Thursday, October 09, 2008

Techno Logic

At the high school where I teach, all the sophomore are abuzz about the possibility of ordering their class rings. The guys are excited because they get to pretend like it’s a championship ring for their favorite sports team, and the girls are excited because they’ll demand possession of their boyfriends’ rings minutes after these young men receive them, only to wrap them in colored string until it fits their twitterpated little fingers.

Ah, to be fifteen again.

I do remember getting my class ring. Blue stone, 14k gold, “2000” arched around the front of the ring, and my name imprinted on the side along with academic and basketball icons for personalization purposes. It was awesome.

(Note: I didn’t have a girlfriend to yoink my ring away the day they were shipped to Central High School, but a later gal-pal did keep it for over two years, holding onto it during our rocky “half broken-up” stage, then conveniently losing it—or pawning it—when the split was final. Worst $300 I ever spent. Gentlemen, don’t give valuable things to women you aren’t married to. Even then it’s a risk.)

(Except if you’re married to my Amy, in which case she is perfect in all things. Also, very beautiful. I love you, honey.)

Now, my point: Back when I was an adolescent ordering a ring involved thumbing through magazines and writing codes on a pricing sheet. It was very meticulous work, but this was late ‘90s and we liked it that way. I also walked four blocks to the bus stop, even in winter. The bus!

Nowadays, students can just go online and literally build their ring before their order it. They can see exactly what it looks like so that they know what to expect when it shows up. We, on the other hand, had to just cross our fingers that all our hard-earned money from those long hours at the local fast foodery paid for the awesomeness we dreamed about.

It got me thinking about how technology has developed over the years. Kids today have things like Dance Dance Revolution, GPS, and tagless t-shirts. And class rings online. So I reflected about some other technologies that have changed over the years and thought I’d share some recollections about where these things were when I was younger.

Disclaimer: People of an older generation than me will probably feel old when I start talking about the state of computers during my toddler years. This is not my fault. Not a single high school student in the school this year was born earlier than 1990. I’ve had my time, too. Get over yourselves.


Growing up in the ‘80s, our home computer displayed three basic colors—white, black, and green. It was an Apple McIntosh long before they were called Macs and long before all of their products had a lowercase “i” in their patent titles. It had the basics like Microsoft Word and limited games (the most commonly used being “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”), and when it sat idle too long our screen saver would pop up and shoot off pathetic little green fireworks, over and over again. I remember some of the computers at my dad’s work had color monitors with the flying toasters and fish and stuff. Those were always fantastic. Absolutely blew my mind. How old was I to be so impressed by screen savers?


The first large piece of news I received via internet instead of the television was the death of Princess Diana. It was plastered on the Yahoo! home page, and I remember coming into the living room at my friend’s house (he had internet long before I did) and telling his parents and mine, who were watching a movie, what had happened.

Now, I wouldn’t call the news “immediate,” since it took the Yahoo! home page approximately 17 minutes to load completely, but having access to that so quickly blew my mind at the time. I also enjoyed the idea of “chats,” where you virtually mingle with people across the country and the world.

As a fifteen-year-old in the years before “To Catch a Predator,” I suppose I easily could’ve been raped by a horny fortysomething pedophile surfing the web for unassuming victims by mingling in such technologies, but it seemed harmless at the time. I just remember the sound of dial-up while your modem got cruising through the phone line—like an electronic cricket tearing paper into a microphone. Back then, “high speed” meant you only had to skip two shaves while waiting for a page to load instead of three.

Now, of course, the internet is accessible via satellite. George Orwell officially is rolling in his grave.

Compact Disc Players

My folks got married in 1994 and got a CD player as one of their wedding gifts. A lot like VCR’s in their heyday, early incarnations of the CD player cost several hundred dollars. The one we ended up with was pretty impressive, even if it was a few weeks before we got anything to stick in the player to make music.

The first CD I ever bought was Busta Rhymes’s “The Coming,” which included the smash hit, “Woo Hah!” Classy, right?

But while I could tape my favorite songs off of the radio for free, the only way I could get clean sound quality was by buying the single at Camelot at the mall (totally no longer open—damn you iPod!). I longed for a way to yoink music off the radio and onto a CD, but that didn’t come until I left for college and figured out what Napster was and how to use a CD burner.

Those were happy times, my friends, and now that CD players cost about $3.00 on eBay thanks to the rising popularity of MP3 players, they’re available for all to enjoy. Truthfully, I still listen to CDs in the car, so I guess I’m getting old and crotchety, refusing to conform to modern ways.

Further proof (and I’m not kidding) I told some kids last week not to cut through my yard. I’m literally telling youngsters to stay off my lawn.

Cellular Telephones

Take it from the guy who currently works in a high school—almost every teenager has a cell phone. In fact, Amy and I saw some kids who couldn’t have been older than 12 riding Razor Scooters while talking on Razor Phones, and they weren’t even old enough to use razors on their faces. Legs, maybe. Faces, no.

When I was their age (there I go again!), hardly anybody in high school had cell phones. They had only come out in recent years and were still pretty difficult to keep concealed because they were gigantic. I think Zach Morris’s dad had one on “Saved by the Bell” and it sort of looked like a half-sized gray filing cabinet with a giant black drinking straw poking out of the top.

My first one came when I was a sophomore in college, and that purchase was made for the sole purpose of keeping a long-distance relationship alive. Without it I could never have afforded all the AT&T calling cards, but with free nights and weekends I ended up making a 2 ½ year relationship last about 26 months longer than it should have. God bless technology!

So what’s next? Movie theaters and computer screens in the comfort of your own eyeballs? GPS attached to our brains? A machine that cooks food in minutes by emitting invisible waves to heat in large doses over short periods of time?

Maybe all of those things are impossible, but in a lot of ways the future is already hear. I, however, am lamenting the past.

There’s those damn kids again… “Hey! Walk AROUND the house... This isn’t a nature trail!”

1 comment:

keightykelley said...

I loved "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?", I also loved "The Oregon Trail"... AWW MEMORIES!