We recently obtained a new car for commuting and though the gas mileage topped the list of features (I admit my color choice was narrowed to two possibilities: the new 27-layer–or such–white or a gun-metal gray), the additional “perks” have proved tolerable. In fact, despite my loyalty to my large, heavy Magnum, now when I drive it, I find myself asking, “Where is your back-up camera, your heated seats, and your ability to sync with my phone?”
I enjoy, even embrace new technology–and I’ve lived long enough to see several changes. As a child I watched Bewitched in black and white and never knew what I missed. The first remote I ever used had three buttons. One scrolled channels up, the other scrolled channels down. The third button we pushed once for on, twice for volume up, thrice (an old fashioned word for the third time) for volume up, and the fourth time for off. Everyone is aware of technology changes—even those who never knew otherwise. A-fourteen-year-old sat in a class lately when the teacher asked, “How many of you remember pay phones.” He told me he’d never heard of them.
But there are other changes that have happened while we were bedazzled by the latest in tech toys that get faster, smarter, and thinner. The non-tech changes have slipped into our culture undetected. Yesterday I tried to buy a spool of string. I went from one store to another. At the third store the girl asked, “String?” She made it sound like I’d said a strange or inappropriate word. I replied, “Cotton string on a spool.” (Assuming they still have spools—even cardboard ones.) She was baffled. She asked someone else, but neither knew what I was talking about. My next stop was a fabric store with a craft section. There I found a small wind of hemp cord. About as much as I’d once used to tie up a tail for a kite (don’t ask if you don’t know). It was $2.00. (I took the picture next to a spice jar to show the scale.)
Another change seems to be the loss of our ability to figure things out for ourselves. I admit I use the internet for every question I think of from finding a synonym for “deftly” (the word is too old fashioned I guess, so I choose “capably”. “Dexterously” also did not make the cut), to giving voice coordinates to my GPS so it can navigate my way to a book signing. But at some point, will we lose the ability to think for ourselves?
I recently read an article that talked about significant contributions in the last 50 years, mentioning bar codes and better batteries. It concluded with this: “Nothing is left to chance—or to sheer stupidity. Not long ago, after happily munching our Roy Rogers burgers, we smoothed out the wrapper to discover a small circle printed on its interior. Inside the circle were printed the words PLACE SANDWICH HERE.”
BTW (that means “by-the-way”), if anyone sees a spool (?) of string (think “packages tied up with string”), whether cotton or hemp no longer matters, please let me know.
And here is what I did with my “string” aka “hemp cord” and pages from an old book (not the kind you download to your Kindle):