Saturday, September 12, 2009

50 years of progress?

Technology marches on, making progress in leaps and bounds with no slowdown in the foreseeable future. I asked myself a question the other day when we suffered a power outage at my CPA practice: What happens during my typical day that doesn’t rely on technology which is less than fifty years old?

Today
Our TV turns itself on at 6:30 a.m.

50 Years Ago
A second TV was too expensive and the one in the living room didn’t come on automatically. In fact, you had to wait for a minute or so while the tubes warmed up and had to adjust the antenna every time you changed channels.

Today
The drip coffee maker beeps at 6:45 a.m.

50 Years Ago
My parents made coffee in a percolator on the stove. Kids weren’t allowed to drink coffee, even when I was sixteen.

Today
Shave and shower at 7:30 a.m. This hasn’t changed too much, except for my Braun electric shaver that cleans itself and the Spa Massage shower head with Pulsating Power Pleasure. I’m sure I’d be happier if I had a digital temperature control on the shower.

50 Years Ago
Electric razors were noisy, corded, impossible to clean, and did a terrible job. Half your whiskers didn’t get touched and the other half were only cut back to stubble or were plucked out—a very painful and surprising experience.

Today
We start work at 9 a.m. From that moment until we close up, nothing is the same as it would have been 50 years ago. The reason I had time to think about all of this is because of the power failure. Nowadays, our office comes to a complete halt if we lose power, and crawls along when we lose connection to the Internet and email. On the other hand, we can handle the bookkeeping for many companies and prepare hundreds of tax returns.

50 Years Ago
Everything was done with pencil, paper and an adding machine. Computers were around in 1959, but cost hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of dollars and resided in specially constructed rooms to cool the banks of vacuum tubes. Few people had considered the idea of having them calculate a tax return or do the bookkeeping. Of course, back then a personal tax return only took up a half page of paper and required no sophisticated calculations; just a chart to look up the damages.

Today
After work, we prepare dinner. (Okay, to be fair, Mary usually prepares dinner, but I sometimes take something out of the microwave and put it in a bowl.) I don’t have nearly enough time to even scratch the surface of the myriad of improvements that have changed how we cook, including surfaces that don’t scratch.

50 Years Ago
Disneyland had an exhibit that opened in 1957 called “House of the Future.” In it, the kitchen freed housewives to pursue more exciting pastimes. In reality, being a housewife was not so glamorous, even with a dishwasher.

Today
My after-dinner and weekend activities just about all have a technological component to them, whether it’s editing video, recording music, typing blog posts, walking on a computerized treadmill, using precision power tools to produce not-so-precise woodworking projects, you name it. Things that haven’t changed much, like mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, and cleaning the gutters don’t appeal to me so much. We need some more technology applied to these things.

50 Years Ago
Watching TV—which was a real pain in the patooty before remote controls—was a completely different experience back then. It may have been a simpler time that causes us to reminisce, but I thoroughly enjoy pausing live action, skipping commercials, and channel surfing.


* * * * *

I suppose the question that I really raise is: Are we better off today than we were fifty years ago?

Copyright 2009 Randy Hunt

2 comments:

  1. After observing my granddaughter and my children playing some music imitation game on X-box while sitting on the couch instead of participating in human to human contact possibly even in an outdoor environment, I'm not too sure how this "progress" has helped us.
    The lyrics in the new songs leave something to be desired as well but I guess I can't blame that on technology.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think things were much more simple when I was a kid. There was less chance of getting in trouble as we stuck to our own neighborhood or towns for the most part. We watched tv where married people slept in different beds, sex was less than the main theme, and murders were bloodless. Back then, there was not much of a need for computers, times were slower, we had time for sunrises, sunsets, granparents, and we also worked more than we ate. Progress is a relative word in my humble opinion. Today one does not have to read to get news, excercise to clean snow off the driveway, or organized sports to play baseball. I think that my grandchildren are growing up to fast, and said to say, they will say the same when the reach my age if the bomb does not hit. The world we lived in was a good one, there was more true love, love of man, and appreciation of life in general.

    ReplyDelete

I monitor all comments. As long as there are no personally defamatory statements and/or foul language, I'll post your comment. For this reason, your comment will not appear instantaneously. To comment without registering, choose Name/URL and type a screen name (or your real name if you like) into the Name field. Leave the URL field blank.