Once in a while over my years, the subject of technological change comes up, such as while sitting watching my grown God-children totally engrossed in their on-line computer games, teaming with other Millennials around the world as they zap bad guys, jump rivers and fend off attacking “things.” Or, we might be talking about recorded music, or other media, as this is a popular interest of theirs. These occasions give me the opportunity to reminisce “about the good ol’ days.” I don’t know what it is about getting older, and old, that gives we human beings the motive to tell the young ones about “how it was like when I was a kid.” From my observation most of the young ones could care less how it was, but we oldies keep on talking anyway. So please indulge me here.
When I was a boy we never had any technology in our home, other than our father’s Kodak 8mm camera and a reel-to-reel projector to run the silent movies he would take, and take he did, capturing the river flooding, or filming Old Faithful on our around the West road trip when I was eleven. I remember Daddy showing the movies, sometimes to our cousins who were not equipped with such “high tech” toys. These would be fun affairs, usually after dining on fried fish or venison, and drinking iced tea as we watched.
Then along came the first television in our home, around 1952. It was a big, ugly, piece of furniture thing really. So that we could receive the signal from San Antonio, some 100 miles away, Daddy had also bought this antennae that was on a fifty-foot tall steel tubular pole, erected next to the house. It was so high to get up over the huge oak trees around the house, that the F-100 fighter jets on their low-level training runs down the Nueces river canyon would rock the pole with their blasts. I am sure Daddy and Mama were thrilled to be able to acquire this grand tv, and on “good days” we could actually make out the visual image of Jack Benny and others of those days.
Mama and Daddy saw to it that at Christmas we got the latest toys that we had seen on some earlier trip to Joske’s in San Antonio, such as an electric fire truck and train set for me, and when an encyclopedia salesman came by, they bought everything he had, which I read cover to cover during my boyhood book-worm years. It was their way of seeing that we were educated, and even though we lived in an old, cold as hell, hot as hell ranch house, and had no more than two changes of clothes each, we “kept up” with the town folk in their fancy houses when it came to being “modern” and educated.
One thing we didn’t have, and didn’t have until I was turning 13 – and we had moved to San Diego, California (which was only for three years) – was a telephone. Looking back, I can truthfully say that I seldom if ever used the phone myself. The time I began using telephones “often” was when I was in college in the later part of the ’60’s, making use of the one Bell pay wall phone in my dorm to call my parents or bug my new girlfriend. Now I can’t even go to the bathroom without my smart phone. My, my. My remembrance of telephones when I was a young boy was that one of our cousins had an old crank phone like the one posted in the title above. The way you would call some one would be to turn the crank in a coded way, such as 3-shorts and 1-long, or you could just call the switchboard lady and ask to be connected to so-and-so, and she would do some magic with her plug jacks, and voila, “Hi Aunt Susie!” Of course the first of the modern telephones were the old black, table top ones, that we still see in the old Hollywood films of the ’50’s. These had a rotary dial, not buttons, and you could wear out a finger turning the spring loaded dial. One time our Daddy’s mother fell in her house – you know, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” kind of fall that elders (like me) are prone to. Luckily she was close to her old black rotary phone, but she did not have her glasses, and so proceeded to just dial random numbers, on and on for a long time – not easy for a lady with sever arthritis in her hands. Eventually someone answered, and she was rescued.
I learned to type (sorry, “key board”) on a typewriter not much more advanced than the one in this photo. I was 14. I think perhaps we were taught some practical things back then, as I also took electric shop three years running. leading me to my fifty year career as an electrical engineer. In high school Mama had a nicer typewriter, which eased typing long term papers. No word processors or lap tops then!
Over time the first electronic calculators came along, replacing the slide rule that we engineering students packed around. Unfortunately the first Texas Instruments calculator cost around $375 and came onto the market when I was just completing my degree.
When I was in college the creative Japanese came out with a portable 45rpm record player. I managed to buy one for the girl I would later marry. Here is what one looked like, except the one I got her was “cuter.” It would play one record, so of course you toted your favorite “jam.” I ran into her one day on campus with it, playing Retha’s “Natural Woman.” We never made it to class that day!
Some years later a big rage overcame the United States at large. Everyone had a CB radio! CB meaning “citizens band.” There were CB clubs just like motorcycle clubs today and everyone learned the lingo invented by truckers. Daddy got one for the home, and would talk to local ranchers, but most people had them in their cars and pickups, like this one.
In the late 60’s, into the ’70’s the 8-track players reigned, but all “good things” come to an end, as these were replaced by the smaller cassettes, and then along came the CD.
I will close with the arrival of the first cell phones. In the mid-’80’s cell phones became available in larger cities in the USA, such as Dallas where we resided. My wife was a jazz singer, performing at clubs around town, and usually she would have to call me to come pick her up, as I would be getting my sleep to get up for my day gig the next morning. To call she would have to find a regular land line phone, or if we knew this would be difficult depending on the venue, I would just have to set my old alarm clock in time to wake up and get to where she was. I saw a great thing in the first cell phone, and jumped at buying her one! She could then call me right when she needed me to come, and I could get some more shut eye time. He phone was like this one, huge and heavy. I instructed her that if someone every attacked her, that she could just swing her purse with that phone in it, and likely knock them out!
Well, I will end this morning of recollecting without talking about word processors and the first personal computers. Aren’t you glad!