A 2020 Vision
Updated: Jan 12, 2020
What do you see up ahead?
Today is the eve of a new year and a new decade. Frankly, I was shocked to wake up in the year 2000 so imagine how surprised I’ll be tomorrow morning on the first day of 2020!
In a conversation with my 11-year-old neighbor boys (twins) the other day, I was trying to explain how much the world has changed since I was their age. In the half of a century between us, I lived in a world where the inventions that now rule the day simply didn’t exist. And, as time rolled on, they were only “ideas” awaiting patents and the technology to help build them. For instance . . .
We had no telephones when I was a little kid. Eventually, in the mid-1960s, we got a rotary phone on which we could dial the 0-perator to patch us together with the intended recipient of our call. No one in our blue-collar circle could afford to make a long-distance call, which meant we didn’t call anyone whose house we couldn’t walk to OR we sacrificed a large sum of our grocery money to make a call that couldn’t last more than 120 seconds. We had no caller-ID or voicemail—not even an answering machine—so we had to guess who might be calling us and decide whether or not it would be safe to answer the mysterious ringing machine. Push-button telephones (cordless or corded), along with slightly cheaper, though still ridiculously expensive, long-distance charges came into existence when I was in high school. Then cellular telephones came into our world when I was plunging toward my 30s, though we have no way of knowing how many brain tumors and other cancerous effects were caused by the radical amount of radiation they exposed us to along the path of “progress.” Today, in my semi-retirement and much to the consternation of many of my friends and family members who would rather send me photos in text messages than to have to email them, I still opt for the old “beam-me-up-Scotty” Star Trek version of the cell phone—the "flip phone." I can call out and receive calls, and though I have unlimited texting and an enormous amount of rollover data I will never use, those who text me know it is highly unlikely they’ll receive a texted reply because these old fingers of mine aren’t up to the task. It’s not a computer I want to carry in my pocket—just a phone . . . unless, of course, Captain Kirk calls to let me know I can finally board the Enterprise, in which case, I will gladly fumble with the buttons long enough to figure out how to open the online channel. But I’m jumping ahead now, so let’s return to my non-tech childhood for a look at another batch of inventions I began life without—for instance . . .
We had no such thing as a home computer when I was a kid. We had a typewriter. It had keys and a ribbon, and a return carriage that needed a good manual whacking to get it to move. I watched my mother type letters on it. I watched her paint over misspelled words with white goop and blow it dry with pursed lips, the same delicate way she would paint her fingernails. If the white goop wasn’t properly dried before typing the correction over top of it, she would have to use nail polish remover to clean it off of the keys before any more typing could continue. Another fun project that was part of this do-over was her attempt to re-align the carriage to be sure the keys would re-type the word on the same line, in the same space. A tedious process that made me all the more grateful for my pencil and eraser. I never wanted to learn to type but was forced into a typing class in high school because, as my parents put it, “the only job suitable for a woman is a secretarial job—and secretaries must be good typists.” “Fortunately,” they followed up, “a woman need only stay in a secretarial job until she finds a husband, gets married, and begins to raise a family.” O-M-G! So, I flunked the typing class but excelled at General Business in spite of the fact that I only showed up in the classroom to take the monthly quizzes and final exams. I learned a lot about accounting in that class, including how to balance a checkbook, though I somewhat regretfully neglected to put any of it into practice for the next decade or two. Still, it did come in handy when I became an accountant in my 30s. But I digress. Back to the computer at hand.
As a young mother in my 20s, I stood in horror as my brother installed a Macintosh 128k computer in my home “for the children,” to be followed by an IBM PC—both of which he built from scratch with his own brain and hands. In that year I lost my kids to a fake world of low-tech games such as “Pong,” “Tetris,” “Pacman,” “Kings Quest,” and “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.” Soon came video games to play on the television. Mario and Luigi took over our living room and the growing minds of my children. Some folks asked me why I allowed these foul, satanic machines into my home. As hard as I fought it, the truth is that my choice was to watch my children playing video games at our house or not watch them playing video games at their friends’ houses. I opted to have my children live at home with me. That was the reality in the 1980s and ‘90s. Just as video games were developing and growing, so, too, were computers. By the mid-1990s, I had my own computer and printer, making a work-at-home mom’s job easier and a lot less expensive. Typing my year-end thoughts on this much-evolved Windows-10 platform today, to upload to my website and share on social media, is something I can only accomplish thanks to the tech r-r-r-evolution that invaded my life so long ago. Back in those days, I worked on my slo-o-o-o-w-w-w-w PC while my kids played video games. Nowadays, they work on their laptops and phones while I type articles for blogs and chapters for books. Clearly, I’ve lost my war against typing, but am eternally grateful for the tech-heads that replaced white-out and carriages with highlighting and delete buttons!
We couldn’t have video games, computers, or internet without first having had television technology. As kids, my parents had radios. Period. No pictures, only sound and their imaginations. Their parents didn’t even have radios, only their imaginations. Evidently, the goal became to create the most excellent ways to erase our imaginations, and this has been achieved in a fairly short amount of time. For practical intents and purposes, black and white televisions were in many living rooms in the 1950s and color televisions followed in the 1960s. Many tech-heads had already been hard at work on this technology for a century in order to bring this medium to the world of bored housewives and fidgety children. Men enjoyed watching the news and sports, but were also coerced into watching Sunday night Disney programming, Lawrence Welk’s polkas, and Sing Along with Mitch's “Follow the Bouncing Ball” as a way to “bring the family together” as defined by family members staring mindlessly into a small, square screen rather than having to talk to each other at day’s end. It all ends up in a big blur—radio into television, television into computers and video games, and all of that into a Smart Phone that does everything, including taking still pictures and moving video. I’ll stick with Captain Kirk and our mutual Tribbles.
Nevertheless, I do adore my Black and Decker toaster oven, my KitchenAid mixer, my Hamilton Beach bread maker, and my Frigidaire freezer. Life wouldn’t be the same if I spent all my waking hours grinding wheat and kneading dough. Although I’m certain this blustery winter day would preserve my frozen foods, summer would not keep Olaf in very good health. The snow-blower, the chainsaw, the log-splitter, and the electric sander have all been helpful inventions. Tech can be a true blessing. Alexa, Siri, and Google? Not so sure I’m ready to be under their watchful eyes just yet. However, these thoughts of mine are growing ever-closer to being transmitted to you over the wide-open waves of the ever-watched-over internet to wherever you think you are hiding out there . . .
My final thought, as I shared with my favorite tow-head twins several days ago, is that when their 11-year-old youth has strayed far behind them, bringing them a half of a century into the future, what will the world look like then? What new inventions will have made life easier—or more complicated? Where will the tech-heads lead us lemmings? Over the edge, into the abyss? Or into Heaven on a Star-bus? Wherever we’re going, unless immortality is affordable, I won’t be here to see it built from scratch and installed in my home “for the children.” But, if all goes well in my sleep tonight, I will wake up tomorrow to see 2020, which is more than I ever envisioned. For now, however, my flip phone is playing a polka so I should answer it . . . the old-fashioned way, without my glasses on so I can’t see the caller-ID. Let the mystery begin!
Sweete Quote: “A blogger is an impatient author.”
Blogging gives me a way to keep practicing my writing while keeping in touch with you! So please do post your thoughts, suggestions, critiques, and compliments (especially the compliments) in the Comments section. Just know that I'm too "frugal" to upgrade, so I can't comment on your comments unless you email them to me directly, which you can do on my Contact page!
© Jennifer Sweete, New Year's Eve, December 31, 2019
Any typos found in this document are caused by sleep deprivation and/or playing video games while proofreading. The author pleads insanity.
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Books I am already reading or am looking forward to reading in 2020:
Pre-suasion by Robert Cialdini – Taking my time & copious notes . . .
The Way I Heard It by Mike Rowe – Halfway through & savoring every chapter!
Loserthink by Scott Adams – When I can pry it from my husband's hands.
The Emotion Code by Dr. Bradley Nelson – Just arrived today. (Recommended by Rebecca who loves it.)
The Gold Finch by Donna Tartt – On order. (Recommended by Doris who praises it above the movie.)
Until we meet again, keep reading, keep writing, keep dreaming!