Tales from real life
|Approximately a lifetime ago, my uncle gave me a simple four-function pocket calculator with a one-line LED display. It was my personal introduction to the space age, just four years after the first moon landing. My current smart phone is about the same physical size as that pocket calculator, but contains more computing power than the room-size mainframe that I used at University in the mid-70s. I won't even describe the stone-age programs that we wrote for the mainframe, or the green-screen CRT terminals that displayed their output. Modern apps are orders of magnitude more sophisticated, and today's ultra hi-res screens are beautiful. And, though today's smartphone is primarily used for updating social media, it can also make phone calls!
Younger folks will be shocked to learn that phones were once attached to the house. They had to be plugged into a phone jack in the wall to connect to the 'network'. The only mobile phone I saw as a child had a thirty-foot cord so it could be carried into the next room. If you were outdoors, or in your car? Then you were out of touch, maybe for hours. The horror!
Today, nearly everyone posts the excruciating minutiae of their daily lives on the world wide web for anyone to see. They willingly cede all right to privacy in the desperate hope that somebody, somewhere, will like them. It wasn’t always so. An early form of today’s social media was called the ‘party line’. It consisted of a single telephone circuit that served multiple homes. This was especially common in rural areas, where it was cost prohibitive to run dedicated phone lines to all of the widely separated houses.
Each home was assigned a unique ring code made up of short and long rings. The idea was that each household would answer only when they heard their own code, but it was more entertaining to pick up any ring and catch up on the local gossip. Or, pick up at random to see if someone was already on the line. You could listen in on your neighbor as she chatted with aunt Minnie, or hear about her medical issues as she made an appointment with the doctor. Of course, back then people thought it was rude to eavesdrop. There was considerable friction between those who were 'just curious' and those who felt violated by the snooping. Today, people are offended if you don’t pay attention to pictures and posts with intimate details.
What a difference a generation makes!
Author's Note: ▼