• Jeff Fox: Smaller, faster, smarter – but better?

  • I’m a big fan of progress. Mostly.

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  • I’m a big fan of progress. Mostly.
    I was born in a time that will someday be viewed as a weird transitional period in human history.
    We had TV, but most of it was in black and white. So were a lot of movies. A given episode of a given TV show aired twice, once for real and then in dreaded “rerun.” This was when, amazingly, lots of people changed the channel – or turned the TV off and did something else – because there was no need to hear a story a second time. TVs had off switches, and people used them.
    We had phones but not in one’s pocket or purse. Heck, Grandma and Grandpa out in the country had a party line, which unintentionally might have been the earliest, most primitive form of Facebook.
    We heard about computers but seldom saw them. I think the first time I was aware of a computer somewhere in my actual part of the world was my mom’s passing reference to one in existence and in use at the bank where she worked. It was in a secure, undisclosed location. This was the same bank that drew half the town to its lobby one Saturday by putting $1 million cash on display for a couple of hours. That was a big stack. We were easily entertained in those days.
    We had music – great music – but if you wanted to control your own playlist you were tied to the nearest phonograph, which was plugged into a couple of holes in the wall. Plus you paid for records, which could and did break or wear out. You could listen to music while mobile, but it was someone else’s playlist and came randomly over the “radio.” I remember getting a transistor radio powered by a nine-volt battery – wireless! – when I was about 8 and thinking this was the ultimate.
    We had radio because we had little else, and it was pretty good with news and weather, the ballgame and music. Opinions were few, and you had the idea that grownups were in charge to enforce a degree of reason and common sense. The younger among us will listen to today’s radio ranters and conjecturists and swear I’m making this up.
    The first people we knew who had the Internet where the Jetsons and the crew of the USS Enterprise way out there in space, and usually the most complex question anyone asked was about the molecular structure of dirt. We did not have the word “Internet” although the concept always seemed to be out there – as if it were waiting to be born – and you’d have thought one of the first projects once it did come along would have been a contest to find a better name than “Internet.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Now we have progress: The concept of “reruns” rendered moot by cable channel after channel of nothing but shows in syndication. Music and news of our choosing, in our comfortable electronic cocoons. Phones that buzz and bark at us in a constant stream of tweets, texts, Facebook updates, Foursquare posts and the occasional phone call.
    (A point of etiquette: Please consider the volume and duration of your ring tone. No one needs to hear the entire theme of “Gone With the Wind” again and again when the person who calls after you leave your phone at your desk keeps calling back to see if you have magically come back in the last two minutes. We did not have these problems in the days of transistor radios.)
    We are told by the futurists who should be thoroughly discredited by now that the Dick Tracy two-way wrist TV – or something very close to it – is just about the corner. Yeah, I heard that one in 1978. I’ve saved my money, and I’m still waiting.
    I’m a fan of progress, whenever they get around to it.
    Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter @Jeff_Fox. Reach him at jeff.fox@examiner.net.

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