Once Upon a Time, In a US Long, Long Ago

            Greetings readers from Scott!  I have been away from my word processor much too long, so many things to cover, so little time to do it in, but then again, I suppose time is a relative thing.  We have to make time to do things, to go places, time to wake up, time to sleep, time for school, lunch time, supper time, family time and no this isn’t a reference to a song from long ago, it is just a reminder that time is relative and depending on individual interpretation, time has many meanings, which brings me to the focus of this article.  Watching our world evolve and change I have seen and heard many times, “a few years ago, this ____ wasn’t this way”, fill in the blank with anything that comes to mind, but have things really changed or are we just more aware of the things, not to mention the familiar face on the five o’clock news.  If any of these items are receiving a nod, then you are of a particular generation of persons who may not have grown up on technology or the evolution of it which is exploding around us now.  I thought it would be interesting to do a small article on a couple of things that have changed and let this question ponder in our reader’s minds, are we better off, are things better or worse or is technology hype? No truth glasses required here, just a nice cup of tea or your favorite beverage.

Caller ID from a SkypeOut call received by a V...
Caller ID from a SkypeOut call received by a Verizon Wireless-branded Motorola RAZR V3c mobile phone. Based on an image taken by Wikimedia commons user Mrmiscellanious. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
   We will start simply with “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”  Those words started an evolution of commun
ication.  From 1876 to 2014, the phone itself has changed quite a few ways, from a “liquid transmitter” to a wireless device that can ring practically anywhere in the world without being tethered to a phone cord.  I myself have many fond memories of the coil of phone wire that could be bought in 25 feet lengths so I could walk around the kitchen or my home with it still with me, to a degree.  Thinking a bit in retro, before this experience, the phone took on a candlestick style shape (classically seen as an ear piece with someone holding the base speaking into it) a far advance from the cone atop a base that Mr. Bell patented.  Around the 1930’s or so, the separate ear piece and base joined to one piece with the “dial pad” on the base, phone numbers were simple, or you shared a “party line”, this meant you may have to wait to make a private call when the line is clear or that anyone in that share group could pick up the receiver and listen in or chat (sort of a simpler NSA tap ha-ha).  As the phone grew up some more, dial pads became extinct other than in pawn shops or retro stores, giving way to the “touch tone” design, in which each number emitted a tone that corresponded to that number. 

            As the phone grew in popularity and more and more persons acquired it, the phone added a new feature, an answering system, to catch those important moments when we were out.  By the way, even your answering machine evolved, you call it “voice mail” now, it came from cassette tapes.  Somewhere around the early to mid 1980’s, we lost the cords and went, “cordless” or as you youngsters call it, “wireless”.  This brought about a whole new era, no longer were we confined to the house, we could actually sit on our porch and talk as though the cord was hundreds of feet long.  Then came along Motorola, they brought us the first ever Cellular Telephone, only 2 pounds of phone and a 30 min battery that cost a few thousand dollars to own (think about that next time you buy an iPhone for 700 or so).  With technology rapidly changing and generations of persons staying in touch, keeping a phone and address book was becoming a thing of the past, it started being replaced with caller ID, a small durable box that remembered up to 30 or so calls made to your home, very handy if you didn’t have the money for an answering system or wanted to know who was hanging up on you.

Picture wireless usb device connections
Picture wireless usb device connections (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
            Nice additions, but the phone wasn’t done changing, brilliant minds came together, ideas were 
shared and in 2003 phones added a camera, with a caller ID built in, a flip style phone, keypad and able to go anywhere within a certain range, it weighed only 3 ounces. 2014, your phone has: Touch tone phone, PDA, Messaging system, email checker, custom ring tone maker, calculator, game apps, music, video, GPS with Navigational ability, personal assistant that speaks to you, e-book reader and much more, the sad part of that evolution is more and more persons use it to text each other, not actually call one another.

            Now that the younger generation just had their “bubble busted” by a few of us who can brag and say, “we did that years ago just differently” let’s move on to another bit of fun.  Two words changed the way the world views things and made a few in Hollywood, shall we say, nervous: High Definition.  That flat screen LED driven device you watch and say, “wow, look at how sharp that picture is” will never know, other than watching classic programming, what television was like for many.  Before I go further, I will share a bit of history of my own; I won a Black and White, Sony, Nine Inch television in elementary school from selling candy bars that lasted nearly 15 years before it gave up ha-ha.  I hooked my Commodore 64, Atari 2600 and other devices to it and even got to enjoy some Johnny Carson shows (of course with the volume down so I wouldn’t wake my parents).  Ah, those were some great memories and I am sure many of our readers will reflect and say, yep, LIVE television was great, you younger generations marvel at sitcoms that do that know and say, “look at what they did, they are great”, sorry, some of us did it first and regularly, including Saturday Night Live, we miss you Jim.

Johnny Carson portrait
Johnny Carson portrait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

            Mr. Bell once again decided to put on his thinking cap and see if sound could be transmitted by light, Fiber optics you say? Ha! Mr. Bell was working on a device that would come to be known as the Photo phone, sound travelling through light, by the way, the term, television, comes from Greek origin, it translates into far-sight.  1926, Inventors from across the globe, including the US start working on a device that can transmit images.  John Baird, a Scottish engineer invents the “televisor”, a device that uses a neon bulb and a metallic spinning disk to amplify an image about the size of a stamp.  BBC, NBC and CBS are born around 1928, thanks to some early ground work by one Mr. Marconi, Edison, Bell and Hertz, images being recorded can be transmitted.  Around 1941, the very first commercial advertisement is broadcast; it was during a sporting event for a watch that cost around 10 bucks.  Not to be ignored, a company known as RCA begins to mass produce “television sets” (circa 1946) and about a year later the World Series was broadcast to hundreds sponsored by Ford Motor Company and Gillette.  Remember a company named “Sears”, they sold a “silver tone” television set in mass quantities for about 270 or so bucks and considering I Love Lucy was bringing in the viewers, no wonder 1952 was a year to behold, aside from the evolution of cars into muscle machines and later into fuel efficient slender versions, that can also include, a small television inside for the kids to watch on those long trips.  Within the decade from 1950-1960, televisions went from about 6 million sold to over 60 million sold, the benefit was that our country got to watch Nixon be debated by one JFK. 

            As the televisions popularity grew, so did our country, which was entrenched in a competition to go to space, land on the moon.  We did it and the television showed it to 70 million homes, try convincing those folks we didn’t walk on the moon, I’d say 70 million would disagree as well as Mr. Armstrong, yet some are amazed we launched a rocket and hit it to test for water, I suppose it is an easier rational to imagine hitting a moon with a rocket rather than one landing on it, two passengers exiting, walking around, planting a flag, driving over it and then returning to home.  Somewhere around the mid to late 1960’s, something in television changed, it became “colorized” and had “solid state” technology.  This meant no more vacuum tubes or bulky units; we could now reduce the space in our homes needed to set up our television sets, we could see the world in COLOR!  This new feature, brought families together to watch their favorite shows, with a hitch, in order to see their favorite versions, those would still be in black and white, so of course new more “colorful” versions came out, the audience was pleased, by the way, Neilson, the company that tracks viewers and what they are watching, they were in on it when the first broadcast program came out, yep, they’ve known what we watch for decades.

            The television got so popular, that by 1978; nearly all US homes had at least one television.  Simply put, you had to wait in line at your own home to watch a program and usually Mom or Dad’s program favorites were first priority, reserving our time for Saturday morning toons and Sunday nights with Disney.  The Broadcast companies also began to branch out, agencies such as CNN and MTV came to the limelight in the 1980’s, cable television was awesome, but it had drawbacks, limited channel selection, no remotes, just a box, a selector switch for a particular row, and a button to match the channel number, this also meant that a retro fitting had to be invented, a “75 ohm” transformer, that would attach to where your “rabbit ear” antenna would normally be.  What was the first music video you witnessed, my own was a ZZ Top video, “Legs”.  At this time, we no longer had to wait till five in the evening to see what was going on in the world; we could watch it anytime, 24/7.  HBO, Cinemax, ShowTime and various others would soon be offered to be placed in your homes, right through your color television.

            As the solid state technology advanced, the television took on new looks, wide screens, projector versions, you could buy a Beta VCR and hook to it, or much later, a DVD to watch your favorite movie, then in 1996, Television revolutionized again, with the advent of “TIVO” the video cassette evolved into a DVD, the DVD evolved into a DVR,  then came “Netflix”, “HULU” and “Roku” boxes where you could watch your favorite movies at a fixed price, on any television.  Not to be outdone, the Television cried “foul” and engineers went to work, in fact, they took some time but realized the early behemoths ate energy by the tons, so they had to come up with a fix, the bulky version gave way to “flat screens”, then to plasma, then to LCD, then LED, the number of pixels and “sweeps” got faster and smaller, the television would redefine what platforms looked best, changing again the industry to keep up with High Definition devices that could replicate the exact “HD” recording with crystal clarity.  Technology would evolve into something miraculous for the television, models now include, “smart” versions that can and do include “the internet”, an all in one package, much like our phones, it can handle apps, as well as bring us Netflix built in, with music and the like, provided you have a good service provider.  Never mind that the internet was once used solely for educational or military purposes, when the public was allowed access, that part of our technology went from a high pitched screech that we had to place our receivers upon, to wirelessly accessing the same technology, just about anywhere in the world.  Stereo’s also in fluxed into the television and technology vacuums, the stereo receiver, with components one could add, could play any device and handle the audio of your cable television, digitized, shrank and got included everywhere including your car and home, sorry young folks, we did that first too, your MP3 will never compare to a walkman. 

            In conclusion, with these examples of focus that swallowed up other items to be combined into new glorious ones, I ask again, are we better off, have things improved any or are we just hooked on the hype of the latest trend.  Do we need it smaller (which some items are growing in size again, tiny is hard on the eyes and fingers),  do we need it faster, does it really need to have “everything” on it, when we barely use it for what it’s original purpose was or is it all just a pipe dream of a time gone by when we wished things were much simpler, easier to manage, needed better organization and more accurate results, me personally, I would go back and do it all over again, some of those items are particularly neat and were fascinating as well as simple to understand, these times, yeah, they are changing, we have to go to college to learn to operate our lives, which include all of the above.  Good Day readers, stay sharp and don’t let anything overwhelm you, been there done that. ~Scott Hall~ 

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