Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year, Old Memories

It is hard to believe that it is already 2009. Why, I remember remarking as a child that I would be so old in the year 2000, so it's kind of tough when I realize that I'm now so old plus nine!

I was thinking about how interesting it is to hear people of my parents' generation talk about what things were like when he was a kid. Life was so different back then. For example, both of my in-laws were born at home, and they remember the days before their houses had electricity. My dad has memories of the family's ice box -- and the ice deliveries that kept their food cold.

Things were quite a bit different when I was a kid, too, although obviously not as different as the generation before mine. Technology has advanced substantially. We (the general public) did not have an internet -- and shoot, even BBS are a relatively recent phenomenon.

I have some early memories of computers, from roughly 3 or 4 years of age. The first was the machines that they used at the library to check in and out books. They didn't use barcodes -- these were much earlier technology. I'm not even sure what they did except that they made a spring-release sound and smelled of ozone.

Another memory I have at about that age was a computer with a modem that my dad brought home from work one time. The modem was a fairly large thing, and you would put the phone headset in this cradle made especially to fit the round earpiece and mouthpiece shape that was prevalent in phones of that era. It looked a lot like the top picture on this acoustic coupler page. I have no idea what the data transfer rate of that thing was -- but I do remember being fascinated by it and enjoying the modem sounds.

I took computer programming classes in the summer at the university when I was in early elementary school, and that was really cool. We programmed in line-numbered BASIC, and typed away at these green monochrome all-in-one terminals. I also took a little electrical engineering course at that age, which was fun too. I put together all kinds of resistors and diodes and great stuff like that. The best one was the chirping doorbell design. I remember that one because I took home the design sheet and told my dad that we should make it for our doorbell.

One of my friends' dads was a math professor, so we got a computer in our elementary school classroom. It was an Atari computer, and it hooked up to a television screen. The keyboard was basically flat but when you pushed on a key it would give slightly and beep. It had a tape drive for storage -- using regular cassette tapes!

In my Quest program class (once a week, every Tuesday, I was relieved from the drudgery of fourth grade, although I still had to make up all the work) I got to use a Commodore 64, again programming in BASIC.

The summer before fifth grade, my family bought a personal computer. I have no idea what brand it was but it was an IBM clone with an amber monochrome monitor. It had two 3.5-inch floppy drives, and you had to insert the DOS disc into A: before turning it on. It also had GW-BASIC, which I used to write programs. We had that computer until my sophomore year of high school, when we got a PC with a 386 chip and Windows 3.1.

I remember when I was doing a summer internship and used a brand-new machine with a 1GB hard drive. I remember thinking, how could you ever fill up a gigabyte of disk space? Today, I have ten times that much data in songs on my computer.

It's interesting to think of how technologies have changed over the past thirty years. What are your memories of the past?


rachel said...

Here's a crazy story that will make you feel old: Back to the Future was on TV, and we thought to ourselves, hey, Byron would like that! Mad scientist, time travel, what's not to love?

Problem was: for Byron, traveling back to 1955 didn't seem that interesting. As far as he was concerned, the movie STARTED OUT in the past. 1985 is ANCIENT!

Also amusing: the brief glimpse of future tech we get at the end of that movie. We only have six more years to invent fusion reactors that run on trash, not to mention the obligatory hover cars!

ceresina said...

Hey! that phone set is how Matthew Broderick connected to WOPR in War Games!

My favorite technology change story is more recent. In the movie Clueless, it's supposed to be funny, over the top, the way those rich kids are so tied to their cell phones, they can't even walk from one class to another without calling each other. Kids/teens now think it's normal.

Rebecca said...

Thanks a lot, Rachel and Ceresina, I'm feeling even older. It's interesting to think that from a kid's perspective, 1985 was a long time ago. Yeah, let's get on it and invent those fusion reactors and hover cars. Hopefully Obama's economic stimulus plan will cover both of those.

And Ceresina, I had never thought about how the things that were formerly over the top are now normal parts of everyday life. I wonder what kind of stuff we missed out on when watching movies from earlier generations!