my phone to take pictures, although many have because the quality of phone cameras have improved exponentially in recent years. Personally I still think my digital camera takes better photos. However we can all agree that those little disposable cameras, though still available, are passé. I’m not sure anyone develops film anymore. Perhaps professional photographers…that’s probably about it.

 

14     Put Ads in Store Windows

I don’t think the store window ad has been popular in several decades. It might be more appropriate to point out that newspaper ads are quickly becoming obsolete. Between E-bay and countless wannabe sites, plus various pages on social media dedicated to buying & selling, classified ads in newspapers are really among the least effective ways to reach an audience.

 

Progress is not an illusion, it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing. – George Orwell

 

 

15     Use Maps

My father brought me a paper map not long ago, and it really made me chuckle. Does anyone use those anymore?? Most newer vehicles are equipped with GPS, and one can purchase devices to put in older vehicles. Plus everybody has Google maps or a similar app on their phone.

 

16     Carry Portable Cassette/CD Players or 17 Buy CDs

Physical means of listening to music like vinyl records, 8-tracks, cassette tapes, & now CDs have all come & gone. CDs are still around I guess, but most everyone digitally downloads their music now. Even iPods are a thing of the past. If you’ve got a smartphone you’ve got a device that’ll carry hundreds…maybe even thousands…of songs. What else could one possibly ask for??

 

 

Men have become the tools of their tools.  – Henry David Thoreau

 

 

18     Handwrite Letters, 19 Have Pen Pals, or 20 Send Love Letters

I’m not too sure about this one. People still write letters…especially love letters, right?? But the idea of actually using a pen & paper then putting the letter in an envelope and mailing it is rather archaic. That’s what emails & texts are for!! I suppose pen pals have been replaced by “friends” on Facebook and “followers” on Twitter, Instagram, etc.

 

21     Make Collect Calls/Reverse Charges

Yep…collect & long distance calls are outta here!! Cell phones allow us to call & talk to our out of town friends & family as much as & for as long as we wish.

 

 

Before automobiles existed, everyone had a horse. Then cars became available, and their convenience, compared to horses, was undeniable. – Susan Orlean

 

 

22     Pay Bills at the Post Office

I remember my grandparents paying utility bills at the post office and even the bank. Nowadays though people don’t even mail a check to the company. I set up autopay whenever available for recurring bills, and one can use a debit/credit card or PayPal to pay many bills online.

 

23     Use an Address Book       

Most of us now keep everyone’s contact information…name, address, phone #, e-mail…stored in our phones. I can’t imagine that owning a stationary store would be very profitable in the 21st century.

 

 

Science fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. It is always the art of the possible, never the impossible.  – Ray Bradbury

 

 

24     Make Mix Tapes

Ha!! Now I’m getting a little nostalgic. I don’t think I ever made a sappy mix tape for a girl, but I do recall recording songs from the radio onto cassette tapes and listening to the resulting personal favorites album with my Walkman. Later on…and not that long ago…burning CDs at home became a thing. I remember being really into that for a brief moment in time. Nowadays whenever I want to rock out, chill with some classical music, or celebrate the holiday season with Bing Crosby I just use iTunes, Amazon Music, or Spotify. I haven’t spent a dime on music in several years.

 

25     Go Into the Bank

A couple of months ago my sister & I met our father at one of the local banks to conduct some business, and it really struck me how dead it was in there in the middle of a weekday. But with direct deposit, drive-thrus, & online banking there really is no need for most people to actually go inside a bank anymore.

 

 

The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.  – B. F. Skinner

 

 

26     Buy TV Guide

When I was a kid I kind of enjoyed reading TV Guide. There was always an interesting article or two, and of course it was indispensable when trying to find out what time something was on or to get an idea what a show was about. But with modern televisions a push of a button brings up the onscreen guide and it’s really simple to find out what you need to know about whatever program you want to watch.

 

27     Own Encyclopedias

Believe it or not, once upon a time salesmen actually travelled around selling a bulky set of a couple dozen alphabetized books with informative articles about almost any topic one could imagine. And then every year or two they’d try to sell families a brand new set of books with updated information. Anyone who went to school in the 1980’s or before surely did their fair share of book reports & term papers using information almost exclusively gleaned from an encyclopedia. It all seems so quaint now in the Internet Age, when information about literally anything & everything is just a few keystrokes and/or mouse clicks away (actually computer mice are even outdated now).

 

The human spirit must prevail over technology.  – Albert Einstein

 

 

28     Visit DMV to Renew Registration       

I just recently visited the DMV to renew my driver’s license, but I suppose one can deal with renewing their registration online. The DMV was still a pretty busy place.

 

29     Use Yellow Pages or 30 the Phone Book

Phone books are still produced and used, especially by older people. However, these days it’s easier to just search for an unknown phone number online.

 

 

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.  – John F. Kennedy

 

 

31     Use a Dictionary or Thesaurus to 32 Check Spelling

How did we ever survive without The Internet?? We sure did kill a lot of trees making books that are now totally unnecessary. Don’t misunderstand…I still look up things in a dictionary or thesaurus quite regularly…it’s just on a website rather than in a book. And if you’re using Google or even a computer program like Microsoft Word it’s really easy to spellcheck.

 

33     Remember Phone Numbers

I remember my Dad’s phone number because it’s still the one I grew up with, the same one he’s had for almost fifty years. And of course I know my own phone number. But if you ask me for the phone numbers of other family members, friends, or my place of work I’d struggle to come up with them because they’re all programmed into my phone and accessible with one click. Oddly enough I still remember numbers that haven’t been used in years, like my grandparents and even former employers.

 

 

There was a time when nails were high-tech. There was a time when people had to be told how to use a telephone. Technology is just a tool. People use tools to improve their lives.  – Tom Clancy

 

 

 

34     Use Pagers

When I was in college in the early 90’s pagers were the ultimate sign of being cool & hip. Then they segued into being indicative of a drug dealing thug. I have no idea if pagers are even manufactured anymore, but I can’t imagine they’d be in high demand. It’s not difficult to get ahold of someone in a whole host of ways, so pagers are just antiquated reminders of a bygone era. Who would’ve ever imagined that a pager could evolve into a romantic piece of nostalgia??

 

35     Fax Documents

To my knowledge most offices still have fax machines, but with e-mail & social media they are no longer an essential piece of equipment.

 

 

Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.  – Stephen Hawking

 

 

36     Pay Bills with Checks or 37 Keep Paper Bills/Bank Statements

Almost everything is done online with credit/debit cards or PayPal. I still pay my rent and the occasional medical bill with a check, but that’s about it. Almost all bills & statements are available online in some form now, so paperless billing is the norm.

 

38     Watch TV Shows When They’re Actually On

Ehhhh…I don’t know. I mean I get it…we don’t HAVE to watch something when it’s on. That’s the magic of DVR/TiVo. But if I happen to be home and in the mood to vegg out when a favorite program is on I’m going to watch it. What else do I have to do?? Still though, it is cool to know that if we’ve got to go to work or fulfill some other kind of obligation, if there are two shows on at the same time that we like, or even if it’s just a nice day outside and one doesn’t want to stay home like a lazy hump that we can record something and watch it whenever we get some free time.

 

39     Warm Food/Drinks on the Stove

Thank you microwave oven!!

 

 

We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works. – Douglas Adams

 

 

40     Dial *69

I used to drive my parents crazy with this because it cost 50 cents a pop. But there are always those people who call and hang up, either because they realize too late that they’ve dialed a wrong number or they just didn’t feel motivated to leave a message on the answering machine. As a kid I HAD to know who called!! Plus it was a new technology back then that fascinated me, and I kind of enjoyed the whole “Ha!! You think you’re gonna call us, hang up, & get away with it?? Think again!!” gotcha thing. These days caller ID is standard on cell phones, so whether a person hangs up without leaving a voicemail or not you know instantaneously who is calling.

 

41     Try On Shoes at the Store

I’m going to need more information here. I have childhood memories of going into a shoe store and trying on multiple pairs before hitting on just the right combination of fit & fashion. Are people not allowed to do that anymore?? In hindsight it does seem slightly unsanitary, and God knows we’re all hyper-aware these days about spreading disease and all of the horrific ways we could possibly meet our demise. Since I don’t walk I don’t have to purchase shoes that often. My size hasn’t changed in years and I’m not the least bit interested in being cool or keeping up with trends, so shoe shopping is a fairly simple process for me.

 

 

There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.  – Ronald Reagan

 

 

42     Hand Wash Clothes & 43 Hang Laundry on Clotheslines

I think hand washing clothes was passé before I was even born. Electric washers & dryers have been around for over a century and really hit their stride in the 1950s. I remember my grandparents talking about handwashing clothes back when they were coming of age during The Depression, and my mother would hang clothes out to dry during the summers of my youth. I assume there are still people that use clotheslines, especially if they reside in a rural area.

 

44     Buy Newspapers or 45 Advertise in Newspapers

Newspapers aren’t quite dead yet, but they aren’t as big of a deal as they once were. News is readily available in many forms like websites or 24 hour news channels on TV, most of which are updated constantly, which of course newspapers can’t be. Newspapers still exist, and they still have advertisements, but with The Internet newspapers are a decidedly old-fashioned way to advertise anything. The first thing I do when I get my Sunday paper is throw away all of the flyers & sales propaganda. And if I’m looking for a job, house, or any kind of product or service the newspaper is the last place I’m going to look.

 

 

New technology will not necessarily replace old technology, but it will date it by definition. Eventually, it will replace it.  – Steve Jobs

 

 

46     Handwrite School Essays/Reports

Do they even teach cursive writing in schools anymore?? Since nearly everything is done with computers now it is much more…pragmatic…for kids to learn keyboarding skills, because they’ll be doing a lot more of that in their lives than anything with a pen or pencil. Not only do they not have to visit the local library or use a multi-volume encyclopedia to do research, but spoiled brats these days don’t even have to cramp their soft little hands by writing pages & pages of information…they simply type a report in Word then print it out.

 

47     Buy Flowers from a Florist

I’m going to call BS on this one. Florists are still in business. Like anything else they’ve had to adapt to modern times. I suppose most people order flowers online now. But even when you use a service like 1-800-FLOWERS the purchase is still, to my knowledge, fulfilled (including delivery) by a local florist.

 

 

All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

48     Keep A Diary

I’m sure there are still people that record their innermost thoughts on a daily basis, although I think it’s called “journaling” now. We’re fancy like that.

 

49     Send Post Cards

I’m not a traveler. I think I already mentioned that. Anyway, nowadays if a person wants to say “Hey!” to the folks back home while they’re traipsing around on vacation all they have to do is post pics or a status update on social media.

 

 

Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. – Thomas Edison

 

 

50     Visit Yard Sales/Flea Markets

This is inaccurate as well. Yes it’s true that there is no shortage of websites on which people can sell their junk, but old-fashioned yard sales & flea markets still happen in every small town in America every summer. My mother loved having yard sales and going to yard sales.

 

Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.  – Confucius

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Pontificating On Memories, Cameras, Old Friends, Dead Relatives, & Recurring Dreams

(The following is a re-post of something I wrote about a year ago)


I’m not a picture person. More specifically, I’m not a picture taking person. I love looking at photographs. I’m kind of a ham, so I love to be in photographs. But for some reason I have always been too lazy to actually carry a camera and take photos myself. I think it was the whole process of buying film, inserting it into the camera, sometimes even having to buy flash bulbs, rewinding the film when it was finished, having to take it to the drugstore to get it developed…it all seemed like such a hassle. No one under the age of 30 has any idea what I’m even talking about, but trust me, it was a rather burdensome process. Besides, my Grandma Mano, who was usually present at any momentous occasion in my childhood and teen years, ALWAYS had her “Kodak”. That’s what she called it, regardless of whether or not she was using that particular brand at the time. So for the first 18 years of my live I could just lay back and relax, cause someone else had the whole “capturing memories” process covered.

Unfortunately for me, this hasn’t been the case for the majority of the second half of my 35+ years on the planet. Yes Grandma still has had the majority of family events covered, but she’s 93 years old and won’t be here forever. Also, as people grow up, other people die, and relatives procreate and form their own branches on the family tree, there are less and less occasions where the whole family is together. As one grows into adulthood there are noteworthy events that don’t involve the family as well. So there have been a lot of things that have occurred over the past 17+ years in my life that are not captured on film to be remembered for time immemorial. For example, my four (ok, four and a half) years in college, what I consider to be the best time of my life, are vastly underrepresented on film. I have maybe a half dozen pics from that glorious era. There is some videotape, because at the time I had a new handycam and thought it was cool to break it out when I was drunk. But even that is underrepresented, as I was pretty much hammered most of my first 2 years there but only have maybe a couple hours total of tape. It makes sense that an 18-21 year old guy concentrating on getting hammered, getting stoned, and getting laid (2 out of 3 of which I accomplished with great acumen) wouldn’t carry around a camera telling everyone to “say cheese”. But it still saddens me that I don’t have photos of my friends and the fun things we did.

Three things have propelled me to rhapsodize on this issue. First of all, I bought a digital camera a couple years back. Those who know me and my situation know that I haven’t had much opportunity to use it the past couple years, but I have used it on a few occasions and I love it. It’s such an improvement over the old days, and I’m looking forward to using it more often in the coming days. Secondly, my father has been going through a bunch of old pics at his house and organizing them into little albums. I’ve really gotten a kick out of looking through them, seeing me and my family evolve over literally six decades, remembering loved ones that long ago left this realm. And finally, I had a dream. Well, actually a number of dreams over the course of the past few years. It’s one of two recurring dreams I have, the first one being me going to school as a teenager wearing no pants. However, that’s a topic to be explored another day. The recurring dream relevant to the current train of thought is one in which I am somewhere important…a reunion of old college buddies, a family event, a long desired trip to Vegas…and I’ve forgotten my camera and am unable to capture the memory on film. I’m sure Freud would have a field day with me on many levels, and especially with the hidden meaning of this recurring dream. I’ve never really studied dream analysis…never really believed in stuff like that. But maybe there’s something to it. I don’t know.

Do I have a point? Not really. Events that have past and were not marked in some tangible way can never be relived and must be remembered only in our hearts and minds. But as I grow older I suppose I get a little more nostalgic and realize the importance of having mementos like photographs to remember events, people, and eras in our lives.

America’s Pastime??

Barry Bonds in action.

Barry Bonds

I had every intention of doing a full blown 2009 baseball preview. That obviously didn’t happen. Opening Day has come and gone and so it seems a rather pointless exercise.

I remember not that long ago when Opening Day was an event. Everyone, even the most fair weather baseball fans, knew when it was approaching. I suppose it’s still a big deal for a significant amount of baseball aficionados, but it certainly doesn’t seem to have the cachet that it once did. I didn’t even realize it was occurring until I heard it mentioned on the radio in my car about an hour before the first pitch was to be tossed. There didn’t seem to be much coverage of spring training this year, or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

There are probably a lot of reasons for the decline in popularity of baseball, atleast in relative terms when compared with our ever-increasing love affair with football. For me personally I’m a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, and they haven’t been anywhere close to competitive for about 17 years. We Pirates fans have no real reason for hope or anticipation and usually quit paying close attention before summer even officially begins. I’m sure this apathy spreads to fans of other teams like the Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals, and Cleveland Indians, whose teams are rarely that good. This can be traced to the lack of a salary cap, something football has and baseball sorely needs. There are also the constant scandals that have rocked the sport for the last couple of decades. I don’t believe it’s out of bounds to hypothesize that the beginning of the end for baseball started with the downfall of Pete Rose about 20 years ago. Then in 1994 there was a players’ strike that cut the season in half and forced the cancellation of the playoffs and World Series. Baseball has never fully recovered from that season and the wrath it instilled in loyal fans. It came very very close to a much desired reconciliation with its public in 1998 due to the excitement involving Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s chase of Roger Maris’ vaunted home run record. But during the past 4 or 5 years even that progress has been unraveled as we’ve learned that all those home runs were likely a mirage, the numbers skewed by illegal substance abuse. One by one mighty heroes of the diamond have fallen from grace, from Barry Bonds to Jose Canseco to McGwire to Alex Rodriguez. Even pitchers, chief among them the legendary Roger Clemens, apparently aren’t above cheating.

We also cannot ignore the changing landscape of our nation. We prefer fast and frenetic these days, as opposed to slow and easy. Football appeals to our more modern, chaotic sensibilities, while baseball seems nostalgic and bucolic. Baseball is a relic, a living monument to a bygone era we recall with a certain sense of wistful wonder. It’s a nice place to visit occasionally, but it’s not something we can really sink our teeth into for the long haul. And with its 162 game season plus playoffs and then a World Series baseball definitely encompasses a long haul. Transversely, football season seems much shorter, even though it really isn’t. Close examination reveals that baseball opens in April and concludes in October…..7 months. Football, if one takes into consideration both college and the NFL season which basically overlap, begins in late August and climaxes in early February…..7 months. Of course there is a significant difference when one factors in that each team in football plays once per week, while in baseball your favorite team likely plays 4 or 5 times. Youngsters today consider baseball slow and boring. They have so many other choices…..video games, the internet, DVDs, Ipods. Our culture is on sensory overload, and baseball easily gets lost in the shuffle.

Football has better PR as well. Does anyone think football players don’t use performance enhancing drugs? If you do, you’re more than naïve. But no one seems to make nearly as big a deal out of it. Also, when was the last time you watched or attended a college baseball game? College baseball has an extremely limited following, while college football is HUGE. We are able to follow our beloved football players every step of the way from their recruitment to the university of their choice, through their entire college career, to speculating who’ll choose them in the NFL Draft (does anyone actually watch the MLB Draft? Ummm…no), through their (hopefully) long NFL career. We’re invested in football every step of the way. Baseball…..not so much.

This examination is not meant as an insult to baseball. I’m still a fan. I just find it unfortunate that circumstances have converged in such a way that prevents me, and legions of others, from being a passionate fan. Calling baseball America’s Pastime is nothing more than a marketing tool. It is more a reflection of America’s past.