Confessions of A Techno-Junkie
By Jack Kinsella
The Electronic Age has brought us wonders unthinkable a generation ago. When I was born, the fastest method of communication was the telephone. Live operators would manually connect callers to local numbers – my dad’s phone number was 654 – that was the whole number.
One would pick up the phone, an operator would answer with, “Number, please?”, the caller would give the operator the number, (or the name, which the operator would obligingly look up) and connect the call. That was 1952.
Compared to today, it was primitive, but a half-century ago, it was state of the art. I was eighteen when I got my first 8-track tape player. It was wondrous! It was like having a record player right in the car – and in STEREO! The alternative was the standard monaural AM radio – FM radio was yet future.
A few years after that, I saw my first microwave oven in the lunchroom of the factory I worked in. I could hardly wait to come home and tell everyone about being able to cook a hotdog in 15 seconds! Nobody believed me.
I went right out and bought one — for a thousand dollars (Sears EZ five year payment plan), brought it home and demonstrated it by cooking a chicken.
After that, it became known as the Thousand Dollar Hot Dog Warmer.
In the mid-1970’s, the EZ five-year payment plan allowed me to be the first kid on the block to have a $1700 beta VCR. It was a huge, bulky affair that had a long cord with a toggle switch that served as a remote control pause. (It was an added feature).
Blank tapes were only twenty dollars (a half-day’s pay) and you had to sign a rental contract agreeing to pay $100-plus replacement cost if your machine ‘ate’ the tape.
It was a time of miracles, for sure!
In the span of ten years’ time, it became possible to listen to your own music on the drive home, sit down and watch a movie you missed while at work, while eating a hotdog that took 25 seconds from refrigerator to plate.
And if the phone rang (now it had a dial and seven numbers), you could MAKE THE MOVIE STOP until you got off the phone!
Could it get any better than this?
In 1980, the introduction of DOS meant the introduction of the personal computer. The first one I saw cost more than I made in a year, and came as part of a desk. It weighed about a hundred pounds and was not much more than a word processor.
Five years later, I bought my first PC. (Some of this will be Greek to some of you – sorry) It was an 8088 Amstrad with an amber 12” monitor, a pair of 5 ¼ 720K floppy drives and no hard drive – for a mere $1700 – (3 yr revolving charge plan).
Within a couple of years, I could use it to make forms for everything around the house, becoming organized in the Information Age.
Then came the internet. Then existing computers made it easier and faster to devise new computers and computing devices and Moore’s Law was born.
(Moore’s Law says that computer processing power and computer capacity will DOUBLE every eighteen months. And about every eighteen months since, I’ve needed a new computer).
As computers got smarter, I noticed that I had to get smarter to keep up. I had to learn how to fix them, since in the early years, PC techs were few and far between and enormously expensive.
Exploring the internet makes you smarter whether you plan on it or not. It takes a while to learn to separate fact from fiction, but even that exercise in cognitive reasoning makes us smarter.
Today, I sit atop a database containing what is arguably the sum total of the world’s accumulated knowledge every time I sit down to browse the internet.
What a journey in a single lifetime! From “Number, please” to chatting via Internet Messaging in real time anywhere in the world from my desk without ever picking up a phone.
From AM Radio and black and white network television to MP3’s and DVD’s that I can watch or create on the same equipment that is my phone, television, radio, stereo, workstation, word processor, electronic document file, movie studio, sound studio, telephone answering service, fax machine, copy machine and printer. And a million other things.
Compare that to previous generations. My grandmother was born in 1898 and lived to 1995. She saw wondrous technological developments. But from her birth to mine technology went at a snail’s pace, relatively speaking.
But compare her snail’s pace to the pace of the generations before her. Her father died before riding in an automobile and before the Wright brothers proved flight was possible. His father’s world changed relatively little from his father’s, and so on.
The ships Columbus sailed to the New World in 1492 were not significantly different than the ship the Apostle Paul sailed on his Mediterranean missions in the first century.
Both presumably arrived at the dock by horseback, as did every generation up to and including my grandmother’s.
My grandmother brought her family from England to Canada during the London Blitz in 1940 in a convoy of ships dodging German submarines as they made their way across the Atlantic. It took seven harrowing days, and was the fastest (and only) method of getting from the Continent to North America.
Today, the same trip could be made in three hours aboard the Concorde.
In about the middle of the 6th century before Christ, the prophet Daniel was given a vision of the world as it will be in the last generation before the return of Christ to begin the Millennial Kingdom foretold by the prophet Isaiah.
Imagine 6th century Daniel watching the scene unfold before him. I usually picture him as seeing something like a drive in screen where he is seeing battlefield footage of the Gulf Wars. Imagine what that technology must have seemed to Daniel, who never saw a machine that didn’t need a horse or a man to power it.
Daniel was confused, as one might expect: “And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are CLOSED UP AND SEALED till the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:7-8).
The angel told Daniel that the vision for the end was for those who would be alive at that time.
“Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” (Daniel 12:11)
The revealing angel told Daniel that the words of the book were not for him, or even for subsequent generations, but that instead they would remain a mystery until the appointed time.
The angel also gave some details that would help the generation to whom the book was written identify the signs of the times.
“But thou, O Daniel, SHUT UP THE WORDS, and SEAL the book, even TO THE TIME OF THE END: many shall RUN TO AND FRO, and KNOWLEDGE SHALL BE INCREASED.” (Daniel 12:4)
As we just discussed, Paul traveled Asia aboard ship. Columbus came to America aboard ship. My mother came to North America aboard a ship. That covers 1900 years of technology.
I could make the same journey aboard a supersonic aircraft in three hours while I watched a DVD on my laptop.
‘Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”
This Letter was written by Jack Kinsella on May 23, 2003.