50 years. Half a century. Five decades. That is how old I turn today. The world has changed so much since 1969! The world did not have things known as cellular phones. In fact most households didn’t even own a phone in the early 1970’s. The telephone company owned them and people leased them as a part of their phone bill.
Here is a picture of a phone similar to the first one I talked on. For you younger folks let me explain how these things worked. First you picked up the hand set, the thingy with the curly wire attached to it, and listened for a dial tone. A dial tone is a buzzing type noise that let you know the phone was connected. Then you put a finger into the rotary dial on the first digit to be dialed. Turn the rotary dial, the clear plastic circle with all the holes in it, clockwise until your finger hit the metal stop. Remove your finger and let it go back to original placement. Repeat this process for every digit in the number you want to call. Then one of two things would happen. Either you would hear a noise indicating when the phone that had been called was ringing or you would get an annoying noise indicating the other line was busy. If you wanted to send someone a written message you did something called “write a letter” and mailed it to them. They would get the message between three days and sometime just shy of eternity.
At some point, I’m too lazy to look up when, phone companies quit renting phones and people bought their own. The cool ones were push button! Also known as touch tone.
Most cars were way heavier in the 1970’s. Family size cars got roughly 12 mpg if you didn’t lead foot it. By the 80’s most cars were getting stupid small and underpowered. At least that’s how I remembered them. But we started seeing gas mileage above 20 miles per gallon. I can clearly remember 8-tracks being replaced by cassette tapes and then CD players in most every car. Now Bluetooth is becoming the standard. Not sure when but somewhere along the way ashtrays and cigar lighters quit being standard in cars. Now it’s power ports, USB outlets, and cup holders.
A highlight for me of the past fifty years is the space program. Of course I was too young to know or care about the first man on the moon. But I do remember the Space Shuttle program. I thought for sure we would have colonized another planet by now. After all the first reusable space craft had been invented! The program did have a couple of tragedies and I won’t make light of that. However, it seems plausible that I might live long enough to see space tourism as a reality.
Technology in general has just been amazing!
This is what the first home based game console looked like. The game was called pong. You connected it to a television set and the screen looked like this. The game had two hand held devices wired to it with a round control thingy. To move the “paddle” up and down the screen you rotated the round thingy clockwise and counter clockwise. The object was to hit the little square dot that was a digital ping pong ball. Super exciting! I played for hours as a kid! Then they came out with Atari games and that was unbelievable how much folks would shell out to have one. We’re talking like a $100 dollars for the set and then sometimes as much as $20 for a game cartridge. Unbelievable!!! That was the beginning of the downfall of video arcades. It was also a major leap for the love affair of video games. Now we have $1000 smart phones with more video games than you can shake a stick at.
By the way televisions were not the lightweight thin things we have now. The were bulky, heavy, and expensive. It seemed they weighed about 10 lbs. per screen inch. Okay, not really that much but you didn’t hang them on the wall for sure. Around 1990 I bought a 27″ color television. That was really something to have! When I got rid of it many years later it took two people to get the thing safely outside. Now a 47″ television weighs roughly 40 lbs. and hangs nicely from a wall mount bracket.
Cable television came along and revolutionized the movie watching industry. We had HBO that stood for Home Box Office. You could watch a whole movie without a commercial interruption. It was awesome. Then came MTV (Music Television). VCR became a household item and with that video rental stores. Not many VCR’s or video rental stores around now. We still have DVD players but those are fading into history as well. Hard to beat typing in a movie name and watching it on demand. The downside is we no longer have family date nights to watch a favorite show or movie coming on at a certain time. In our house growing up movie night was a special event. Popcorn, Kool-aid, and everyone gathered in the living room around the only television in the house.
Along the way came home computers and internet. Computers were a bulky box with lots of wires to attach a monitor screen, keyboard, mouse, and maybe speakers. You needed a special piece of furniture known as a computer desk to use the thing. To use internet you had to plug a phone line into the computer. Now we take a computer everywhere we go. They look like phones, tablets, and watches.
We had a few things in school that aren’t there anymore. One of them was corporal punishment. Not a whole lot will change your attitude like a wooden paddle to the backside. Only a small percentage of the population my age and older ever actually got swats. Admittedly I got enough for most of my classmates. Just wasn’t that fast of a learner… We also had shop class as an option. That was where most kids learned how to use basic tools and how to build simple wood projects. Another option was home economics, or bachelors living if you were a boy. That was where many of us learned how to follow recipes, use kitchen tools and appliances. We also learned basics of budgeting money and making shopping lists. Can you remember the Pledge of Allegiance? How about wrapping text books with paper covers on the first day of school? We did that to preserve the books as long as possible for future classes to use. Maybe we should consider bringing back a few things from the past.
There were fads and fashions that came and went. Break dancing. Bulky giant radios with tape decks we called “ghetto blasters” powered by a boat load of D-cell batteries. Walkman radios and portable cd players that clipped to your belt and all headphones had cords. Parachute pants. Big hair. Mullets. Mini skirts. Scoopin’ the loop, also known as dragging Main. Homemade wooden ramps to jump bikes. And many other things that could be written about.
As a kid I dreamed of being an author. I would write short stories to pass the time when going outside wasn’t possible. Being inside was not where kids wanted to play in the not so distant past. Now I can sit here with my laptop computer and write to my heart’s content. I even published a book all on my own just recently. Technology sure has changed how things are done. I think in some ways it is a curse on this society. Just don’t see kids using their imagination to get things done like we used to. It would sure do my heart a lot of good to see some neighborhood boys dragging old pallets and scrap wood to build a secret fort somewhere.
America was far from perfect. The streets were never really safe growing up. We played in them anyway. Something we did have that seems to be getting lost is dialogue. Now it seems most people are polarized. If you don’t agree with an opinion the other person must be bad. Most people are attached to a phone or other electronic device and not so much personal interaction. You are probably reading this article on a phone at this moment. Even with all these distractions we can relearn to connect with other people. It will require individuals making a commitment to listen to others without judgment. To value others opinion as just an opinion and not an act of war.
What about you? Tell me some things you remember or that has changed in your lifetime. The things you miss and the stuff your glad is history. Or better yet have a coffee with an old friend and talk about those memories.
Rev. Burt Schwab