I’m getting old. Well, okay, according to my wife I’m already old, but what does she know, the young whippersnapper. I think, along with Greg, I am one of the oldest contributors to this site. In fact, the new 30 is no longer just a blip on the horizon for me – I’m actually about one block and one stop light away from that destination. I know the best years are ahead of me and I look forward to them with great anticipation – so could someone please tell AARP to stop sending me materials? I’m not dead yet!
Sounds like the ramblings of a doddering old fool, doesn’t it? Allow me to get to my point – there is method in this madness. Last week, Western Union announced the end of the telegram after 150 years of hand-delivered yellow envelopes – and, for you Jeopardy fanatics out there, the company, ironically, made this announcement on the Internet – just file away that particular tidbit for future use. Then, the other night, Mrs. Big Dubya posted about the obsolete cell phones taking up space in desk and cabinet drawers. All this got me to thinking about other things that I once used with great regularity that are now exhibits at the Smithsonian, so I thought I would share some of them with you.
LPs, 8-tracks, cassettes: Yes, these come up on everyone’s list. If you were to dig through my parents’ garage, you would probably still find The Beatles Blue Album or The Who The Kids Are Alright on 8-track – dude, I rocked even at 10-years-old. But, along with the death of the mix tape, I think we’ll have to add CDs to this list very soon as I don’t think my son or his peers will be listening to them for any reason other than the nostalgia value. With the proliferation of iPods and similar tech gadgets, why own 500 CDs when you can have the equivalent stored on something the size of a credit card; or why put together a mix tape when you can just text the playlist? Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying any of this is a good thing. I remember laboring for hours putting together tapes for road trips or for my beautiful bride – choosing just the right balance – fast, slow, hardcore, wicked mellow; making sure there was the right amount of space between songs so the search could pick up the break; deciding between song titles or track titles on the listing; and clever names for the tapes other than Slow Mix or Headbanging Mix. I think I’ll miss that.
Rotary phones, car phones and 1st gen cells: My parents just got rid of a rotary phone a couple of years ago. It was in my brother’s old bedroom and served as a second upstairs phone. It was powder blue with a short coiled cord and had the worst reception ever. Can you imagine trying to be the sixth caller using a rotary phone? I can. It sucked. Anyone out there have one of the car phones that came out in the early 90s? I’m not talking about something like you’d see in an episode of Cannon. These things actually came in something resembling a duffel bag and pretty much took up the passenger seat. And remember this: HI! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? I’M CALLING FROM THE CAR. THIS IS GREAT. WHAT’S THAT? OH, I’LL BE AT THE…………………………HUH? OH, SORRY. JUST WENT THROUGH A TUNNEL. CAN YOU HEAR ME? That I don’t miss.
B&W TV, UHF, VHF and 13 channels: My earliest memory is of watching men land on the moon on a B&W television. I was 2. We had a B&W TV in my house well into the 1980s that required a lot of antenna jiggling to get any kind of reception. Speaking of antennas (antennae?) – UHF and VHF and the age of 13 channels. I was 13 when cable came to my neighborhood – hell, I remember when you could get HBO on a set-top box without cable. But then again, I remember having to get up off the couch to change the channels, adjust the antenna, fiddle with the horizontal hold, tweak the color/contrast (does he look too green to you?) and wait for the test pattern to end. But then again, with 500 channels and nothing on, maybe 13 was more than enough.
Atari, Colecovision & Intellivision: Only out of pure nostalgia do I bring these up. Pixelated graphics and 8-bit soundtracks were the hallmarks of these videogame pioneers. Compared to what you could play in any bowling alley or convenience store for a quarter, these paled in comparison. But to be able to play Space Invaders, Frogger, Defender or Pitfall in the comfort of your own home? Sweet. I occasionally play Galaga on my Xbox which is fun and all, but with it’s slow reaction time and predictable gameplay it’s not nearly as fun as it once was. Then again, it’s not nearly as expensive either.
I think that’s enough for now – maybe I’ll try for a Part Deux some other time. In the meantime, feel free to add your own.