Thursday, March 10, 2011

The World of Auto-tainment

I follow Wil Wheaton on Twitter. He is the place where my inner nerd meets up with my twelve year old self. I had a huge 'crush' on him (notice the pun? His character name was Wesley Crusher) and I still find him funny and quirky and actually a pretty good writer. Anyway, I follow WilW on Twitter and for the past day or so he's been posting tweets about things that were the norm for us as kids but are now nearly obsolete. And it got me thinking about how much has really changed in the last twenty or so years.

VCRs became an affordable household item in 1979 but were replace by the DVD player in 1995 which was replaced by Blu-ray technology in 2006.
Spell check for personal computers became available in 1981.
CDs became to mode of choice for music lovers in 1986 but was replaced by MP3 technology in 1998.
The first Starbucks in Canada opened in 1987 but it took more than a decade to see the franchise become a staple in Canadian cities.
In 1992 the Internet became available to subscribers outside of government agencies and science communities.
The first text message was sent in 1992.
Combo meals began to be offered as menu standard in most fast food chains in 1992.
In 1993 smoking on all commercial flights was banned.
Caller ID became a standardized phone service in 1994.
Google was incorporated in 1997.
Napster, the first digital music sharing site, was established in 1998.
2001 saw the launch of Wikipedia.
Youtube went public in 2005.
The grandfathers of social networking sites, Friendster and Myspace were founded in 2002 and 2003, respectively and Twitter was launched in 2006.
The PVR became the 'next big thing' in home theatre packages in 2007.

My point being, when we (people old enough to think of 1900 as 'the turn of the century') were growing up you had to know how to spell, go to a dictionary to find the meaning of a word and an encyclopedia to find out more about the world around you. If we wanted to talk to someone we had to pick up a phone, in our house, and call them or ride our bikes down the block to visit them. We answered the phone not knowing who was on the other end, wrote letters with pen and paper and mailed them via the Post Office.

We drank coffee that we made at home, with just cream and sugar, no soy, whip, foam or flavours. We ordered our fast food meals by the item, 'Do you want fries with that?' and burgers were burgers, not entities of epic proportions that were the size of our heads and weighed twice as much. People smoked on planes, in cars, in malls and in restaurants. We took peanut butter sandwiches to school and rode our bikes without helmets.

When we listened to music we had to flip the album or tape over half way through. If we wanted to watch a movie we went to the cinema and if there was a show we loved to watch on TV we had to watch it when it aired or wait for the rerun. Our 'social network' was school, church and our neighborhood and making a 'friend' meant spending time with a person not clicking an icon. 'Surfing' involved going outside, fresh air and water and the phrase 'you had to be there' meant something because there was no one filming and posting your most embarrassing moments for the world to see.

Times were different, not necessarily better or worse, just different and it makes me wonder what the next twenty or so years will bring?

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