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Sunday, 15 January 2012

When I was a lad

I promised myself I would never use that phrase.

Trouble is the world moves on so fast these days, and a Neoluddite like myself barely has chance to smash the Spinning Jenny, burn the rolling Rosalind or Destroy the going up and down a bit and then moving along Gertrude, a raft of new inventions and things has come along.

I am not actually a technophobe, in fact quite the opposite. In keeping with my contradictory nature whilst I am trying to simplify and minimise my reliance on electricity and gadgetry, I love my computer and the knowledge available through it and I won't give up my home cinema for love nor money. However there is a balance.

I don't need a special electric device that reseals plastic food bags, or a toothbrush that needs batteries.

But this week I had a wake up to call to the steady march of technology. The old idiot box got me thinking again. If you have recently parted with some hard earned to buy yourself a new LCD telly chances are it cost you a few hundred pounds and at 1080 might look quite nice too. Trouble is it is outdated technology. The new films are being made a 4000 and that makes your telly particularly low res. The advent of 3D technologies as well threatens your state of the art box, and the race is on to launch smart TV. Keep an eye on Apple, this is their next biggy.

But this wasn't the wake up call. 

I was reading an article and it contained the phrase 'e-baby'.

Now this isn't the latest kids telly channel or the on line site to buy a foreign kid. No this is something much more decimating.

This year the first generation of children will enter adulthood (ie 18) that we born in a world that always had the world wide web.

Yep, in 1994 CERN decided that the WWW should really be WW and free. By 1996 the web was being used commercially and gaining speed, even with the old HTML 1.0.

18 years, I have been using the Internet for 16 of those. These things shouldn't surprise me, I have a 10 year old daughter. But it seems I age in decades. I bumble along being the same age for years, never considering things and then suddenly one of these soundbites comes along and drops a metaphorical piano on my youthfulness.

Whereas undoubtedly the www and the Internet will prove to have been the most significant invention of my lifetime, there have been so many other things that have happened in the 37.5 years I have graced this planet.

I feel this one deserves a soundtrack so fire it up and read on.

I was born in a world that still had a cold war, we had 2.5 TV channels and 2 Germany's. Windows were for looking out of, in fact Windows was 11 years away in 1974. Cd's were called records and were anything but portable. Apples were for eating, the other only came along in 1984, and 28 years later you've gotta wonder if there is an Orwellian synchronicity at play there given how ubiquitous Apple products are. You could walk around without being caught on camera. We didn't have a telephone, and only had one TV, the remote control was the youngest child or the person nearest to it. 

The eighties finally gave us computers that could be used at home, not the ZX 81 but a PC. However the early ones had to boot up from a floppy disk each time you used them. Speaking of floppy disks, they came along in the early 70's but many years ago a game called elite put the entire universe on one floppy disk, these days an average word document would not go on one. 

Nobody knew what a Google was, now it is a verb. We didn't yet have videos, now they are obsolete. In fact I am not even sure my daughter knows what they are. Their replacement, the DVD has already been usurped by BluRay and in turn streaming video gives this a very short life span. We have ipods, ipads, iphones and a host of clone devices that mean we are never out of contact. Back then a mobile phone was a ten pence piece and you had to chance it. When mobiles came along in the 80's the Yuppies used them to spread the word of Corporate Greed which also came along about the same time. They were like briefcases and signal was a very great problem. 

Digital photography was first invented by Kodak in the mid seventies but it would be fully 25 years before they became commercially interesting, and then phones had to have them. Modern mobiles have cameras of up to 10mega pixels. This pushes the low end of the digital SLRs that professionals use and the camera phone has made the digital camera near obsolete as well as the photojournalist.

Only birds Tweeted and only lights Flickered. YouTube was unimaginable, now here you sit listening along to it.

Television was 2.5 channels, BBC1 ITV and BBC2 which turned off for a bit. None of them ran 24 hours, they all closed down about 11.30 with the national anthem. Channel 4 tuned in for the first time in 1982 but didn't broadcast all day, in fact it used to turn on at 4.45 each day with Countdown.

The height of gaming technology was a small incomplete yellow circle.

We didn't have teleportation, artificial hearts or contact lenses, all of these things now exist in various states. Robot workers became the modern printing press and put hundreds out of work particularly in car plants. 

We had the USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and East Germany. We didn't have the Channel Tunnel or the Euro, although the later may not be around much longer because of that lovely Corporate Greed the Yuppies gave us.

You could drive down the M1 and be the only car on it, in fact you could stop and have a picnic if you wanted to. we didn't have four cars on every drive in a city with excellent transport links.

I was born in a world that didn't have 'merchandising' (but only just), now shops are filled with tat that is the next must have thing. 

My mum and my Gran both darned, this is now a skill akin to sorcery in terms of trying to learn it!

We still had an industry, although there is still a great deal of manufacturing in this country it is increasingly specialised. We rely on our 'neighbours' in the far east for nearly everything. 

Genetic engineering was done the hard way, in 1973 the first bacteria was produced, so just before me but it would still be some time before commercial uptake. Sheep looked alike because that was how nature intended them, not because they were cloned.

The space shuttle launched and has been mothballed in my lifetime, also hundreds of satellites spitting communications data across the heavens.

The population reached 5 billion, and then reached 6 billion. And now approaches 7 billion. Although latest data indicates the birth rate is slowing somewhat as people are waiting longer in the developed world to have children. Of course we are looking to the 'Undeveloped' world now to furnish us with consumers.

That's how much I can remember changing. I've looked up a few dates but I remember all these sort of things. There are still some things I'm waiting for. The hover car hasn't appeared yet but it is only a matter of time.

My point is so many things are changing, not all of them bad it has to be said. But do you really need a telly that is watching you and making sure it targets what it wants you to see? Does a kettle really need to tell you the water temperature? From science I reckon it should be between 0 degrees or 100 degrees depending on what you are wanting it for. That doesn't require an LCD.

Of course over the same span we have LEDs which will be the future of lighting efficiency. Solar Technology has moved on in light years quite literally and there are other exciting developments in the
energy field but this is definitely a Damocles number if you ask me.

I don't fear change, I don't have issues with it at all. I just don't think it is always necessary, but people 
generally don't seem to think like this. We are told we need something and like those sheep we flock to buy it. 

Corny as this has been, and much as you might hate it, stop and come up with your own list of things. Then think about what they have done to the world. Would it be any worse if they hadn't come along?

In most cases I reckon not.


  1. Ah, you've got me thinking. I don't like tech that much, I yearn for mechanics! simple gears! I go out of my way to buy old tech, old food mixers, tea strainers, I like to stitch elastic to hold my unmentionables up, I like to buy new clips, to darn, I like chopping wood - I'm a dying breed, soon, I'll be a rare breed, mmmmm? will I make it on to the endangered list>?

  2. There's some stuff I wouldn't give up for the world. As a kid calling grandparents in India was so expensive and time consuming because of dropped connections that it would be saved for Christmas and birthdays. Letters took two weeks to reach their destination. Now they videocall me, I've given them a virtual tour of my new flat and can text them for free twice a week :)

    Some things are integral skills that aren't being taught any more. My 9 year old nephew sends homework electronically and all essays are typed. His handwriting's never going to get better. God knows how we'll understand the next generation of doctors! I also think kitchen gadgets can be the most pointless things. Egg slicers, apple corers, garlic peelers. All things that a knife really can handle.

  3. Hi, tis I murphyfish the long lost blogger. I've started to write once more and would love to have you along for the ride me dear, find me here at ;-

    tis not what you may expect from me but I'm getting there.