Monday, August 15, 2016

Hard to imagine

While walking yesterday, I noticed something I hadn’t seen in years. It was a half-gallon milk bottle from the 1950s sitting on a sill just inside the barn. The glass bottle was the kind that used a cardboard stopper the size of a half-dollar as a lid.

Our milkman delivered Barber’s milk to our house once a week in a yellow refrigerated panel truck. You could follow his progress through our rural community by the sound of barking dogs. Times have changed.

The first science fiction programs gave a hint of what was to come. I watched shows on a black and white television that hummed when I turned it on. Sometimes the TV had to be smacked smartly on the side to stop it from scrolling. The smacking didn’t stop the picture from flipping, but it made me feel better.

But while watching those early shows on Saturday morning, I did not dream the far-fetched science fiction would come about in my lifetime.

Once computers came to the masses, things began to accelerate; slowly at first, but this day and time it seems like you need to fasten your seatbelt just to check your email or morning headlines.

You could call me an early adopter. I worked third shift with MaBell back in the 1980s. The job title was Computer Attendant, but what that meant was I loaded digital tapes as big as a medium-sized pizza onto machines that were larger than most refrigerators. These tapes were for storing and retrieving data for the mainframe computer. My work kept me busy early in the shift doing system backups, but later on, it was a struggle to keep my eyes open during the wee morning hours.

One night I noticed a new IBM personal computer in the corner of the data center. The manager had purchased the PC to do spreadsheets and type letters. No one used the contraption at that hour, so I was free to learn about it.

Sitting down tentatively, I watched a tiny square slowly blinking on the corner of the green phosphor monitor. My journey began.

That computer had 28k of memory and two floppy disk drives. The watch on my arm today is more powerful than that old PC, but that computer was state of the art back then. Creating those first few documents was all it took to hook me. I realized that typewriters would soon follow the dinosaurs. The impact that would send them to extinction wasn’t a giant meteor but a tiny green blinking cursor on a monitor.

Some time later, I watched my friend Ken Owens, who also worked at the phone company, log on to via a modem and telephone wire connected into the back of a PC. The modem screeched as it connected to Prodigy which was one of the first internet providers. Looking over his shoulder as he searched the internet, I watched text and pictures slowly appear. The screen looked like a colorized Etch-a-Sketch as it loaded.

In those first few moments, I realized how small the earth was, and I knew this new technology would be tremendous.

These days with smartphones, Facebook, and online banking, it’s hard to think of what life was like before them.

When I look at my young great nephew Jordan, technology is easy for him. He understands how complicated software and games work.

He can use our remote control without saying bad words. And when I think of the state of technology when I was his age and how far it’s come in my lifetime, I wonder where it will be when he reaches 65?

What will be his typewriter or glass milk jug? It’s hard to imagine.
Trying to imagine the future.


  1. It boggles the mind!

    Excellent post.

  2. How true it is. And some days I already feel left behind.

  3. Anonymous6:36 PM

    Even though I'm typing this on my computer, with my cell phone nearby, I know my tech knowledge is obsolete!!

  4. That is one sci-if picture.....your head reminds me of the head that spoke in Time Bandits. You are so right about technology. I bet we may even see the way Star Trek people communicate by just hitting a button on our shoulder. I wonder if people would like to go back to some of the older days

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  6. The problem I have with being in on the ground floor of computers, early programming, Fortran, COBOL etc, makes it is hard for me not to think how much programming,logic and ability that goes into making a 'touch'screen work and look so simple to the youth. They accept it without a thought, nothing wrong with that. I was the same with innovations in my youth. And YES, you hit on a deep thought, what will be their remembrances of what it was like in the 'beginning'? Good one dude, good one. (I need a proofer, or do shorter comments. hahaha!

  7. I dont go back as far as delivered milk but I do know the connection between the tv and aluminum foil.

  8. I do remember when milk was delivered to our door each day and the guy would come back on the weekend to collect his money. I don't use that much milk now, but wish we still had fresh milk delivered twice a week, but I know that’s all in the past.

  9. It blows my mind too Rick... my youngest cannot fathom life without a cell/DVR/Computers... she has always had them... I too wonder what will be old to them in the future... life has changed a great deal xox

  10. This fast changing world does tend to boggle our minds for sure. I often wonder what our youth are missing out on because of it. I know my days were full without it.

  11. Yes, hard to imagine what technology will provide in another 65 years. At my age I find the speed with which technology changes disturbing.

  12. I'm so glad I have a son near by that knows his way around a computer..he's my help desk! I remember the milkman and those bottles that would break on a cold morning if they smacked together..not that I would have done anything like that! When used correctly technology is a marvelous wonder. I would have never found all the cool folks in blog land without it! Your head shot reminds me of the Wizard of Oz! Hey, let's not forget to give internet credit where credit is due..Thanks Al Gore..hehe!


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