Tuesday, March 04, 2008


I remember at the back of my father's office building in the 1970s, huge IBM computers in a cold storage room. In the early 1980s, my younger brother began working with an Apple IIe; around the same time, an acquaintance with the National Park Service at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, fired up a Tandy PC.

The first time I accessed the internet from a personal computer, I had to use a phone and a 300 baud modem -- slow as molasses. Then the big jump to 1200, and on to 2400, and up to 56,000! Go, cat, go! Finally, a T1 Line for every lab . . .

Other major shifts that stick to mind -- MTV and CDs taking on records. At first, record stores put them in cardboard and plastic packaging, fearing that people wouldn't buy something so small for more than the cost of a bigger record. Of course, now there are almost no record stores left -- Schoolkids Records in Chapel Hill is closing at the end of this month, in fact, leaving only one in Raleigh and another in Athens, Georgia.

More shifts along the way to today: computers getting lighter and more useful -- flat screens, laptops, more storage, improved internet service, wireless . . .

Cellphones / mobile phones -- it's only been a decade, really, but looking back, it seems like they've been around a lot longer. It's already been years since I unplugged my "Plain Old Telephone System (POTS)" / landline without missing a beat.

GPS and digital TVs and what's next? Is built-in obsolescence a good thing?

Sometimes it would be nice to have a manual override option . . .

SHADO MoonBase, 1970-1971. A little bit Old School, a little bit New Wave . . .

Today's Rune: Signals.


Anonymous said...



Pythia3 said...

Funny, I was just thinking about the old days of one family phone (and it wasn't really a family phone - it was mom and dad's phone!) Friends did not call me on the phone, and especially not during 'dinner time' 5-7pm or after 7pm since it was getting late...or after school when homework took priority! Friends actually sang my name "Lindy, Lindy," outside my front door when I was growing up. And it seems like people were closer in a more intimate way. Eye contact was nearly the only form of contact. There was no e-mail dodging or 'phone tag' playing.
And speaking of those old computers! My dad used to make Christmas wreathes out of the computer cards and then spray the wreathes metallic gold or silver. (Very futuristic.)
We have come a long way into a future that never really happened like we dreamed it would.
Here we are - just like that.

Johnny Yen said...

Oh man, I loved that show! I Netflixed the first few episodes last year and loved it still. The future that never happened.

it's funny that my kids refer to their "phones," while I still call it my "cell phone." I unplugged for a few years after my second divorce in order to save money, but tired of the poor reception in my home, and got Vonage.

My father started with IBM in 1967, working on those IBM 360's, the big mainframes. I remember him taking my brothers and I downtown (Chicago) where we saw those refrigerator-sized machines, which probably had less computing power than the ibook I'm writing this on.

There was just a story in the New York Times that said that the mainframes are making a big comeback, with the huge amount of data being moved by the internet and businesses.

I remember in college, in 1984, having to do a computer project; we had to hypothesize about correlations between voting and demographics in the 1980 Presidential election, and test it on the computer via the modem, which ran by putting the telephone in the grad office on a cradle.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm holding out for that promised "easy" button.