Ah yes, the good old days. How quickly time passes. My youngest graduated from college last weekend. She can barely remember life before cellphones, and can’t remember life before personal computers or VCRs, because both of those were born before she was.
A graduation is a milestone event, and milestone events generate this kind of thinking. How much the world has changed, and how quickly. When I graduated from college in 1970:
- The university had a computer in a basement that took up the space of an SUV and had way less power than an iPhone does now. Computer science students programmed it with perforated cards.
- The dorms had one phone per floor. Long distance calling costs were significant. I was in the Midwest, so I’d call my parents in California once every couple of months.
- We wrote letters. We read letters.
- We used typewriters for every college essay, paper, and assignment. We’d often retype an entire page to correct an error. Sometimes we’d reword things to make the pages end or begin with the correct word so we could insert an additional page.
- Four-function calculators existed, but nobody we knew had one. You could have bought a new low-end car for the price of two four-function calculators.
- I did my sophomore year abroad, and the university sent us from New York to Europe on an ocean liner. That was cheaper than flying.
- We wrote checks when we had to, used cash most of the time, and we got the cash from the bank teller window, not an ATM.
- Credit cards were rare. Our parents had them.
- Television was broadcast over the air. We watched in real time or not at all. We had 5 or 10 channels to choose from.
- When we were driving we listened to the radio, or cassette tapes.
And that’s just technology, or a smattering of technology. When I think of social evolution, and environmental deterioration, the end of the cold war, the rise of terrorism, polar ice caps … like we used to say: “far out, man.”