When I was young

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What kind of world do we live in today, compared to our world twenty or thirty years ago? For those who may be in the first quarter of their lives, things may look pretty much the same. For those of us who are older than that, this world looks extremely different. The problem is that I am not exactly sure it is progress.

When I was young, the only time you heard a ringing noise in the house is when the landline rang. We would run to the phone to answer, not even knowing who was calling! There was no caller ID, there was a rotary dial phone on the counter or button wall mounted phone. The one phone in the house always had cords. There was no charging needed, as there were no electronics. The phone was left plugged into the wall jack only, at all times. You couldn’t take it outside and I remember how luxurious it was when we finally had a phone installed in our garage, with a really long spiral cord. It was much more convenient when we were playing outside, which was where we had to be on all nice days.

I remember that running to answer the garage phone was responsible for my first tetanus shot. I was flipping deck boards at the time and ran over a board with a rusty spike sticking up. As I was talking on the phone, I looked down and realized that a pool of blood was forming under my foot. The spike had punctured right through to the top of my tennis shoe and there was a hole straight up through the web of my toes. A short trip to the hospital and I was all fixed up.

When I was young, there were no such things as computers, until I was in my teens. We used a good, old fashioned type writer when typing something was needed. It actually clunked and moved along the page and we had to manually send the mechanism back to the left side of the page, after we finished typing a line. It was a big deal when we upgraded to an electronic typewriter with correction tape in it, as prior to that we had to insert correction paper manually, in order to erase a letter or start a new page, every time we made a mistake.

When I was young and first started using computers and taking a computer course in high school, we learned binary code using zeros and ones, in order to create computer documents and programs. Our first computer storage device was the hard drive, then floppy disks, then CD’s and DVD’s, then mini SD cards and now USB sticks. I still have an entire storage box of all of the storage devices, holding documents and photos, even though I don’t have any computers that read them all.

When I was young, in order to play a video game, you had to go to the arcade. Since we owned a few arcades during my childhood, I remember that getting our very first home computer, a Vic 20, was a really big deal. My Dad and I stayed up most of the night, one Christmas Eve, to set the Vic 20 up for the family, as a gift for Christmas morning. We initially only used the computer for video games like Frogger, Centipede and Pac Man and having access to play, right from home, instead of going to the arcade, was like heaven.

When I was young, cell phones didn’t exist. The only thing close to a cell phone was a walkie-talkie, which were fun toys to have, in order to communicate outside of a landline. A version of cell phones only existed on Star Trek and the Jetsons and seemed impossible and far-fetched. When cell phones did come out, they were big, bulky, flip open devices, that we called bag phones. Only the really important people had them and if you were lucky enough to get a cover, it was leather-type material with holes, where the buttons were. Cordless phones then came into the picture, for home use, and it revolutionized phone use. We could actually sit on the couch or bed, to talk on the phone, instead of on the kitchen stool.

When I was young, cameras were actually cameras. I remember in grade five that we actually learned how to take photos using a shoebox and then developed the film, in our darkened classroom. We had Polaroid cameras, before we upgraded to snap cameras. You couldn’t even see what the picture looked like, after taking it, until you removed the film and got it developed at a camera store. Sometimes, the whole roll would be ruined, because you didn’t latch the holes in the film edge properly, before you closed the loading door.

We took photos sparingly, because it was so expensive to develop the film. When they started offering free duplicates, for promotions, it was a big deal and very convenient to share with family, after placing the original in the sticky photo album. When digital cameras came out, they were so expensive that only the elite could afford them. When prices started to come down, I remember being thrilled at the features. The first digital cameras didn’t have playback screens, so you couldn’t see the picture, but at least the photos were stored on a removable card and not on film.

When I was young, my favourite record was Shaun Cassidy. I remember his feathered, long blonde hair and beautiful set of smiling teeth, on the full-size cover. When the records got smaller (called 45’s), it was much more convenient and the records took up less room to store. I still remember that scratching and static sound when I started the record turntable and gently placed the needle on the first song.

My grandfather also had an 8 track tape player, which we used for decades, at all of our family gatherings held in the basement of their home. We had a ping pong table, darts, a cribbage board, cards, board games and a home movie, film projector with various tape reels, which we entertained ourselves with. Family fun was actually family fun and was always a blast. In the summer months, we swam in their swimming pool and ate fresh vegetables and fruit from their garden. When ghetto blasters and Walkmans came out, it was remarkable that music became portable, especially by the pool.

When I was young, we only had VHS and Betamax tapes, for movies. We always had to remember to rewind them, before returning to the video rental store. I still have weddings, dance recitals, the birth of my daughter and vacation memories on VHS tapes. When VCRs came out, it was always a joke and we would say, ‘Don’t forget to rewind it’, laughing jovially. Eventually upgrading to a DVD player was a big deal. Then came the smaller, video tape recorders, which we still have stored in our basement. The only reason we kept it is to play some of the tapes back, when we want to see them. The video recorder needs its own bag, to hold all of the parts and batteries.

Getting a remote control for the television is also high up there on the list of advancements, during my lifetime. Instead of having to get up and adjust the knob volume and the dial to switch channels, the remote control was Star Trek come to life. Imagine me hitting a high note, like an opera singer, at this moment, to mark how I felt during that moment in television history. Upgrading from a small, black and white tv, and flat screens replacing full-size, heavy and bulky tube televisions also makes the list.

With all of that being said, maybe this is why my brain feels like it is constantly on overdrive. Text messages, cell messages, voice mail messages, work messages, computer dings, cell phone dings, microwave beeps, music players, dryer buzzers, emails forwarded from various personal and business email addresses, various television channels, Facebook messages and notifications, Instagram notifications, phone vibrations, bill notifications, mobility and data notifications, alarms, calendar reminders, photo uploads, video uploads and more, are overwhelming.

I find that there is no peace, unless I turn all of the electronics off. Especially on special occasions or designated days of rest, we need to start making them actual days or times of rest. Having all of the devices constantly interrupting, distracting, emitting noise and beeping at us only creates mistakes, unhealthy human interactions and the inability for our mind and body to truly recuperate. We may not be able to stop the world from advancing, at such a harried pace, but at least we can draw the line between where our electronic connection is put on pause and our mind, body and one-on-one interactions are put on recharge.

Try turning it all off, even for a few minutes or hours a day, especially during sleep to simplify your life and go back to the way things were when you were young. Once you overcome the electronic withdrawal, you will likely find a peace of mind that you haven’t experienced in a long time. The messages will all still be there, when you eventually check them and as I have experienced in my recent past, someone will drive out to get you, in the event of an emergency.

Forgive me for not responding, not answering, turning my phone off during sleep and naps, letting things go to the machine, or taking time to get back to you. I am in recharge mode. It is the only way I can see myself and the world getting healthier. Will you join me?

‘Life was much easier when Apple and Blackberry were just fruits.’ ~ Author Unknown