As someone who may reach his 81st birthday this coming September 17, I have long been tempted to try new technological innovations. My list of new acquisitions began in high school with a wonderful new Royal portable typewriter. I used the lid of the typewriter one Christmas, hung up my sock with a hole cut in the bottom, put the sock bottom in the typewriter case and woke up, lo! and behold! on Christmas morning to find a typewriter lid full of coal. So much for Santa being a benevolent and kindly person. Then the parade of new technology went something like this:
- black and white TV. Yes, even Lawrence Welk was fun when only four or five programs were broadcast on TV in the early 50's and you had to climb up on the top of a two-story roof to adjust the antenna.
- Monroematic 10 key calculator. What a wonder after Fridens. One of my fellow students at Michigan could solve a 28 x 28 variable equation in less than 30 hours if you brought him enough coffee to keep him awake. One mistake, and you start over from scratch.
- IBM card punches, sorters, and tabulators. Beat the heck out of penciled in counts on spread sheets. I hauled boxes of punch cards across the snowy Ann Arbor campus to the computer center where I was blessed to be able to do the mathematical and statistical calculations on my doctoral dissertation on the miraculous new
- IBM 650 computer. Took up a large room full of flashing vacuum tubes. One night lightning hit about 4:00 a.m. and I had to start all over again. Took hours and hours for this miracle of modern technology (early 1960s) to crank out my tables of data.
- IBM Selectric typewriter. What a wonder. My wife typed envelope addresses for the U of Michigan extension center and typed and retyped my dissertation several times. If a professor didn't like something on page 24, and it required shortening or lengthening by a page, you had to retype the entire blankety-blank thing.
- ball point pens. As I remember, the original ball point pens were quite expensive, and some time went by before they essentially became freebies. But I no longer needed my wonderful Parker 51 fountain pens or even my spiffy and expensive Mont Blanc fountain pen.
- Color TV. Amazing. All you had to do was sit one foot away from the TV so you could adjust the antenna, the wavy lines, the picture, and change the channels. Lawrence Welk in Color! Could you imagine? Our days of Lawrence Welk were soon over.
- Automatic transmissions in cars. No more floor shifts like the one I had on my '41 Ford.
- The first little-bitty Apple computer in the Apple II series with a massive 8-bit capacity, introduced in 1977.
- Then a string of new computers, introduced every year or two. We had whale-sized belly flopping computers that took up massive desk space, matrix dot printers, a bunch of losers and a bunch of winners, before we got to our modern skinny laptops and desktop screens. I didn't trust computers when they first came out, so kept my Selectric II IBM typewriter until I learned I could more or less trust it.
- Space Invaders. Yes, I confess, I was addicted and was very good at playing Space Invaders.
- Cell phones. My wife took mine away from me a couple of years ago since I never called anyone nor did anyone ever call me and we thereby saved 30 bucks a month. Now iPhones have substituted for normal human conversation and interaction. In any group, almost everyone is thumb twiddling their iPhones and watching NetFlix instead of saying things like "hello" and "how are you doing?" and "Do you think we should repeal Obamacare?"
- Kindle. I bought the first Kindle that came out thinking my wife would be overjoyed with it. She read one book on it and tossed it. But then I bought the Kindle Fire when it came out and loved it to death.
- iPad. Yes folks, the iPad. I bless the iPad each and every day since my family gave it to me a year ago on my 80th birthday. I don't know how I can get along without the iPad and the Kindle Fire. I have something like 396 books downloaded and 150 apps. My life has never been the same since firing up this little wonder.
- Digital cameras. My curious third son ruined my wonderful Kodak Retina IIIC many moons ago, which then was succeeded by a parade of other film cameras. Imagine my skepticism when the first digital camera came out. Would it work? Should I still buy film? I remember that the photography store I was in said they were still stocking about half film cameras in case the digital revolution collapsed. Meanwhile, Kodak failed to catch the wave. Now I have acquired a succession of digital cameras, graduating to the Canon 7D, which I use to take hundreds of photos every week. With a 1Terrabyte hard drive, I store over 100,000 images.
Now comes the latest and one of the most ingenious innovations. For a long time (a year, maybe) I resisted investing in all the paraphernalia to stream movies to my HD TV. Then along comes an invitation from Amazon to buy a Google Chromecast, a little plug in doo-dad, for 35 bucks. Amazon assured me I could stream NetFlix, UTube, and a couple of other sources direct to my TV. First, I had to wait over a month to get it. Then, when I plugged it in, nothing happened. No setup screen, as promised. Blank, blank, blank. Alas, I said, what is wrong with this technological miracle? After several hours of frustration I discovered on a help website that the Chromecast doodad had a practically invisible reset button which, if you pushed and held a few seconds, would reset the wondrous things and one could enter TV streamland. So I reset, turned it on, connected to Wi-Fi, and watched my first streaming movie, "The Letter Writer," an endearing movie I highly recommend.
Now the next generation iPhone is out. I would buy one, but who would I call? And who would call me? Meanwhile, I'll wait for my wrist computer, my 60 inch HD TV, my next generation digital camera. I hope I live long enough to see it all. The Model A Ford was quite a miracle in its day.