When I Was Your Age: Looking Back at the Technology of the Future
The first time I used a computer was at 6 years old. It was 1986 and I was introduced to my dad’s Apple IIe. It had some games on it, the most addictive for me being Lode Runner, which I played for hours. It also had Print Shop Pro on it, and my dad had a dot matrix printer, so there was much cheesy fold-up greeting card and banner printing going on.
Then, after about 2 years of playing with the old Apple IIe, in 1988 my mom bought a computer for our house. It was an AMSTRAD, it was from JC Penney, and it died almost immediately upon start up. So then we got a Packard Bell 386, unremarkable except it came with a 2400 baud internal modem — and a subscription to the Prodigy online service. Of course, equipped with a modem I didn’t have to limit myself to paid online services; I made friends on Prodigy and those friends ran BBSes. I spent hours on both, and this was back when online services charged by the minute. The only operating system I used was DOS, graphical user interfaces hadn’t even appeared on my radar. In fact, when I was first introduced to Windows 3.1, I refused to use it. I was a hardcore command line diva, and in some ways I still am, which explains my affinity for Linux.
Eventually I gave in to Windows, got CompuServe and America Online, and upgraded to a 14.4 modem. I started using the Web as soon as it became available, in 1991 or so. I remember the days when web pages were plain text, when flashing rainbow line separators were cool, and animated Under Construction logos were pervasive. I learned basic HTML at an early age and established my homestead on this wild wild web, which I’ve been defending — in some form — ever since.
So here I am, a tech early adopter, and I remember when I used to dream of all the really amazing futuristic crap that was coming on down the pipeline. Now many of my dreams have come true, and I get really nerdy about them whenever they’re realized. Here’s a few recent technology developments that had me all giddy inside:
The iPhone. The fact that I can browse the web, send e-mail, take pictures and use amazing apps all on a little screen way away from any wires or cords, is one of my dreams realized. I can watch YouTube at the beach. I can send e-mail from Old Navy. I can look at my website stats at the Olive Garden. You get the point. Back in the day, this seemed like magic, some far-off wizardry featured in sci-fi flicks. These kids today, they take it for granted. But when I was your age…
Netflix on my XBOX. When I realized I could put movies in my instant queue online and then watch them, again, streamed wirelessly to my TV, I broke out into a huge grin. These are the things they talked about in old shows like Beyond Tomorrow.
A microwave that senses what you’re cooking. This seems kind of boring, but it really did amaze me when I got this microwave. I mean, how “kitchen of the future” is that? Remember when they told us our appliances would figure out what we wanted to do without us having to punch it in? Well, there you go. My microwave knows I’m trying to cook baked potatoes and not reheating a roast. I’m sorry, but I find that really cool.
Touch screen tablet computers. I remember watching the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation carry around those little tablets with a computer screen on them, passing them around instead of papers. I couldn’t wait until that became an actuality. And now we have TabletPC, the iPad, etc. I don’t yet own a touch screen tablet, but I sure wouldn’t mind if I somehow got lucky enough to own one.
Electronic book readers. Okay, this is really cool. Multiple books in one package, and it’s not the Reader’s Digest condensed editions of Moby Dick and War and Peace. You could conceivably carry your entire library in your purse. I never thought I’d get to see that kind of thing in my lifetime. This was stuff from the 23rd century back when I was a kid.
iPod. Yes, it’s been like a decade since portable music players came out, but they’re still really amazing when viewed through my 8 year old eyes. No more CD racks, towers, and books. Just plug your music player into the car, or the stereo, or set it in the dock of your bougie Bose Wave player and boom, your whole music collection is right there ready to be played. Bam.
There’s obviously more sophisticated tech advances that are cooler than these, but these are things I use everyday and when I think back at how I viewed them as a kid, I still get that giddy “Windows 95 is coming out” feeling. Uh oh, my nerdage is showing.