My father was born in 1928 and will turn 80 next January. Like many of his generation, he’s struggled a bit to adopt all the new technology that’s been thrown at him over the years, but he’s made a pretty good attempt. Email and cell phones have mostly made it into the mix, but IM, text messaging and Facebook will probably never be part his life.
I often wonder what it’s like to have lived for most of the 20th century. Not so much for the sheer number of changes that took place during the century, but for their magnitude. My feeling is that the rate of change is higher now, but most changes are of a much lower magnitude than in the last 100 years. For the most part, modern changes tend to be more incremental.
Sometimes, this becomes evident in things my father reflects on or inadvertently says. A few days ago, I gave him a call (on his cell phone, which I’m still surprised he even owns) and he said:
Can I call you right back? I’m on a long distance call.”
A long distance call . . . I can even remember back in the 60s, when I was a kid, thinking that long distance calls were for times when bad news had to be conveyed, because it was the only time we could justify the cost hurdle. The whole idea that a long distance call is any different from a local call is almost a forgotten concept now that a call is virtually transparent and is measured and billed in time units, not distance.
He said it so naturally, it took me a minute to understand what was so weird about the statement when considered in modern terms. If I were a better listener, I bet more of these gems would become obvious to me.