I have been thinking for a while about the things my kids will never experience that were a normal part of my childhood. Because of modern technology, they will never know the difficulty of growing up in the near-Dark Ages. My mother tells me that she didn’t have running hot water when she was a kid, but at least she didn’t have to live through the humiliation of being one of the only kids without MTV. It's true—not everyone had cable in the 80's. It was really hard for some of us. Kids today aren’t even aware of the primitive times in which their parents grew up. seedless watermelon This one actually makes me feel sorry for them. Science has managed to genetically modify the seeds out of the watermelons, but remember how fun was it to spit the seeds? You were actually allowed—nay, ordered—to spit them out. Of your mouth. The adults told us to spit them out of our mouths. (I cannot stress this point strongly enough.) Man, that was fun. Now the seeds are all white and soft and edible. And yet my kids still complain about them. Grandfathers the world over (or at least in the parts where messing with the food supply is normal) cannot tell their grandkids to be careful not to swallow a seed lest a watermelon grow inside of them. All the grandfathers have had their fun taken away too.
pre-cable TV programming We took the kids to breakfast recently and in the restaurant a giant television was playing cartoons. The children were, of course, mesmerized. Steve (not his real name) and I started to tell the tale of our own childhood cartoon experience in which cartoons were broadcast only on Saturday mornings and only until about noon. They each tore themselves away from the screen to give us expressions filled with a mixture of incredulity and abject sadness. Yes, there was a time when there did not exist numerous channels dedicated to children’s programming 24-hours a day. And that time was the early 1980’s, many a-year ago. I still shudder when I think of it.
...which leads us to...
Saturday morning cartoons Remember when your television had those metal antennae sticking out? Sometimes tipped off with balled-up aluminum foil, sometimes extended with a wire coat hanger? As if sketchy reception were not enough of a hardship, on a Saturday morning while experiencing your coveted and limited cartoon watching time—The Smurfs, The Snorks, a nice Muppet Babies episode, perhaps—your mother would decide that was the best time to whip up some cake batter or vacuum the carpet. Kids today can simply turn the volume up a level louder than the offending appliance which their mother is (inconsiderately) wielding and all will be well. But not when I was a kid. Not only could you not out-volume your mother’s efforts at torture, her electrical appliances made the screen go crazy-fuzzy and emit loud static sounds rendering it impossible to watch the Snorks execute their underwater escapades. Entire crucial plot points were obliterated. How dare she. That cake probably wasn’t even for us.
caller id, call-waiting and cable television What ever did we do before caller id was invented? We answered the freakin’ phone, that’s what. You had no idea who was calling and yet you gathered all the courage in your good heart to answer the phone anyhow. It was a scary time—full of uncertainty. Would you have to talk to a telemarketer? Oh, yes, maybe you would. How about some relative when you just didn’t feel like it? Sadly, it was probable. When I was growing up, we didn’t have caller id, call-waiting OR cable television. Was caller id, call-waiting and cable television invented in the 80's? Yes. Did we have any of it? No. (I already said that.) What did my parents get as soon as we kids moved away to college? Yes—good guess: caller id, call-waiting and cable television. When my kids move away, I am going to get a robot. If robots for homemakers get invented before they leave, I will not get one and I will make them do the housework. What will my robot that I get after the kids move out do? EVERYTHING. Even get me juice. Even get me juice when I whine inexplicably and unnecessarily for the juice. And the robot will love me in spite of the inexplicable and unnecessary whining. That’s what good robots do.
It’s a miracle we made it into the new millennium, when phones developed efficient buttons and televisions shed their antennae, everyone got cable as a matter of course and all the phones told you who was calling whether you wanted to know or not. When my kids grow up, they’ll have to say things like, “When I was a kid, we had to wait 47 nanoseconds for a web page to load. It was excruciating.”
(I won’t feel sorry for them.)