Back in the Dark Ages 40 years ago when I graduated from high school, if you wanted to call someone you had to use Pacific Bell or one of its Ma Bell siblings unless you were served by a smaller phone company such as Contel or a local independent.
If you were away from your home or place of work and needed to call someone you had to hunt down a pay phone and feed it with a pocket full of change.
The Motorola Pageboy had just come out as a pager for the masses. It was so primitive it displayed no messages nor did it store them. It simply alerted you that you had a message on your telephone answering machine that relied on small cassette tapes to dutifully record voices.
Cassette music tapes were starting to put the squeeze on 8-track stereo tapes.
The Sony Walkman that started the personal stereo revolution was still five years away from being introduced. The best way to listen to tunes away from home or your car was using a thing called a transistor radio.
Super 8mm was all the rage in home move cameras.
Polaroid photography was in full swing with the affordable “$19.95 Swinger” that gave you an “instant photo” a minute after talking it complete with a smelly gel you had to smear over the film. Most everyone was into instamatic cameras where you didn’t have to mess much with the film. All you have to do was drop a plastic cartridge in, advance it a few times, shoot, and then drop it off at the nearest drug store.
Pocket-sized calculators were widely available but they could do little more than add, subtract, multiple, divide, and do percentages. If you wanted more complicated functions you still had to learn to use devices such s a slide rule.
Junk mail was still old school brought to you by the Postal Service six days a week.
Everyone wore watches but few had alarm functions.
There were no handheld video games. If you wanted to find out what the temperature was you’d have to look around for a thermometer. And if you wanted to carry a calendar with you, stationary stores provided them in pocketbook form complete with the revolutionary ability to write short notes to yourself.
Maps were made of paper and never could be refolded right.
The latest stock information required you to purchase an afternoon newspaper.
If you wanted to use plastic to make a purchase it required a merchant to run it through a manual credit card reader to imprint your information on carbon copies. The copy you received was often not legible and smeared.
The first mass produced and affordable “laptop” was simply a word processor — the Tandy 80 — and was four years away. You did not purchase it at Best Buy or had it delivered via United Parcel Service. You bought what then passed as a portable computer at Radio Shack. To send copy using the device many nicknamed “The Trash 80” you had to use acoustical couplers to connect your phone’s mouthpiece and earpiece to while keeping your fingers crossed that it would connect.
You could drop kick a Tandy 80 and it would still function.
Drop kick an iPhone6 and you can kiss $700 good-bye.
That’s about the only drawback to 2014 technology.
The ENIAC — the first general computer that was completed for the military in 1946 — had a cost in today’s dollars of $6 million. The iPhone6 smokes the ENIAC in speed and functions. It’s like comparing crawling to the speed of light.
We no longer need phones or carry a pocket full of coins to stay in contact with people, thermometers, cameras either still or motion, transistors or Walkmans, answering machines, credit cards, watches, nor the Post Office to receive junk mail.
It is amazing to realize how far technology has taken us in 40 years. Today one device replaces dozens of others we used in the 1970s. And if you don’t think it’s cheaper, take a trip back down memory lane. Remember long distance bills, photo processing costs, the price of a good watch, all the coins you dropped in phone booths, the cost of maps, and the money you invested in either 8-track or cassette tapes?
Few of us every imagined the day we’d be walking around with a small, powerful computer that can remotely turn down our thermostat at home, order clothing to be delivered, and watch TV all while sitting almost anywhere we want whether it is under a tree, on a bus, or walking down the street in Reno.
Those graduating high school now never knew a world without cellphones or personal computers.
It boggles the mind to think how they will look back in 2054 and view how antiquated the iPhone 6 is.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.