My Childhood Technology

I was born prior to 1990--long before smart phones, Playstations, and quad-core processors. Many of my readers can probably smirk right now because you were born before computers and televisions. Kudos to you!

Before we go any further, I need to be clear that I have no persuasive goal in this post. If you like technology, great. If you don't, I'm still with you. Technology is often my best friend, but frequently the bane of my existence. Sometimes I want to hug the internet. Sometimes I want to punch it in the kidneys. So be it.


What spawned the brainchild that is this post was a brief reminiscence about what I did as a kid. I thought about all the silly things I did with electronics. Well, they seem silly now; but that's only because we have an app for that. At the time I thought I was being quite clever. Prepare yourself for a glimpse into my technologically-challenged childhood.


Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)


Nintendo is one of my first memories of using technology. Our family paved the way to greatness by getting an NES right around 1991.

Who remembers blowing on the games before sticking them in the console to get them to work? Yep, dust could settle on the circuit board contacts and make the game not work. Good thing the 'Reset' button is right there on the front!


The greatest lesson I learned from the NES was that sometimes in life you can't go back and change what you did. In Super Mario Bros. 1, there was no going back. Once you missed an opportunity, it was gone.


I learned how to shoot ducks by putting the gun directly on my gleeming 13" CRT television. 


I learned about Mike Tyson and what a T.K.O. was.


I learned how to drive a car in 'Rad Racer', and I saved the world vicariously via the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. "Heroes in a half shell!" I had to.


I won't turn this post into a video game museum lecture, but the systems were upgraded in our home to include Super Nintendo (SNES) and Sega Genesis. Not long after that I went through puberty, and video games became far less important than "real life" stuff.


Commodore 64 Computers


I never personally owned one of these bad boys, but they were all over at my school. I learned to type on this trailblazer. I even played some video games, like Moon Lander.

The greatest things about these things was they were not typewriters and they had color screens. Many screens in my younger years were good old black-and-white (technically gray scale).


It was also nice the keyboard weighed thirteen pounds.


Psychologically speaking, I have fond associations with these computing monstrosities because anything was better than doing my class work or sitting at my desk staring out the window. Getting to be on the Commodore was a privilege!


Video Recording on VHS

My friends were jealous. We were among the few families in the early 1990s to have the ability to capture full motion color video! Today everyone has has this capability in their pocket (or purse); but not back then my friends--not back then.



There were only a few requirements to become a video artist. 


First, you needed VHS tapes. For you new generation readers, those were media storage devices approximately one-half the size of a standard keyboard. What really sets them apart from digital media is their ability to get tangled up and have the actual tape material be destroyed in the process. Bye bye memories. 

Second, you needed to be willing to carry 11 pounds around on your right shoulder.


Third, you needed to pay $250 for a battery that lasted 45 minutes--maybe.


Tape Recorders

Just like with video, I could also record audio with my handy-dandy tape recorder. My friends and I would record ourselves saying anything and everything. I'm sure those tapes are floating around out there somewhere.



Here's where it gets funny--music. Music was on the radio, but how could a cool kid snatch those rad songs right out of the air and keep them for whenever he wanted? Adults would go buy the tape. Me? No. I would listen to the radio, and as soon as I heard my song I would run across the room to record it on my tape player. I thought I was the stuff.


Car Stereo CD/Cassette Adapter

When I was old enough to drive, I had upgraded from cassette tapes recorded from the radio to CDs. In fact, I was pretty cutting edge--I was snatching up MP3s before Napster was cool. I would download or rip the MP3s, manually enter the album info into the ID3 tags, and manage my computer library with Winamp. 

And don't forget, my computer had 8 MB of RAM.

Once I had the CDs, what was I to do with them in my car? I couldn't afford a fancy CD player! So they invented these...



Dial-Up Internet Access

If I had to choose one technology that I despise more than any other, it would be dial-up internet. Sure, it was better than the Yellow Pages and a magnifying glass, but only by a little. What a nightmare of a transitional technology!



If, and I mean IF, you were able to connect and stay connected, and if you had an extra land line, then you were pretty well set. Now you only need to wait five minutes to connect, three minutes to load one webpage, and seventeen hours to download a new program.

Conclusion:

Those years of finagling with half-baked technology were instructive, and now they provide me with a keen sense of appreciation for what's possible with today's technology. Sure, we don't need high speed internet and one-touch access to endless libraries of video and music, but they're pretty cool.

Image credits:
NES image from http://nintendo.wikia.com/wiki/Nintendo_Entertainment_System
Commodore 64 computer image from http://oldcomputers.net/c64.html
Camcorder image from http://www.oldvcr.tv/collection/index.html?Type=Camcorder
VHS tapes image from http://ecycler.com/2011/08/15/recycle-vhs-tapes/
Koss boom box image from http://www.stereo2go.com/topic/koss-pc70
Portable CD player to cassette adapter image from http://www.dhgate.com/store/product/car-stereo-cassette-adapter-for-ipod-mp3/95690064.html
Dial Up Networking image from http://www.usmessage.net/faq/usm_faq_dial.html

2 comments:

  1. Do you know where the internet's kidneys are? That would be cool. Great post. The Commodore 64 was my favorite. I learned to program on those babies. Thanks for letting me reminisce.

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  2. I can't say for sure, but if I had to guess, I'd say the internet's kidneys are somewhere hidden in Al Gore's living room :)

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