Old Lantern
We didn’t have this kind of newfangled modern lighting when I was a kid!

by Robert Gillis
Published in The Foxboro Reporter 12/2005

Yesterday, I was on the computer with my nine-year-old nephew Colin, and I was amazed by how easily he uses Windows. Oh, he’s not creating web browsers and code interfaces (yet) but he’s still pretty savvy. As I continually spend time with him, I find myself telling him how things were back in the Stone Age when I was his age. A simpler time.

Once while reminiscing, I was telling him about supermarkets. “When I was a kid,” I begin, and now I know I’m getting older because that was Dad’s expression. ” … We didn’t have bar codes on things. There was always a price tag. And the supermarkets had real cash registers. They pressed buttons to put the price in.”

“For every item?”

“Yep. And you got S & H green stamps. You collected them and filled the books and could earn prizes and — ”

Blank stare. But why I am I surprised? We’re talking to kids raised in a world of Universal Price Code scanners and debit cards. Their world has always included digital cameras, DVDs, one hour film developing, bar codes, music videos, fax machines, and Gameboys with more processing power than the computer used to land men on the moon.

I remember a world before technology exploded. Those were the days when there were no ATMs, and if you wanted money you needed to get it during bank business hours. You didn’t pay bills on line; there was no “on line.”

Those were the days when you still had the ability to “get away from it all” — the days before electronic mail, cell phones, fax machines, beepers, and Blackberries. No voice mail, no press 1, press 2, no answering machines, no GPS tracking.

And television? No cable back then. No VCRs, no Satellite dishes or Direct-TV or Tivo or DVD-R. You wanted to watch a show, you stayed home to watch it. If there were two shows at the same time you wanted to watch, you needed to choose one. The big event in TV was the day the TV guy came, soldered something onto the set, and viola, now we had something called UHF! 4 new channels!

How about news? TV news looked a lot different; there were no jazzy computer graphics and M-TV type flashes (after all, this was before M-TV)! The weather guy drew the weather graphics on one of those dry-erase boards and would slide across another board to show the close up of New England. There were more newspaper choices back then; in Boston there were five: The Herald, Record, Traveler, American, and Globe. These days we have thousands of news choices. No more daily news; we get our news up to the minute.

Computer keyboardI remember when owning a computer was a novelty and they weren’t incorporated into every single aspect of our society. There was no Internet, no world wide web, and no Google. If you needed information, you looked it up in a book, or went to a library and dug thru the Dewey decimal system cards.

My first computer hooked up to the TV and held a whopping 16K of memory (for you non-computer folks, think, really, really tiny). No disk drives or DVD writer, CD-ROM back then; the programs were stored on tape-recorder cassette (and took about ten minutes to load one program!)

Ah, the memories. But back then it was harder to store those memories. Photos from those days are all those fuzzy little square “126” size film. No camcorders back then. The days of cassettes, vinyl records, and earlier, 8-tracks.

It seems like yesterday, doesn’t it? There have been so many changes, so quickly. So much technology, exploding onto the scene at light speed. Life is faster today, yes, but we have so much new and amazing technology that does make our lives easier and better. It’s amazing, it’s exhilarating. The new generations will take it all for granted, but we old timers will smile, talk to someone younger than us with that look in our eyes and begin, “When I was a kid … ” and they’ll look at us in amazement, wondering how anyone could possibly have lived life in such a “simpler” time.

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