Being born in 1998, I have been exposed to most of those so- called ‘silly technologies’ and I cherish my memories of having used them as much as possible. I still recollect using a video cassette to record some TV shows I would watch later as well as some cherished moments from my life even with the advent of DVDs and their players. I remember running into many tangled wires in the living- the phone wires , the internet cable for a dial- up connection, which were especially a hassle during daily cleaning, and decorating the house for a time like Christmas.
I still have our old Panasonic VCR set (which is probably me years old) at home. But a lot of the cassettes and the player itself has apparently attained fungal deposits due to which it cannot be used. But audio cassettes haven’t gone away. Our little Panasonic tape- recorder is still functioning. Though it’s tuned to some FM station most of the time, my mom does play some old songs on them(though the film gets tangled sooner than before- even the tape recorder wants a retirement, I guess!). Old technologies simply fade away when kept in the presence of its successors. But it is still one of those many possessions we wouldn’t want to give away.
I once saw an article on some“cutting edge technologies that look silly to children today” in a local daily in Dubai which triggered some nostalgia from my childhood days. So I’ll be reviewing each of the so-called silly technologies mentioned there:
1. TV Schedules- Well, that used to take up some time of my newspaper reading. Even now, during listless days, I still look them up to see what’s in store. But earlier, when in lower primary grades, I used to regularly look them up, even when I knew which programme of mine was playing when and where. TV schedules are still fun — for a movie-lover like me, a lovely movie, old or new, being televised is something I look out for since I don’t use Netflix.
2. Laptops- I still have an old IBM Lenovo, a very bulky one tucked up in a shelf (well not mine, but my mom’s). Looking at the sleek and lightweight laptop I use today, I wonder how I carried it about from one point to the next. It wasn’t really very portable as when we had to chat via messenger (that’s before Skype), as we had to pull out the wires for the dial up internet connection.
3. Phones- The phone that just couldn’t be detached from its place was not much of a nuisance till we knew of the existence of cordless phones. However looking back, that old phone must have been really a waste of time especially when gossipping chatterboxes wouldn’t get off the line.
4. Photo processing- That was a long procedure I guess, especially when we just had to print those memories when we didn’t have access to USBs. Developing the film, the dark room made the studios seem like a mysterious dungeon — someone could use that as an excuse for crime (cough, Sherlock Holmes reference)
5. CDs, DVDs, minidiscs- Well, I still use CDs and DVDs, but they are not very convenient especially when most of today’s laptops come without a player. But there was a time when CDs and DVDs were the storage media accepted, even when USB was introduced, as people believed in the ‘preservation quality’ of data and their storage capacity. Today a lot of them, especially those with scratches find their place in my mom’s garden in the position of new-generation scarecrows.
6. Pagers- Umm, I’ve never used them or haven’t seen their presence in my pictures as an infant — should’ve asked Papa or Amma before writing this piece.
7. Maps and Compasses- It hurts me to call them silly, as they are our lifelines (at least for our family) when we travel abroad, especially when we are not able to use GPS. What if the phone runs out of charge or there’s a poor signal strength? Maybe a compass may have a magnetic interference kind of problem, but that’s not everywhere. It is still a skill to find your way about from a map, especially when kids totally rely on GPS and are unconsciously losing their ‘sense of direction’. Reading maps from a young is useful if you plan on studying geography or any of the geosciences at a later time. Honestly, astronomy too, since we have sky maps. And compasses too- I can use a regular one and a Brunton compass!
8. Letters- I didn’t write and send letters as such. But I have seen my mom turning over those leaves of many letters sent by her mom. Though I do write letters today, it’s only on the exam paper or letters I “email”! But I love collecting stamps, so I look forward to sending and receiving greeting cards.
9. Business Cards- It is pointless today when we can easily store contacts or exchange data wirelessly, and if you’re as careless as me. But of course, over a period of time, a collection of business cards will also become a novelty.
10. Fax Machines- For certain, I know my dad had been faxing documents when scanning wasn’t very popular. But with Camscanner on phones or high quality cameras on phones, fax numbers on contact lists have lost their importance! I want to trying faxing once though. It seems fun for once!
11. Phone Boxes- I’ve clicked pictures at phone boxes, but never used them. Of course Dr. Who uses it. But I have heard stories of my parents waiting in turn to use them to call their family and friends. The ‘ancient mobile’? — not really when the rich could afford pagers.
12. Floppy Disks- I did use floppy disks to save word documents I used to create at elementary school (when I had just learn to type, and insert images). It was fun to put them in the that big box we call a CPU and take it out — I was only 6 when I began using them. I didn’t use CDs myself back then as they were ‘fragile’, not made for my rough handling.
13. Telephone Directories- Yes! I have used them- the bulky yellow pages to search for a contact number. I enjoyed surfing through a number my parents wanted to call. If my parents ask my sister for the same help, she would be googling it out. (I was born few days before Google, and didn't begin actively using it myself until Grade 3).
14. Cords and Cables- I recollect having got myself tangled in them or getting a toy stuck there. Untangling it took ages as that was a time we needed a wire for everything. Wires are still tangled under my study table, all ending on to a multiplug. But, that’s a different thing!
15. Mouse- I have used it more and enough number of times, being in the generation that learnt computers and IT at school in our prime years without unlimited access to laptops and touchscreen tablets and phones like now. I can actually see that I am dexterous with the mouse and touchpad, unlike my sister, who uses a tab at school.
16. Single-use batteries- That was how my old cat like toy robot and cars that were controlled like a remote worked! It was fun throwing out their batteries and putting them. I still do that with TV remotes! But, in the world that can recharge, these batteries will become obsolete even before we realise it. Why, all remote controlled toys work ONLY with rechargeable batteries, not otherwise.
17. Road Signs- That’s not silly. It helps even when your GPS isn’t updated — trust me, having grown up in Dubai, an ever-changing city can test Google Maps, and I know for sure the power of sign-boards. In case someone finds it silly, road signs can be thought of as state-of-art curios- those century old sign boards in walkways and avenues that date back to the previous centuries.
18. Paper timetables- That’s what my parents often had a trouble with, especially when they were travelling alone as college students and even after that. But I haven’t used it as such because by the time I had to refer to train or plane schedules for my journeys, it was all online!
If you were wondering about the other old technologies I left out, it’s because I’m sure no one’s going to find them silly — like the typewriters, and the telegram system.