My first real brush with technology came in high school when my Dad bought me a massive Texas Instrument Calculator to check my homework with. This may not seem like a big deal today but in 1978 I thought this little gizmo was a world changer. I had little to no exposure to computers in high school and then in college I had to take a class in Fortran computer programing. For those of you old enough to remember, this was punch card that you feed into a massive machine which then spit out some result, 2 + 2 = 4 for example. To get this complicated equation solved required punching out the correct holes in the card. For me, it was mind numbing and tedious. I never took another computer class.
I was born in 1961, 55 years ago, over a half century. To a twenty year old that might seem like a long time (no I don’t remember what it was like to live with dinosaurs) but in reality it was just a blink of the eye. For half of those 55 years I lived without a microwave, computer, cell phone (or car phone as I still call them), email, the internet, even cable television and believe it or not I survived.
I drove an old MG in college. If you know anything about MG’s, British Leyland or a Lucas electrical system (Why do the English drink warm beer? Lucas makes refrigerators too) you know that it was truly an adventure in driving. As fun as it was to spin around with the top down, as cool as my eighteen year old self looked, I never knew when, where or how it was going to stop running. I missed my first date with my wife because my cool car broke down in the middle of freaking nowhere on the darkest and loneliest road I had ever been on. She didn’t believe me.
I didn’t have a cell phone in 1983. Never heard of one, couldn’t have comprehended that such a device would ever even exist but I survived my MG adventures and survived that night, got home, rescheduled the date and the rest, as they say is history. I did all this without a cell phone, how, I don’t remember, but I am here today to tell the story.
The first computer I bought was referred to as a 386 because of the Intel processor. The operating system was DOS, the humble beginnings to the Bill Gates empire. It was a simple but very expensive machine that performed elementary functions but at the time it was a technological marvel. Word processing, a spreadsheet, calculator, calendar and a few games was about all it could handle and it was slow, in today’s terms, ice age slow. From the 386 I upgraded to a 486, then Windows and then technology began to change so fast it was difficult to keep up with it.
It has been said that the iPhone many of us carry around in our pockets has more computing power than the machines used to launch Apollo 11 to the moon. After 47 years having gone by I believe it. I can’t imagine what is ahead of us. It both scares and thrills me to some degree. Technology is supposed to advance mankind, but I wonder sometimes, where too.