Technosaur: One Who Grew Up Before the Age of Computers

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Oct 132011

“My daughter knows more about than I do, and she’s three and a half.” (Quote from Video Professor late-night infomercial.) I grew up in an age before there were blackberries, ipods, computers, cell phones, video games, CD’s, satellite TV, and on-board navigation systems. As a kid I was shocked to find out that my grandparents only had a radio and a record player. The needle on the record player resembled something that you would use to sew your jeans and the 78’s (records) were made of this hard and extremely brittle type of Bakelite that would shatter if you so much as looked at it. 

Our TV’s were black and white and filled with things called vacuum tubes. The tubes would burn out and you opened the back of the set, pulled the tube out of its socket, then took it down to the local Seven-11 and tested it on a machine. Fresh tubes were stored in a cabinet underneath. I remember when our next-door neighbors got the first color on the block. Everybody gathered around and wondered at how blue the sky looked on Bonanza. I then realized that Batman’s costume was gray and Mr. Spock’s uniform was a different color from Captain Kirk’s. 

For $9.95 you could buy a sheet of plastic that would transform your black and white TV into a color set. The plastic had three different colors on it. You unrolled it and placed it over the screen. The colors were all wrong but at least you HAD color. A few years later they came out with a new technological improvement to the plastic. If you wanted a big screen, you purchased this thing that looked like a huge magnifier glass that would actually project the picture onto your living room wall. The only trouble was you had to turn the television upside down to get the picture right side up. The resulting image was big, but very blurry, and I’m sure being upside down didn’t help the TV set very much either.

The radios in the house were large and tube-type, just like the TV’s. Portable transistor radios were small and tinny and most of them just got AM. I remember that a lot of people carried them to the ballpark to listen to the broadcast by Harry Carey and Jack Buck WHILE they watched the game. Strange. The first job I had required the use of an adding machine. There were no calculators. It was electric, but you could not really do any sort of math on it, just add and subtract. An old manual Underwood typewriter handled all of your legal correspondence and some of the homework. 

Research at the library was done with microfiche and the used a roller thingie with purple ink to make copies. (I forget what it’s called.) Oh, and if you wanted to use the telephone, you had to wait your turn on the celebration line before you stuck your fingers in the holes and dialed; no buttons. It was hard to listen to music on the thing but you could call dial-a-prayer. The only way that you could text message was to learn Morris code and tap out the message on the receiver hook. Man, it was rough. A teenager the other day told me that they had never even seen a vinyl record. Geez, I think getting old.

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