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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Reinventing American Society

Societal changes take place so slowly that we rarely see them unfold on a day-to-day basis. But when we look back over any significant period of time, the scale of change is truly breathtaking.

Along with other baby boomers, I grew up in a world without email and where mobile phones were found only in Dick Tracey’s comic strip or in Maxwell Smart’s shoe. Boomers like me also remember record players before stereo, black-and-white television and waiting three days for photos to be developed.

Living through the ’70s, we had no idea we had no idea what was coming next. As Apple and Microsoft were being created, my college computer science class was still teaching us to use punch cards! Using a special machine, holes were punched on these stiff cards to essentially write a single line of code per card. The cards were then placed in a stack and fed into a computer through a card reader in a giant lab. Scheduling lab time was nearly impossible so turnaround times for even the simplest of programs were measured in days or weeks.

Archaic as it seems, IBM claims their cards held “nearly all of the world’s known information for just under half a century.” Still, by the end of the ’70s, it was possible to see faint hints of the changes to come.


1 comment:

Thornton Crowe said...

Even with the Iran Hostage situation and Jimmy Carter, the Seventies were a much simpler time, indeed. Watergate was a scandal but it gave us something to watch on our 19" TV with no - yes, kids NO, remote control. Records were vinyl not files and music - well, rock n' roll was still alive.

Gas was 69 cents a gallon and your car got like 2 miles to the gallon. Joy riding was ridiculous cheap entertainment and the days of cruising with a Miller Lite in hand was the way to spend a Saturday night at the Salisbury Mall. Everything back then, including politics, was far from a dime store punchline and a week's worth of groceries was a whopping $20.00. Long distance was expensive but no one really cared because everyone we wanted to talk to lived close by.

In spite of our modernity, we are more miserable now than ever before. Has our progress really become our digress? How say you?