I was just thinking about how when I was a kid, we used a phone that was chunky, had a dial, and was permanently attached to a wall in my house. If it rang, you had to get to it before it stopped and you stood there while talking.
A couple of years ago I took my kids to an antique shop in Orono, Ontario and they found a yellow rotary dial phone. They asked me, full of the innocence of childhood, how to use it. I told them the tricky part was getting the numbers right because if you slipped or got one wrong you had to start all over again. That meant going around the dial with your finger in the hole with each number again. Life was so hard back then.
I loved a show back then called ‘I Dream of Genie.’ The genie could turn anything into whatever she wanted. That’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. But now I realize I have that power already. With just a tap of my finger I can turn a small flat device, the size of a deck of cards, into a phone and call anywhere in the world.
Or turn the device into a video camera that can capture and display moving images and sounds better than the huge black and white beast box we called a tv back in the day. You had to walk over to it and use another kind of dial to change to one of 11 channels. Clunk, clunk, clunk. If I stayed up late enough it said: ‘It’s eleven o’clock – do you know where your children are?’ This nightly inquiry was followed by static, (where the poltergeist’s hide) until the morning cartoons.
Today I can also turn my little device into a camera that can take incredibly accurate images with details that are better than most regular ‘cameras’ on the market today. Certainly an improvement over the ‘disk’ camera we thought was so new and modern compared to 110 film cameras, 35 years ago.
Another tap to this magic device and you have a stereo system rivaling my first big equipment investment back in highschool of a Harmon Kardon receiver and turntable. I had to get speakers for it to hear decent, although slightly static sounds. Delicate, flat vinyl disks came in cardboard protective covers with inner parchment paper sleeves to protect the sensitive grooves from scratches.
Now, a mere tap delivers music from all the ages straight to this box we carry in our pockets. No need to worry about fingerprints, skips or speakers.
I might be a digital immigrant, but my life spans most of the lives of the technologies that made this box I’m typing into. Yes I like it far more than the red and white plastic typewriter I had as a child. Especially since the keys don’t stick together when I go fast. I will never miss the white out to correct mistakes or going over a letter a couple of times to make it bold. (Don’t tell my phone how much I appreciate the sometimes annoyingly inaccurate spell checker.)
My dream of being a genie has come true. I can turn this box into anything I need with just a touch. It is such an amazing concept that I think we might just take it for granted now and then. I’m still impressed. I remember what it used to be like.
My challenge to you all is to stop now and then, to step back and really see how very cool things are. And trust me digital native’s, it’s way cooler than any of you will ever understand.