It was in fall of 1981 when we had our cattle dispersal sale. Technology in those days did not go much beyond electronic calculators. At least in Canada where we lived at the time, most computers were limited to large businesses and government.
As I think back to that time, the most advanced electronic device we had in our home was a Panasonic VCR. I had gotten it one winter when bad weather had kept us inside more than even our Canadian souls could take. We had to drive twenty miles to rent a move.
Cell phones were not on any horizon of mine. We were happy to have a private telephone line. When we moved to the farm in the fall of 1974, we had to fight to get something other than a party line.
Television was not very much a part of our life. We only had two channels. Most of our news came from the radio which we often had tuned to the Canadian Broadcasting Company or CBC as we called it.
The Daily Gleaner which was the daily paper out of Fredericton, New Brunswick came in the mail so we did not see it until the day after it was published.
We did read a lot of magazines and books. We even subscribed to a number of them including Newsweek, Time, and MacLean's the Canadian news magazine.
In August of 1982, I brought home an Apple II+ computer with an Epson MX-80 printer, AppleWriter II, and DBMaster database software. That fall, a year after we sold all our cattle, I went to work selling microcomputers for a small office in Fredericton.
While at the time, the speed of change seemed amazing, it is nothing to what it is today. Perhaps a good measure of home much things have changed is the Apple catalogue from my first days of selling computers.
It was still on the shelf two years after initial publication. In fact it took Apple almost four years to get from the Apple II+ to the next major advancement, the Apple IIe. The Apple IIe had upper and lower characters and could display 80 columns of text on the screen without a third party card.
A few days before writing this I read an article about Google's new web-based market for Android devices. I went to the webpage, saw the Realtor.com Android app and had it wirelessly installed on my phone from my computer.
The wide scale technology infrastructure that had to put in place for that to happen is almost mind boggling.
This evening I read about the Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News and Observer each laying off twenty employees. Newspapers, except some of the national ones and a few very small local ones are dying.
Apple probably stopped printing brochures and sales literature shortly after 2000. I worked for Apple for almost twenty years, and when we did shows after 2000 we had to create our own literature. As far as the company was concerned the web replaced expensive print advertising. The truth was probably that the brochures could not be updated as fast as the technology we sold was changing. I know when I was the Apple representative in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I could not distribute the brochures as fast as they shipped them. I usually spent a morning a month hauling away boxes of our of date brochures.
Today in 2011 not only do we have computers in the home, we have them in our pockets much of the time. We communicate with others more through computers than we do through even the telephone which many young people regard as an antique.
In 1982 when I started working in our computer sales office, we had a secretary who took written messages for us on little pink slips. We picked them up when we came back in the office. Then came voicemail and eventually remote voicemail. About a year ago, the real estate office where I used to work stopped using voicemail since clients prefer to contact agents on their cell phones rather than wait for a return phone call.
Sometime in the mid-eighties I remember lugging an original Macintosh computer into my hotel room so I could get email which was not very fancy in those days. It was, however, my most reliable connection with my employer, Apple.
Now I get up in the morning, glance at my email to see if anything interesting has shown up in my in basket, and browse the web while having my morning coffee. I hit a website that tells me the weather in a number of places that I have lived. I might look at the NY Times and a few other papers to see if there are articles that interest me. It I see a good one, I might Tweet it the people who follow me at @ocracokewaves. If I have time, I might glance at Facebook to see if any of my friends have done anything interesting.
My morning walk to get the tiny newspaper that still remains a part of our life might result in a great photograph of an egret or one of our other marsh visitors. When I get back inside I will share it with some people through one of the many choices that we have to connect with people today.
On a recent afternoon I went on a hike around the marsh in our subdivision here on the Crystal Coast. I took my phone with me. The track which the phone recorded over to Google maps is not very dissimilar to this recent hike.
It is pretty amazing to think while my phone was tracking me, I could also check my email if I wanted while on my walk. I could use the camera on my phone to take a picture or video and with a few clicks I could post it where others could see it. All this could be done while standing on the edge of the marsh.
I am sitting at a computer in my office, writing an article which will be posted on the web in a few minutes. Likely someone from another part of the world will read it before I wake up tomorrow morning.
Computers were pretty amazing by themselves, but we have gone way beyond computers. I wonder what we will see in the next ten or twenty years. Actually I should probably be worrying about the changes we will see next year in 2012.
It is hard to believe that I still remember my mother telling me about her family getting their first Model T and how dangerous her dad was driving it. I guess he never got used to the difference between a horse that would walk down a road and a car that needed steering to keep it from running into a ditch.
Today if a young person runs into a ditch, they might have been "texting" or talking on a cellphone instead of checking out the neighbor's crops.
What a ride this world of technology has been.
Update- In the fall of 2014, I am amazed that the number friends I have on Facebook has grown to 344. Even more shocking is that I now have 875 Twitter followers. The electronic web of connections is getting very complex. It might be time to go back to pen and paper.