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Technology, Part Two | Then

NOTE | This post is a continuation of my discussion of technology in my life. The first part, titled 31Things | Day Seventeen: Technology, talks about the technology that is currently a part of my daily life. I decided that topic alone was long enough for one post, so here is Part Two: an informal timeline of my history with technology.

When I was born in 1978, telephones had wires and cords. The one in our kitchen was harvest gold and matched the refrigerator. My parents bought music to listen to at the record store, and played it on a phonograph with external speakers. The car in which they brought me home from the hospital had only an AM/FM radio. Stoves and ovens had dials, not buttons, nor electronic displays. TVs were enormous and weighed about 900 pounds (ok that might be a tad hyperbolic! lol), and were connected to "rabbit ears" or an antenna on the roof or in the attic of the house (as ours was). Cameras didn't auto-focus or offer any mode besides manual. They shot 35mm or slide film, and you only had your favorite slides made into prints, because even the standard 3.5x5 was too expensive to get them all. The only way to watch TV was live, and channels went off the air around midnight every night, playing the national anthem as the sign-off theme.

When I was a child, my parents bought our first computer. It was "Apple-compatible" and came with 2 disk drives: one for the program you wanted to use, and one for your storage media. It used 5.5" floppy disks. The CPU and the keyboard were integrated into one unit. There was no mouse, and you used hot keys to move around the screen. The monitor was a huge boxy thing. The display background was black and the text was gold, and touching the screen only left fingerprints. The resolution was dismal. The printer was an Epson dot-matrix, and the printer paper had perforated strips on each side where the printer could grab on and feed it through. Each sheet was attached to the next one (also perforated), so that together the entire box was just one long ribbon of paper that was stored stacked on the shelf below the printer. Printing a document was time-consuming and noisy. Black ink was the only option.

My dad was thrilled that his little girl was so interested in the new computer, and bought a bunch of learning games for me. My mother contends that I just wanted to sit in his lap, because it was the warmest seat in the house!

I remember playing Donkey Kong on the computer, and Castlevania. There was some kind of puzzle game about stacking layers of cake, and a different one where you were a snake eating apples and trying not to eat your own tail as you grew. It got harder as you advanced through the levels. I remember my dad praising my eye-hand coordination when I played that game. My favorite thing was on the few occasions that Dad put in the Paint program and somehow hooked the TV up to the computer monitor, and then I got to play with color.

The Internet did not exist. 

My dad read the newspaper to get the news. We went to the store to buy new things, never knowing what we would find there. And if our closest Dillard's didn't have that "must-have" outfit in my size (or Mom's), it was possible to spend all day driving all over town looking for it. Sometimes we could call the 800 number in a catalog and order something - delivery promised in 6-8 weeks.

The microwave was about 18 inches tall by about 2.5 feet wide and only put out about 800 watts.

LaserDiscs were the latest thing in home theater. They looked like CDs but were about the same size as an LP. I grew up watching all the classic Disney movies on LaserDisc. The only bad thing about them was that you had to get up and flip the disc over halfway through the movie.

At some point when I was in elementary school, my dad brought home a laptop from work. It was totally flat, maybe about 9 inches deep by 12 inches wide and 3 inches tall when you laid it on your lap. It had 2 little plastic legs that you could stick under the screen-end of it to prop it up at an angle for when you worked at a table. I'm not sure what Dad used it for but I liked that it had a computerized Monopoly game. The problem was that the game used so much memory, it had to be the only program on the internal hard drive - and then had to be deleted in order to do anything else. The code was in a book of game codes, and I remember typing it in, line by line. (I doubt if the laptop had any sort of disk drive.) Then you had to connect a cassette-tape deck to the laptop and play this tape with all these weird noises on it. The whole process took a long time.

I think I was in middle school when my dad bought for me my first portable music player: a Sony Walkman. I loved that I could walk around and listen to my tapes. In 1991, for my 13th birthday, my parents bought me a stereo of my very own (which my mother insists on calling a "boombox"). It was all one unit, with the option to detach the speakers, and had built in a CD player, an AM/FM radio, and a cassette tape deck. It was probably shortly after that that I started buying CDs instead of tapes.

At some point my parents bought a VCR. We were then able to rent movies from the local video store, and record TV shows to watch later. We did a lot of both, although never in my life did my parents ever have cable TV in our house.

I was 11 years old in 1989 when my brother got the original Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas.

In 7th grade I took my first computer class. I don't remember much about it except that I did a lot of helping the other students, and that we used BASIC to write a little graphics program that featured a stick person flying a kite. But I still went to the library to do research for school projects, and later my parents invested in a set of the World Book Encyclopedia for our home.

We had the first version of The Print Shop on our computer, and I loved playing with all the fonts and clipart. I made lots of 8.5x11" posters, and greeting cards, and even a banner or two (my parents put a limit on that because of the amount of paper involved).

My dad's office used a D.O.D. internal memo service (aka email!) and sometimes he would bring home print-outs of funny jokes that were going around the office. It was around this time that I first saw the Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe story.

In 1993, my parents bought our first car that came with a CD player in it.

During my high school years, I spent four summers at Interlochen Arts Camp. When I called home I called collect from a pay phone; my boyfriend gave me a calling card with which to call him. Back in my hometown, if I needed to call my mom I had to spend a quarter at a pay phone, unless I was at school; then I could borrow the phone in the band director's office.

I took a couple of different computer classes in high school, as electives. One was named "Micro-Computer Business Applications" or something. I do know that we learned the basics of using word processing, spreadsheet, and database programs. We spent about six weeks learning how to type properly, and quickly. We also learned how to balance a checkbook and work with a budget (that might have been the other computer class whose name escapes me).

I had one or two friends that I knew were using their computers for mysterious things like "bulletin boards" and "Prodigy" but was clueless as to what they really were or what the point was.

In the fall of 1996 I went off to college, and the computer (and the Internet, especially) finally entered my life in a serious way. Papers were required to be typed. Sometimes music had to be written with music notation software. And I had to spend a certain amount of time each week doing ear training exercises in the MIDI lab. Class Piano used electronic keyboards. In one of my classes my freshman year, we did a quickie training course on how to use computer and Intenet resources for research, and how to document the sources.

I had an email account through the university, and I made my very first online purchase at Amazon. I don't remember using email much at this point except to read viral email jokes, perpetuate chain letters, and trade love notes with Chris.

I did what all my friends were doing and built myself a website on Geocities. I kind of wish it was still around, I'm sure it would be hilarious!! My first foray into the world of HTML.

In 1997 my mother finally bought a new computer! It used 3.5" diskettes, which I had been using at school for at least five years already. I don't remember it ever being used to access the Internet, but I'm sure it was capable, if my mother had had an account with anyone.

In 1998 I bought my first computer, which was some rebuilt no-name brand but it was "IBM-compatible." And a Canon Bubblejet printer. I got a free Juno email account at first, but later decided that I wanted Internet access at the apartment too. I signed up with America Online's dial-up Internet service for a mere $25/month; one of my good friends was moving to Arizona and we wanted to be able to use AOL's Instant Messaging to chat.

I bought a Sony Discman (portable CD player) in 1999. A few years later I upgraded and splurged on a Sony MiniDisc player (click the link to see a picture; mine was a bit different than that - smaller - but you get the idea, and the discs were the same).

In 2000 I used eBay for the first time, to sell a like-new breadmaker and a completely unused fryer that were taking up space in the kitchen.

In 2001 I signed a service contract with Cingular Wireless and got my first cell phone. Chris didn't think it was really necessary but my rebuttal was that 1) I needed an emergency phone for the car; 2) I needed a way to be reached when I was out teaching lessons at six campuses every day; and 3) I had a job and could spend my money how I wanted and if I wanted to pay for a cell phone that was my choice! Of course the cell phone long outlasted the job, as it somehow attached itself to my person...

I made a new personal website, this one hosted on AOL's FTP server, and also served as the webmaster for the Houston Alumni Chapter of Mu Phi Epsilon (my music fraternity from my college days).

In 2005 I dumped the personal website and started my blog here at Blogger. :)

In 2007 I took my first online class (Product Playground at Big Picture Scrapbooking, now Big Picture Classes) and bought my first digital camera. And the rest, as they say, is history!

1 comment:

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