Monday, November 26, 2012

an awful lot has changed in 40 years!

At the end of next month, Moira+I will be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary.
Sometimes, the forty years seem to have passed by in a flash and, at other times, it seems an absolute age since our wedding day.
I remember being given Alvin Toffler’s book “Future Shock” as a (sort of) wedding gift by an American student friend, Mark Lang. It was written in 1970 and mine was a third re-print published in 1972 (and the price on this paperback was the princely sum of 50p – decimalisation had been introduced the previous year!). I recently came across the book again and decided to re-read it (if I recall correctly, I actually only read about half the book first time round)… and what a fascinating read it proved to be. As you might anticipate, although he did put his finger on a number of key indicators, there’s been much other stuff that he failed to touch on. For example (and very surprisingly in my view): any reference to climate change – in whatever form you might want to address it (or any significant reference to the environment in general) – was almost entirely absent… the closest he came to touching on the subject was in a throw-away line about pollution when he added (almost as an after-thought): “perhaps even melting the polar icecaps”. He failed to predict (amongst other matters) how personal computers and the internet have come to dominate our lives – although, towards the very end of the book he did say this: “As computerized information systems ramify… it would tap into a worldwide pool of data stored in libraries, corporate files, hospitals, retail stores, banks, government agencies and universities”.

The book made me realise just HOW MUCH had changed over the intervening 40 years… so much so that I kept scribbling notes, inside the back cover, of the number of new things that had become part of lives during the course of marriage (note: NOT introduced specifically to keep our marriage “on track”, you understand!). Toffler, and the experts he quoted, seemed to think that some form of robotics was going to rule our lives by this stage of the 21st century. Little did he know (well, not in the way they had anticipated anyway)!
Obviously, the list is far from being comprehensive – but, once I’d started scribbling, it was very difficult to stop! These are just a FEW of my items (in no particular order… read slowly and digest!):
1.       THE INTERNET (oh my goodness! COMPLETELY life-changing for everyone!).
2.       Personal computers (whoever would have thought!? I recall a brand new, HUGE computer taking over an ENTIRE floor of the architectural block at college at this time for a massive project undertaken by final-year town planning students… but all it was able to do was to produce punch-cards!). And to think, Moira+I both HAVE to have a computer (what would my parents have thought?)!
3.       E-mails (and even they’re on the way out, perhaps?).
4.       Wireless (and satellite) technology in general.
5.       Mobile/smart phones (+cameras!)… complete with and iPods and iPads etc etc.
6.       Digital cameras.
7.       Social network sites which allow us to communicate with hundreds of friends… facebook, twitter and the like.
8.       Communication generally (eg. Skype which is something that used to be predicted in sci-fi cartoons when we were children - except that we saw it in terms of telephone lines and televisions rather than computers). Ironically, although there are so many ways of keeping in touch, many of which are totally brilliant, many of these things also cause more isolation.
9.       SatNav systems.
10.   Digital books.
11.   iTunes, MP3-players – “downloading” music, radio programmes etc.
12.   Instant global news.
13.   Instant publishing/blogs/websites (surely not!).
14.   Television channels (and iPlayer technology) where you can watch programmes at times convenient to YOU.
15.   Globalisation – with all its benefits and ALL its downsides.
16.   Travel and mobility (the world has become a very small place).
17.   Disposable/throw-away society – rather than mend+repair.
18.   Terrorism/suicide bombers.
19.   Society’s changing attitudes towards gays/same sex marriage etc.
20.   Offices without “designated” typists (and the changing face of the “typewriter”)!
21.   Google, Wikipedia etc (and access to information)(oh good grief!).
22.   Banking (cheque cards and holes in the wall).
23.   In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)(a subject close to our hearts), keyhole surgery and other medical wonders.
24.   Climate Change awareness.
25.   And, of course, the so-called celebrity status (don’t get me started!)?
But I’m absolutely certain I’ve forgotten a whole host of other stuff!


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