Future Shock

My ten-year-old self would have died at the revelation that this was coming one day.

Dear Bob:

If this letter reaches you sometime around the summer of 1979, then you have already wondered what it would be like to receive a letter from your future self. Well, wonder no further, because this is it. That’s right, Bob – I am you in 2011, thirty-two years in the future. As I recall, your summer days consist of reading a lot of MAD Magazine, listening to Alice Cooper, and watching as many Brady Bunch episodes as you can find on TV. They say the child is the father of the man, and in our case it’s true. You’ll still be enjoying those same interests in 2011. But you won’t believe how things have changed.

Some of what I say may be hard for you to understand, because the technology you use is going to change so fast that whatever dazzles you in ten years will be obsolete a decade or two after that. For example, take your record collection. By the time you’re in high school, most people will listen to their records less and less, preferring instead to take their music with them on portable cassette players. In college, you’ll see your first compact disc, a little silver record smaller than a 45 that is read by a laser instead of a needle. The sound will be incredible, and you won’t need to flip a disc over to hear the whole album anymore. What could be better than that, right? But that’s nothing. In 2011, I hardly use compact discs anymore. I have an mp3 player, a little box about the size of a wallet, and it has far more music on it than you currently have in your entire collection. Read More

Please Rewind

FirstVCR500

Do the abbreviations SP, LP, and SLP mean anything to you?

The year is 2009.  The setting:  an elementary school.  During a break between classes, I dart into the office and scan the staff mailboxes.  Lurking in my apportioned slot is a shrink-wrapped, rectangular box of vaguely familiar dimensions.  I retrieve the item and turn it over in my hands, noticing the logo of the publisher that sold us our recently adopted textbook series.  Good heavens!  I exclaim mentally, as an archaeologist might upon uncovering an ancient artifact. This is a VHS tape!  I stand there bewildered for a moment, puzzling over the fact that a major educational publishing house has issued new product in this archaic format.  It’s a little like having an auto dealer hand me a crank to start my car.

Though VCR’s still doggedly fast-forward and rewind within the dusty, pre-fab entertainment cabinets of many homes and upon the media carts of outdated classrooms, the formerly ubiquitous devices are in terminal decline, destined for exile in an archival land of film projectors and 8-track players.  DVD’s are already experiencing their own heyday, with clouds of streamable digital content predicted to make those aluminum discs obsolete.  If it weren’t for the voluminous amount of existing VHS tape preserving all that has yet to be digitized, getting your hands on a functioning VCR might be as difficult as tracking down a vintage pair of parachute pants.  One day soon, they’ll be as quaint as turntables, available exclusively as a means to transfer precious analog moments to your hard drive.

I can still remember the twinge of jealousy I felt when I heard that the Walsh family down the block had a VCR. Read More

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