New Technology, New Media, and Old Me

Category: Social Media Social Good Series, Weekly Columns

I’m a baby-boomer.  I’m a Yuppie.  I’m a man.  I’m a dad. I’m divorced.  I’m re-married. I’m a writer.  And, I’m sometimes a mess.  It’s a confusing world, no doubt, and the evolution of technology in my lifetime has contributed to my confusion.  Let’s consider what has occurred in the past half-century or so, since I was born.

When I was a child, media, and  technology were pretty simple.  Media meant the newspaper, three networks, and going to the movies.  “Live” theatre and concerts were a special treat and the telephone had a dial and a cord.  My family had one television set that residing prominently in the living room and it looked like furniture. Our record player, as they were called before “Stereo” was introduced, was designed to look like a side cupboard and was a complicated device that I was not allowed to touch.

I remember, in my early teens, riding my bike wherever I wanted to go and regularly stopping at a local book and record store, where I’d pick up the KHJ Top 40 weekly song list.  KHJ no longer exists in Los Angeles.  When I had enough change, I’d purchase a favorite single record, which was called “a 45.”

As I frequented this store regularly, I have a fond memory of walking out one day and being stopped by the owner, who seemed ancient to me at the time (he was probably around 40). At first I thought I was in trouble, but the look on his face immediately eased that fear as he handed me a “45” and said, “Here’s something for you.”  I remember that is was “Groovy Kind of Love” by The Mindbenders.

When The Beatles hit the shores of the U.S., I watched in wonder their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  Our family, like most in those days, had one television set, and we’d watch together during the evenings and I’d watch alone on Saturday mornings.

My parents wisely, though I hated it at the time, didn’t allow me to watch television on school days, so I missed many of my friend’s favorite shows.  But, on Fridays and weekends I was allowed to watch and I’d usually go for dinner at my maternal grandparent’s house and watch, “The Rifleman,” “Superman,” my grandpa’s favorite, “Gunsmoke,” and others. “Leave It to Beaver” was a fixture and when I recently learned that Barbara Billingsley had died, it almost felt like a real relative had passed away.  I’m sure these shows weren’t all on Fridays, but my memory is a bit fuzzy.  My grandpa loved westerns, especially “Bonanza” and that show’s theme song stayed with me.

When I became a parent, I didn’t allow my boys to watch television on school days either, and still don’t, and, I used the “Bonanza” theme to play “Horsey” on my lap when they were still little enough to enjoy that.

Fast-forwarding ahead with this history lesson, “Stereo” was introduced; it seemed to me, when The Beatles came out with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” in two versions–a yellow-striped (at the top) stereo version and the regular mono version.

Like so many advances with new technology, my family and others were often hesitant to invest in something new.  So, we stuck with our mono living room record player.  I didn’t get a real “Stereo” until I was living on my own, after college.  I did live on my own, right after college, a seemingly quaint idea nowadays.

Skipping ahead further on this journey, the technological evolution continued with Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, cassette tapes, power windows, the first massive computers, color television, 8-Track stereo, transistor radios, car stereos that blew you away with their volume, bigger and then smaller television sets, automatic transmissions, foreign cars, television video recorders, CDs, and the home computer.

But, in those days these new generation of devices occurred, it seemed, almost with each generation rather than with each season, as they do now. My parents, and my generation, were able to adjust, learn the new devices, and mostly enjoyed these “upgrades.”

By the time VCRs were commonplace, my parents were lost and I vividly remember trying to teach them how to program the one that I bought for them so they could watch their favorite shows whenever they wanted and skip the commercials.  It was a hopeless effort, in spite of painstakingly showing them and providing a “cheat sheet” with step-by-step instructions.

As most parents know, the cliché, “what goes around comes around,” usually does happen and I’ve found myself turning to my boys for help with new technology to only be greeted by their exasperation and impatience when I don’t “get it” right away.  Parents now should know about Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Dating websites, Online Safety for our kids, and so much more.  Our kids want “smart” phones, iPads, iPods, portable video games, laptops, and communicate via texting and chatting.  It is truly overwhelming!

I’d rather not have to get “that look” from my kids the next time I want to learn how to program my “smart” phone that makes me feel anything but “smart.”  Don’t you feel the same?

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  • Jim S

    Don’t forget the Walkman craze Bruce!

    This cycle’s been going on since the advent of the wheel. Only now…the wheel is spinning fast!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Don’t worry, Jim S., I haven’t forgotten! “Stay tuned!”

  • Bill Draeger

    Nice trip down tech memory lane. Thanks. I might have added rotary phones, party lines, 78’s, and 4-track tapes. But then, I am older than you.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Well, if I added all those Bill, I’d run too long! Besides, most of those and others are going to be part of my “The Evolution of Technology” series on Boomer Tech Talk!

      • Bill Draeger

        And phone booths.

  • http://twitter.com/suzanneec Suzanne C

    My first real love affair of the “new” technology was my original home computer, a Radio Shack TRS-80, back in the day I think it was referred to as a Trash 80. It weighed about 20 pounds. Now I am typing this on a wireless laptop!

    My first cell phone was the size of a small carry-on bag and minutes were a king’s ransom. Now, I carry my smartphone like it is the Holy Grail and probably use it for everything but to make phone calls.

    Technology has advanced beyond what I would have ever guessed it would have 30 years ago. Who would have ever thought that all my 33 LP’s would be reduced to an 8 track tape, then cassette, then cd and now the entire collection to a size of something so small that I can hold it in the palm of my hand.

    My car practically drives itself. Did I buy my car for the comfort of the ride – no, it was all about the electronics for me, satellite radio and navigation and bluetooth are what sucked me in.

    Leo Lapote became my hero in the late 90’s with his obscure cable television show, The Screen Savers. He showed me the capabilities of what my home computer could do, how I could teak it and how to fix things myself.

    At 50+ years old, I should be asking kids in their 20’s and 30’s for help with programming my cell phone, I should be watching 12:00 blink endlessly on a vcr, I should be reminiscing about simpler times but I am looking forward to what’s coming in the future.

    I am a geek, an old geek, but a geek nonetheless.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Love your comment and so appreciate your sharing your memories and nostalgia with me/us! Thanks Suzanne. Wow, you really did begin early with computers! Good for you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kellypoelker Kelly Poelker

    Love the post, Bruce.

    I was just having a conversation with about the change in technology. Specifically, our ability to be connected to our kids 24/7 through IM, texting, and Smart Phones — something our parents couldn’t do back in the day.

    Proud to say I still own a record player, some 45s and a ton of LPs along with an 8-track of Rocky Horror Picture Show.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      We should compare our collections and maybe do some trading Kelly! Lol. I hope you’ll read my post, “The Evolution of Technology” on Boomer Tech Talk!

    • Jenn

      That’s awesome Kelly, I actually still play the 8-tracks too. They’re getting dry and breaking, which is sad, but they’re a steal at garage sales.

  • Jenn

    I picked my 12 yr old daughter up and two of her friends from roller skating, and the friends were talking about how “old” their phones were (2 – 3 months). I spoke up (probably not what they wanted but oh well, my car), and I proceeded to tell them I only spend about $40 every 5 months on my cell phone minutes, and they were astounded, I then pulled out my 5 year old tracfone and showed them. They wanted to see it, and then the one spoke up and said, it’s so old it has an antennae! (it’s about a one inch high round piece on top, not a pull out.) I had to laugh so hard. And I told them, it doesn’t have a camera, internet or downloadable ringtones, but it is in color. They couldn’t believe that even existed still. I should’ve shown them my mom’s old one in black and white with a pull out antennae that has the “snake” game on it. They probably would have played with that for hours! She hasn’t used it in over two years, and the battery is STILL charged up.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      So funny! Thx for sharing that Jenn!

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    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I love it when an old article gets read! TYVM!

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