For some reason I was thinking about parts of the recent past that, as far as the most-current and upcoming generation are concerned, will never have existed. Things that some of us have strong memories of, but their existence was too short to make an indelible impact in film. The recording below will bring back memories… for some of us.
Rotary phones will be remembered always, despite having not been in use for decades. They have become one of those things a film maker uses to define the time period the viewer is seeing, much like the cars shown. The later pushbutton phone has been faithfully reproduced, digitally, on the modern cell phone. But there is a complete disconnect in the lineage of our use of computers and the 300 baud modems that connected them to the world. Future generations will grow up having no idea what it was like, having the computer-equivalent of talking to someone using orange juice cans connected by a string.
There just aren’t that many popular movies in which the use of modems was featured. War Games was one (my daughter Becky read this and thought I should add “You’ve Got Mail” to the list, but I’m not sure it’s going to be a movie that gets that much play down the road; now, if there had been a modem scene in “Sleepless in Seattle”, that would be another thing entirely!). But for the most part, someone young (today) looking back at such technology would think it not much different from communicating via orange juice connected by a string. If even that has any relevance.
How many things that I’ve grown up with fit into this category? How many things in generations past might be similar, or is this something new, a sign of a transitional technology that didn’t last long enough to make a dent in time?
I remember 300 baud modems, $800 10 megabyte hard drives, and thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if you could tell a computer to do something moderately complicated, then leave it to do its calculations and come back half an hour, and it’s all done? Somehow, maybe 20 years ago, we decided the computer had to be finished pressing the “enter” key.