Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tech Race

Tech Race – Please mind the Esses.

I am one of the fortunate ones who was born during the birth of this overload of sharing. When I was five (1970), the small farm that my Dad had purchased was at the end of a gravel road with one line of utility poles leading down to it. This “lifeline” carried the Hydro and the Telephone lines to the house. The Telephone service that we had originally was what was called a “Party Line” which meant that our house shared its number with two other houses. One long ring meant that the Cornes’ house, two short was the Davidson’s, and three short was ours. I think we had this for about 4 years or so until BC Tel reorganized the whole province.

No there wasn’t any TV Cable. Which was OK because there were only 3 channels to watch anyway. CBC, CTV and KVOS, a fledgling private station out of Belingham, Washington. These were all brought into the house via a two wire semi-shielded “cable” that was attached to the huge array of aluminum poles that was the TV antenna on the rooftop. This was of course only as good as the sky would allow. On some rainy days, when there was not much to do, and you might prefer to sit in front of the Tube, the reception you got would be crappy.

Sometime in the mid 70s there was a new service that revolutionized the way TV was. CABLE! Before the US ever got into it, we had cable, which streamed crystal clear news and entertainment into our poor old 19 inch, colour TV. 13 blessed Channels! 

There were still no rocket cars or Jet-packs yet, but just imagine the possibilities, 13 CHANNELS!

Then, in 1980 there was a new miracle. The Commodore VIC-20!

This would revolutionize the world! Imagine for a moment, if you will; No more Accountants! … I know, this sounds too good to be true! But that’s what we were going to have, a world without accountants! This machine would be able to do everything! Dishes, Walk the dog, reconcile the Russians and the Chinese. All we had to do was buy one, take it home and plug it into the TV… oh, and buy a few of the cartridges that was its software, and buy its modem if we were real savvy, and then realize that three years later we’d need to buy a new computer called the “Commodore 64”. 

We all should have woken up at this point in time. The constant upgrading of our tech begins here. We should have ganged up and collectively said NO! 

The main problem with not “waking up” was (and is): Addiction. 

You have to understand, there was a very brief time in most of our lives, when the introduction of, not just TV at suppertime, but then Colour TV in almost all our homes. To Cable TV everywhere. To actually being able to manipulate tiny little pixels ON your own TV in your own home! All (for some of us) in the relatively short span of about 15 years (give or take)! A freakin’ Miracle!

Meanwhile, for the most of us, this was a relatively private addiction. No interaction with any chums, other than to extol your best score on “Gold Digger” at lunch.

Of course, let’s not forget what software we were subjected to. In Movies; James Bond, Jaws and Star Wars. On TV; Get Smart, I Dream of Jeanie (a whole bible can be collected based solely on Barbara Eden’s belly!), Star Trek and UFO! And At the Arcades (even though we had the latest “super-computers” at home, the best games were still only at arcades); Asteroids, Missile Command, Star Wars, Space Invaders and Defender! 

For myself, the most influential of all of this was: Get Smart! The imaginative Gadgets on that show were the best. The Cone of silence, the Invisible Wall, and the Shoe Phone. It is this latter that hinted at the absurdity of today’s Tech-toys. Sure, there are many of you who might say that “Star Trek” invented the Cell-phone, but it was surely “Get Smart” that hinted to us at the stupidity of actually owning one.

Skip ahead… Past the early days of modems, the 14.4. The Early BBSs (ahhh, GIFs). This “inter-web” thingy. To today where every Businessman, Dope-dealer, 12-year-old or (I’m sure we’ll see it) Poodle with all the accessories, has their own Cell-phone
Phones have taken over from the lowly home computer. With the latest Blackberry, you can do almost as much as your home PC. Yes, they are in themselves wondrous pieces of Technology. 


The speed at which new Tech has come into our world has surpassed the one thing that proves our dominance as a species. “Etiquette”. Witness someone answering a call on their Cell-phone on the street today. Do they stop moving? Do they speak quieter? Do they pause to ensure that others around them are not being disturbed? There was a time, before Cell-phones, Personal Computers and the like. When folks would walk with their heads high. Looking where they were going, pausing to nod or wait for someone who may need to go ahead. A time when the “Family” was the focus of each member of the family. When we’d all sit ‘round the dinner table together. These new Technologies have, one-by-one, crept into our souls making us all a little more selfish. I know from my own personal experience. For me (about 5 years ago), my computer became my focus. There is an online role-playing game called “Everquest” (EverCRACK, to those in the know). It nearly ruined my marriage. I would come home from picking up the Boy from Kindergarten and immediately log in, after sitting him down in front of the Kiddie TV channel. 

Oh, yeah… let’s step back a sec. Just when the Frack did someone think there was a need for a kiddie-only TV Channel? How come I never had this when I was young?

OK, back to this Evercrack. There is a new version, “World of Warcraft” -(as well as countless other titles as well) which I’m sure is the same (albeit more shiny) than Evercrack. But it’s the same. Pay money and get addicted. USE WITH CAUTION!!

My wife gave me an ultimatum. I didn’t want to lose what we had built together. I didn’t want to start again. Going backwards is bad. 

Maybe the Tech-Race will slow down. Maybe it will stop. Maybe guys like Bill Gates will realize that people don’t need a house that will do it all for you, they need a house that is a home.

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