A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Memories of a Baby Boomer

A couple of weeks ago Newsweek magazine had an article about computers and how far they - and all digital technology - have come in the last 50-60 years. There was a little sidebar that brought back so many memories.

Tube televisions - "back in the day" our TVs had glass tubes of varying sizes in the back. When the picture got bad (or went out) dad had to replace a tube. I would go with him to the store (not sure what type of store it was - they didn't have Best Buys in those days) and he would test all the tubes that he had taken out of the back of the set, find the culprit, and buy a replacement. And then - whammo - the tv was back in business and dad was our hero.

When color first came out we thought we had died and gone to heaven. Before we could afford one, we would gather around the store display and watch in awe. The TV Guide would list which shows were in color and, after awhile, we all got a bit snobby and wouldn't lower ourselves to watch the old black and whites. Now, of course, those old black and whites are my favorites!

Our first stereo was a cabinet style and you could only hear the stereo sound if you were right in the middle of the set. Dad bought a special record that had sounds like a train or car and you could hear them going from one speaker to the other. Dang, we were cool. We would sit on the floor like we were going sledding with my Dad in the back, mom between hislegs, me on my mom's lap, and my sister between my legs. That way we could all sit in the middle and oooh and aaah at the stereo sounds.

Fast forward to the mid-1960's when I was working in the Accounting department at the City of Tucson. My boss bought this new-fangled thing - a small calculator that you didn't have to plug in. We all gathered around his desk to see how it worked. It cost $400, but was worth every penny!

My job in that department was to liaison with the Data Processing Department. I got to know all the people in that department and would watch them re-wire the pegboards, use the card sorter, read the holes in the punched cards. There was a huge room filled with machines and blinking lights and that whole room had less functionality than my Treo has. Amazing.

My first word processor was a typewriter (I think it was IBM) that had a little window across the front and you could see the last 35 characters you had typed. Not terribly useful but totally "high tech".

The first PCs were big and cumbersome. We had the old floppy discs and you had to use two at a time - one for the application and one for the data. The memory in the PC wasn't big enough to accomodate much of anything. The later models had room to hold more data. But if you wanted a new application, you had to contact the vendor who would send out a rep to install it for you! They wore dress shirts and ties because installing stuff on a computer was a serious and professional business. Now we do it in our sweats.

My kids were extras in a movie called Kidco and I convinced them to use their earnings to buy a Commodore computer. It was some kind of keyboard that hooked to your tv set. One day the kids and some of their friends were in the living room playing with the Commodore and one of them typed something and got a "syntax error" message. Suddenly I heard these little voices saying in hushed and cautious tones, "Oh, no, look what we've done." This was shortly after the movie War Games came out so I guess my kids thought they were going to start an international incident.

Now technology moves so fast that every new item seems to have about a 2 month shelf life before something better comes along. Makes me sorta miss the old days and going with my dad to "test the tubes."


A Special Family said...

I read today that Leave It To Beaver is 50 years old...your post was a wonderful window into what life was life.

ira said...

I have loads to say..I'm not going to each separate post. I'll just give all the feedback here.

1. I love the new look! Esp. the pic and the italian babushka.

2.Congrats on retiring and that too feeling good about it.Hope you can do all the stuff that you missed out on before. enjoy!

3. If I get that MS that I'm applying for (in US) even m gonna have a tough time calculating since we follow the metric sys. here in India..

4.I've seen tech. change in my short life of 21 years, wonder what all i've gotta witness till i grow old!

pheww...! am done! :)

Jenni said...

I remember that old Commodore Computer! God, I loved that thing...

icanseeclearlynow said...

this is an excellent post on how our technology has evolved. you nailed the details (gosh! how did you remember so much).

when i went away to college, i brought with me the 13 inch tv that i had in my room at home. it had a dial that you had to turn to change the channels. NO REMOTE!

i look at my daughters and feel bad that they missed out on life when times were simpler.


Halfmexican Mama said...

Oh the Commadore...brings back a memory or 2 my uncle had one..speaking of memories I shared a good one on my post today, its a must read!