Modern Technology

Modern technology is wonderful. We live in a society where almost everything is handled with just the push of a button. Everything is electronic, it is automated, it is wonderful and I would not have it any other way.

Just look at the things that we take for granted as part of our everyday lives. Computers, the Internet, microwave ovens, air-conditioning and satellite TV. Our life would be empty without any of these, and it's hard to remember the times before they were invented.

I remember the time when my older brother, Larry, brought home a crystal set radio. I watched with mounting excitement as he mounted the pieces on a board. There was a coil of wire, an antenna and a pair of earphones. A radio signal was amplified by the coil of wire and then fed to a tuner, which consisted of a crystal and a "cat's whisker" which picked the signal up and fed it to the earphones.

Our family had a radio; it was a large "Philco" with buttons set to tune various radio stations. It could also receive shortwave and police broadcast signals, but I don't recall ever having done that.

Maybe it was because it was something "we" had built, but whatever, that crystal radio was a marvelous invention. Larry tried to expand the use of the radio. He attempted to mount it to his bicycle. He soon found that it was not adaptable. In disgust he gave it to me, and then, without him, I soon lost interest in it.

There is only one thing I miss growing up during this time of great innovation, and that is the thrill of seeing these things come on the market. There was the excitement of our family getting its first TV set. It was a Magnavox 21-inch set. Although we were not the first on the block to have one, we were not the last either. I was in elementary school at the time, and after school I would run home so I could watch the Mickey Mouse Club. Later, after I got in high school, I would turn on American Bandstand.

It was also about this time that music began taking center stage. My first experience with new music innovations was a TV commercial where the announcer was touting the new 45 RPM records. He held out his hand in which there was a large stack of records and pointed out that that this stack represented several hours of music. I was impressed. Up until that time, records were large, heavy 78 RPM records, although the 33-1/3 records were also available. It would be several more years before I developed an interest in music, and then I soon had a large selection of rock and roll records.

It was about 1960 that transistor radios where available. The transistor was going to replace the vacuum tube. The first one of these new radios I saw was, as I remember, an eight transistor unit, powered by a nine-volt battery, also a new development, and would only receive AM stations. FM would not become popular until the late 70s. That radio sold for about $60. That was a lot of loot back then, when gas sold for 25 cents a gallon, a candy bar was a nickel, and you could get into most movie houses for a quarter.

There were other products that we take for granted now that seemed to be taken from the pages of science fiction books. Microwave ovens, VCRs, eight-track players and CB radios. I must have used up hundreds of gallons of gas just driving around and talking on the radio. "Ten-four, good buddy, catch ya on the flip-flop." I loved that CB jargon.

Cell phones were also a pretty good idea. I got my first one almost fifteen years ago. It was a rather large unit that required a belt holster to carry it. It worked well as long as you were in the service area and did not mind paying roaming charges.

Another neat invention was the pocket calculator. When I was in school, the only thing available was a slide rule. It was a ruler about 12 inches long with a piece in the center that would slide back and forth. Along these pieces were an assortment of numbers and mathematical signs. There was also a plastic dial that slid back and forth that was used to read the results of calculations.

I could never see the need for one, they could only be used to multiply and divide. There were also other things you could do with them if you were so inclined, but I never was. Besides, they were very expensive.

As I get older, I find myself more and more reluctant to embrace new technology. My wife finally persuaded me to get a new cell phone. It only took me about a week to figure out how to use the speed dial and take photographs. I was too cheap to use text messaging. Besides, why should you want to write when you can talk? I have never had any trouble talking, and of course, I never have to wait for a reply. At least not usually.

A while back I was in a store looking over the new cameras. I have an old Nikon that I have used for years. I love that old camera and have taken thousands of pictures with it. But time had caught up with it. The flash unit was no longer functioning, and the cost to repair it far exceeded its value.

As I stood there examining the cameras I decided it was about time to upgrade. With so many models to choose from, I had a difficult time selecting one. Eventually, I made the only decision available to me. I chose the cheapest one.

As I took the camera over to the clerk and watched as she rang up the sale, I realized that I needed to know more about the cameras operation. She was very patient as she explained how it operated, and the various functions such as review and edit features.

As I paid for my purchase, I realized that I had one more question. "What size film does it take?" I queried. "It doesn't use film" she explained. "Then how do you get the pictures out of the camera?" I stood there in amazement when she opened the camera and took out a little piece of plastic. "Your pictures will all be in here" she explained. I was dumbfounded. As she held that card up, she explained that it would hold 1,500 photos.

I am not one that yearns for "the good old days." But it sure would have been nice to have some of those things back when I was a kid.