Friday, November 17, 2006

An essay

In the class that I was observing today, the teacher gave the students an assignment for the holiday break (they get all of Thanksgiving week off). The students are to find the oldest person they can and interview them about a few of the technological developments that have happened in their lifetime; the students are to then write an essay reporting their findings. Since the instructor gave me a copy of the assignment, I thought I'd join in. However, since I don't really feel like interviewing anyone at this hour, I think I'll just interview myself.

Teacher A: So, self, can you think of a time before we had all these wonderful inventions we have today.

Self: Indeed I can. The cell phone, for one. I only got one a few years ago, and although I can't imagine life without it now, I do remember how it was. It used to be, whenever you wanted to go "hang out," that was what they called it in those days ya see, you'd have to arrange a ride home beforehand. If you wanted to change plans, you'd have to track down this thing called a "pay phone" and put in a quarter to call your folks. If you didn't have a quarter, you'd have to call them collect, which got pretty expensive. Not having a cell phone, though, it was easier to "forget" to be at the pick up point right on time if you weren't ready to go home yet. Yes indeed, it was a simpler time.

A: So, when the cell phone just came out, what did people think about this invention?

S: Well, I don't know what they thought when it first came out, as I was just a wee child, but people really used to see those old bricks as status symbols. Yes, I called them bricks, as cell phone used to be huge. My dad had one at work, and I remember being very intrigued by it. He let me make a call on it on Take Your Daughter to Work Day, which, along with the document showing the irregularities made in spider webs in the presence of various drugs, was the highlight of the day. It was a long time before I got to use one again.

A: Well, well. Isn't that just fascinating! Now, were you around before cheap long distance phone calls?

S: Well, long distance calls certainly didn't cost the same as regular phone calls, but I was still allowed to make them on occasion, so I would have to say no. When I was in third grade, one of my best friends moved to North Carolina, and I always looked forward to talking with her. I'd get to call her once or twice a month.

A: How sweet.

S: R was around before cheap long distance, though. He's got several congratulatory telegrams from his family overseas in his baby book. Telegrams!

A: Any other inventions you'd like to talk about? I know you have an iPod, so why don't you talk about the time before MP3 players?

S: Well, when I was a very little kid, I had a plastic record player. I noticed recently that they still sell that toy, though, so I don't think that counts. The best toy I had, though, was my Teddy Ruxpin. He's got a tape player inside of him, so that was about the state of technology in those days. The technology they'd let kids have, anyway. I remember that one time, one of the tapes got a snarl, and my dad carefully cut out the knot and reattached the two ends of the tape. It was missing a few pages after that, but I still listened to it. I still remember some of the songs, too.

A: Want to sing a few for us?

S: I could sing a few lines of "Grubby's Roasted Root Stew," but I won't. Time to continue with the story. After Teddy Ruxpin, I later got a Walkman and also the radio equivalent of a Walkman. In sixth grade, or maybe seventh, I got a Diskman for Chrismas and bought my first CD: "Falling into You" by Celine Dion. B got a CD player at the same time and her first CD was "Jagged Little Pill," so I think we already know who was cooler. The summer before I graduated from college, I wanted an MP3 player for my birthday, but there wasn't yet an iPod that had a screen and was solid state. I wound up getting a SanDisk Sansa, which worked well enough, but the audio quality just wasn't that good. A month after I got it, the iPod Nano came out, so I was understandably thrilled when R later got one for me.

A: And we really appreciate that, too. Way to go, R! Self, any last words?

S: I could talk about video technology and the fall of the VCR, but that would just be too much. I'll just settle for mentioning that R's dad still has a Laserdisk player, and in my mom's tape collection I found this oddly shaped tape. Apparently it's called a Beta, but I don't believe we ever had a Betamax player. It's quite odd.

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