As our world approaches 2020, I’m amazed at how much things have changed. I grew up in an era where there was no Internet. In many ways, it was a simpler time where I didn’t have as many worries as I do now. Of course, we all feel that way when we are children because we are innocent. Our technology has advanced over the past decades to where I barely recognize the world that I grew up in.
Life Before the Internet
In life before the Internet, I remember crowded streets full of children. They would be playing games like marbles, ride their bikes, have a pickup game of hockey, or they would be at the school playground playing basketball or maybe baseball. Today when I go out, I rarely see children playing outside at all. If it is nighttime, I never ever see them outside. When I was younger, I can remember hearing calls from mothers asking Susie or John that it was time to come inside and get ready for bed. I remember calling back to my mom and asking if I could stay outside for just one more half-hour. That rarely worked for me, but I tried anyway.
“The Internet? We are not interested in it.”
— Bill Gates, 1993
We simply didn’t know what the Internet was. we had no video games to play besides the rudimentary games that were on the original video game systems such as the Atari 2600. These didn’t come into play until I was in my mid-teens, so my youth was not spent on video games. We had to invent everything we did so our imagination was a little bit more the imagination of children today.
Today, children walk down the street when I do see them with their heads tucked beneath their chin staring at a small 8-inch screen and not much else. They’re lost in a world of virtual reality. Perhaps they’re playing a video game or text messaging a friend. When I go on the bus to the mall to do some shopping, all of the young people had their heads sandwiched in these same devices.
It’s a sad state when our lives are ruled by small technological devices. Granted, I am guilty of this sometimes too as I’m usually on my phone doing because it’s simply easier for me to buy books online then it is to get expensive paperbacks. I am often reading articles and other content because it’s simply the way we do business now, but I do miss those good old days of spending most of my time outside. I do try to get out from time to time to take walks. I enjoy going down to the beach and listening to the waves crash against the shoreline. I never take my phone with me and always leave it at home because I simply don’t need it to enjoy that sort of thing.
The Phone Booth
I can remember looking around for a phone book as a young teenager when I needed to call home to ask for a ride when I was someplace else and didn’t have enough money for bus fare or a cab. All those phone booths are gone now, and you never see them anywhere. The last payphones left our local mall a few years ago as no one uses them anymore as they are ancient technology and everyone simply uses a smartphone to make phone calls.
We had our regular home phone line was disconnected several years ago because using the cell phone is just easier and we don’t have as many bills to pay. I don’t know what Superman is doing anymore since all the phone booths are gone. How does Doctor Who get anything done without his phone booth? I need answers to these questions. The phone book was such an iconic piece of technology that it’s sad to see it go. Perhaps there are a few around someplace, but I have yet to see them.
My First Computer Use
I can remember being in high school, where I was first introduced to computers. I had known about them before and even had a video game system called the Atari 2600 which was a sort of computer. I can remember playing Asteroids, and other games, At the time, I thought it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Now, I just get hemorrhoids, those are NOT fun. Just thinking about those small pixels moving up and down the screen making that insane sound. They were coming closer and closer to you and that you had to shoot them before they would destroy your ship. That is kind of off the subject, but I do remember asteroids well and even Missile Command, that was even cooler.
“Where is the ‘any’ key?”— Homer Simpson, in response to the message, “Press any key”
I can remember being in high school, and in our computer class, we were using DOS or Disk Operating System. Most teenagers today probably don’t even know what the hell that is. I can remember our assignment was to print our name in the middle of the screen. We have to write in all sorts of crazy commands just to get the stupid thing to print out our name and address.
It seemed to take forever, but that is just the way it was back then. Now we have entire address books on our small computer screen which we can access at any time we want. It’s really quite remarkable when you think about it. When I was in high school, I thought this personal computer thing wasn’t going to go anywhere. I thought the things were pretty goofy yet at the time they were kind of fascinating. Things sure started to take off after I got out of high school.
The Whooshing Modem
I can remember taking some classes, and we had to connect with the school library through our modems. At the time, our modems connected to our home phones. They would make a crazy whooshing sound every time you try to connect to the other modem at the school. I would often have to do this several times just to get a proper connection. The Internet was just starting at and things were quite slow. I can remember using primitive operating systems such as Windows 3.1 and using browsers such as Netscape Navigator to browse this new thing called the Internet.
“In the future, computers may weigh no more than 1.5 tonnes.”
— Popular Mechanics, 1949
It was amazing to me that we could see a full paragraph of text on our screen and if we’re lucky, even a picture would load up, although that would take several minutes. I can remember newsgroups as places you could go to talk to people about different subjects. They were kind of like our social media now or forums on websites where we go to chat about various subjects. At the time, there was no Google, no Facebook, and no Twitter. The Internet was pretty stale as there was no videos or other multimedia content.
Where We Are Going
I don’t know where we are going in terms of the internet and what it’s going to look like by the time I am a senior citizen. It’s a strange world we live in, and in many cases, I really do miss those good old days when I was growing up. I think the Internet is taken away some of our personal connections. We do discuss things with people online, but that face to face interaction isn’t there so it’s easier to say things we may not say otherwise.
It’s a little bit different when you’re talking to someone face to face as you get more of the personality of the individual and you can discuss things over a cold beer or a cup of coffee or a good meal. Whenever I go to a restaurant today with my wife, we seem to be the only ones that are actually talking in the restaurant.
Everyone else has their faces buried in those smartphone things which is kind of sad to see. Children growing up today are growing up in a world where the Internet is commonplace. I don’t know what they would think about being in a world that I grew up and where there was no Internet. Today we panic when Facebook goes down. In my time, we would panic when we lost the baseball in the woods when there was a car coming down the street that would interfere with our hockey game.
The Far Future
In today’s world, we do need technology because it’s simply the way our world works now. I think it’s important for everyone to take steps back from their technology from time to time and to enjoy other things in life. Go for that walk on the beach, listen to the waves, and do other things besides play on your smartphone. Take time to appreciate life because it will slip away from you sooner rather than later. When you grow up, there are probably new technologies that replace what you were using today. You will probably have nostalgia for the good old days when you had just a simple smartphone.