Being part of Generation X, I have been privileged to experience major leaps and bounds from analog to digital technology. It wasn’t until recently that I started to look back at some of those things and realized…stuff just seemed to work better back then. Don’t get me wrong, I love my tech. However, there just seemed to be less stress involved in those days.
The Evolution of Phones
When I was my daughter’s age, we had one phone plugged into the wall. I remember when my mom bought the fancy unit with the back-lit numbers. It was sleek and comfortable to use. It didn’t have a digital read out, nor could it be used as a remote control for the television. You also didn’t need to pull the battery out of it to make it reboot in order to connect to the network. You sure as hell wasn’t taking selfies with it for Snapchat.
Until a couple of years ago, my grandmother still had her old rotary phone hanging on the wall. She had to upgrade in order to use the health monitor after her bought with cancer. On a side note, technology saved her life. Anyway, you could use that old phone as a hammer, crack someone in the head or drop it on the ground and it would still dial without fail. I doubt an iPhone can be used to drive a nail into the wall today. You also didn’t have to worry about butt-dialing someone…you just had to make sure the phone was on it’s hook before you started talking crap about the person on the other line.
Moving from analog to digital in terms of phones have made people are more efficient in both personal and professional lifestyles. It’s also made people ever more lazy as you could play games, text while driving or even take pictures of yourself behind the wheel of your car. Yes, times are good.
About 30 years ago, I was writing my own programs in BASIC – Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. It was the primary language for the Commodore 64. That’s right people, the Blue Screen of Death was non-existent in those days. Those computers were built to last. In fact, I still have one. I am currently looking for its power supply, but I did turn it on a couple of years ago to make sure it was in working condition.
Computers were built with much greater concern for longevity in those days. Although you had to wait five minutes to load a game from the floppy drive, never once did the game crash because of a bad video driver or corrupted DLL files. Now it seems the more “development” that goes into creating computer technology, the greater the chances of crashing while it’s just sitting idle.
Of course the leap from analog to digital computers happened long before I was born. But the difference between the Commodore 64 and the computer I built five years ago is about as dramatic. My children will never know the joy of using the Mach 5 speed loader cartridge on the C64 for games. Now, it’s all related to how fast the Internet connection is.
One of the biggest changes in the past 30 years is that of the Internet. The closest thing we had to Internet connection was through Bulletin Board Systems. We used our dial-up modems to connect to a central computer to share information and play text-based games – one person at a time. I still think one of the coolest sounds in the world is when the modem was connecting to the BBS. That screech is identifiable anywhere.
I remember having to use the computer at night to access those BBS numbers because it would tie up the phone line. Nothing is more disturbing than picking up the phone and hearing the high-pitched whine of a data stream. Yeah, I was banned from using it too often during the day. Most people got a second line put into their homes for the simple reason of accessing those systems or running one themselves without tying up the primary phone line.
Back in the days of using my 300 baud, never once did I get disconnected because of a crashing router – damn you Charter! However, it would be easy to bump you off of a BBS if you had call-waiting. So, I suppose there isn’t much of a difference nowadays. At least I didn’t have to worry about server latency decreasing my upstream while trying to play World of Tanks. No, back then it was a busy signal if someone else was accessing the BBS before you tried to call.
Recently, my daughter asked me what a tape cassette was used for. I still have a lot of my original music from the 1980s. When I explained it to her, she had this expression on her face like I was trying to explain the meaning of life. It was then that I realized just how old I really am.
I remember buying entire tapes just so I could get the one song that was my favorite. In fact, a lot of times I didn’t even listen to the rest of the tracks. I just hit fast forward until I got to my song. Sometimes, I would copy just that one song onto a different tape so I wouldn’t have to keep fast forwarding the original. Today, I can just go to Google Play and download the one song for much cheaper than buying the entire album. This is perhaps one of those pieces of tech that I relish the most.
However, a little more than a decade ago, I defragged my computer’s hard drive. Afterwards, every one of my MP3s somehow got intermingled. For example, let’s say that I was listening to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel. About 45 seconds into the song, it would suddenly switch to 45 seconds into “Dragula” by Rob Zombie. Yes, I am quite eclectic when it comes to music. It was like someone mashed up all of the tracks into some kind of weird play list of “guess that song.” Thousands of MP3s were ruined. It’s never happened to me since, but it also never happened when I was using tapes. In this instance, analog to digital caused me to lose hundreds of hours and a lot of money downloading and ripping MP3s.
The Cost of Efficiency from Analog to Digital
Digital technology has done an incredible amount of good in the world. Moving from analog to digital in most cases has made life easier to manage. Too bad that it didn’t do anything for stress levels. Now, we worry about who is liking us on Facebook, what virus is on the phone, who’s texting me at 1:30 in the morning, upgrading the video card to play a new game and investing in IT support when your computer decides to crap out when you’re writing a blog post. Luckily, WordPress can help with the latter by updating its own drafts.
Yes, analog to digital is a great leap. Unfortunately, it seems that manufacturers realized it’s more profitable to create a half-assed product in order to sell more at a later date. But, with all of it’s faults, moving from analog to digital does have it’s advantages. Especially when your children break the remote to the SmartTV and you have to use your phone to change the channels because a lot of TVs nowadays are incapable of handling such “old fashioned” parts like a channel up and down button.