Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The More things Change…

     The world has certainly changed. Much of the dramatic change seems to have happened in more recent history. As they say, since 1900 the pace of change has simply been accelerating.
    Think of smart phones. They are essential to the way we live and they have only been around for ten years. Think of the internet, another indispensable time saver and a large part of what makes smart phones smart. The internet has only really been available and useful to the common man for just over twenty years. Think of how television replaced radios, and how cable and the internet have changed how and on what devices we watch TV and listen to the radio. Think of recorded music. We went from wax cylinders to 78 rpms to 45 and 33 and a third rpms. Records gave way to cassettes which were quickly replaced by CDs and then… iTunes and iPods. Now we have Spotify. Think personal computers and how they have both freed us and enslaved us. Washing machines, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, toilets, running water and more have all made our modern life convenient and requiring less physical labor that all generations before. We have the automobile and airplanes that make travel and freight inexpensive and available to all.
     While we are amazed and obsessed by the latest and greatest, e.g. smartphones, perhaps the greatest invention since the wheel was the electric light. Today, we just take lighting for granted and can barely imagine a time when people relied on candles, lanterns, whale oil, or gas lamps. The generation and distribution of electricity began in the late 1800s and it took a good thirty plus years the entire US. When people got it, it changed their lives like nothing before. I would argue that the light bulb and the distribution of electricity is the biggest game changer of the past 150 years.
     Yet, with all of this change, with all of the studies and observations that show how all of these innovations have changed us, there are somethings that somehow seem the same. Every generation thinks that the latest generation entering adulthood doesn’t have the same work ethic and feels more entitled. Parents are always telling their children to stop listen to the radio, accusing them of being glued to the television, addicted to video
games, iPods, their smart phones, etc. 

     I have an oil painting in my North Park office. It was given to me when I worked at
Sanford Brands (now Newell Rubbermaid Office Products). It is, of course, a mass produced reproduction of a painting by Norman Rockwell commissioned by Sanford Inks for advertising like the one pictured here. My students will see the painting and often ask, ”What year is that painting? Is the lady using a laptop?” I am not sure of the year, but for sure the lady is using a stenographer’s or secretary’s box which was basically a portable desk with a writing surface when opened and storage for paper and writing utensils. I will admit that when I first glanced at the painting, I saw that same thing.
     The other day I was watching a classic old movie, Ninotchka, starring Greta Garbo (Ninotchka) and Melyn Douglas (Leon). The movie was released in November 1938 and set in the time period between the two World Wars. There is some pretty witty dialogue in the film. This one really got my attention and inspired this piece.

Ninotchka: Radio. What's radio? 
Leon: Radio is a little box that you buy on the installment plan and before you tune it in, they tell you there's a new model out. wikiquote
     Dang if I don’t feel that way every time I buy a car, computer, or phone. While technology changes ever more rapidly, some things seem the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment