Life in the Box: Devices and Change
I’ve been making lists of what has changed since I graduated from high school (1975), and a funny thought occurred to me: almost every change in our daily, personal lives is related to the refinement and miniaturization of computers and the sharing of digits through the air and through physical connections like phone lines.
Here’s a loose timeline of our adoption of computerized devices and programs, and the little and big ways they have changed just about everyone’s life since 1975:
|first world-wide electronic distribution system (1960s)
|required special phone lines, widened choices
|Phone message machines
|let us leave home instead of waiting for callers
|let us watch and share TV and movies
|Desktop, personal computers
|no longer taking up entire rooms
|no more message machines needed
|men suddenly learned how to type
|CompuServe to Google, making fewer trips to physical reference libraries
|start meeting strangers based on common interests
|suddenly every business needed one
|pushed information to people, they didn’t have to search, & they could respond
|Improved portability, cell tower construction, multiplies usability (coverage)
|Thumb Drives, SD cards, DVDs
|Sharing easier, including videos
|everyone can now publish, free
|Fiber Optic networks
|don’t have to rely on broadcasters or cable companies
|Skype, free long-distance, world-wide facetime
|Satellite phones and GPS
|Location finding in real-time
|computers in a pocket, can now remotely view and control home and other on/off switches
|High Definition TV
|TV with magazine-quality visuals, and still improving
|Eyes and Ears Everywhere
|Candid Camera is now a reality. Privacy and anonymity? Not so much.
In our adult lives, we’ve gone from house-sized computers used rarely, and only with permission–to computers everywhere in every house, car, business, elevator, and even in some of our bodies. And the thing is, most of us can afford to own a few, if not all of the computers we need. And we use them daily to answer questions, connect with distant friends and family, and do our jobs.
In just four decades, how we do things, and the scale and speed of how we can do them, has changed drastically. Computers have opened up possibilities that did not exist before. But, we are still human, and limited by our own imaginations, talents, choices, and politics. Let’s hope we can grow our minds and spirits to use these tools ever more wisely in the decades ahead. Let’s hope Don McLean will never have to write a song about “The Day the Computer Died.”
Nancy Heather Brown is an Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she uses gems from this treasure trove of life stories to add sparkle to her reflections on the creative process both inside and outside the box.