Sunday, March 28, 2010

28 March 1956 “Technology and the Modern Time Machine”


There is something to the limited capacity of the technology of ‘old’. I have often come to consider, since 1955, what if our continued research and gains in technology were put only to science and the environment. If all the money available and brain power went into keeping us healthy, curing disease, lengthening our lives and helping to solve our dependence on oil and other negative affects on the environment, would it be so bad if we didn’t have new cell phones every 6 months?
I jokingly said to a friend a week ago, that sometime in the future all our data will probably be made to just be in our sight somehow. I said, maybe a pair of glasses or contacts. Then last night hubby showed me an article in a science magazine that showed just that: developing contacts one would wear that would put all your data and internet etc in you field of view. Then you could walk about and have advertising specifically geared towards your spending habits playing in front of you all the time. Scary thought, indeed, but it is coming.

When I see old movies like this one: no sound, a bit grainy, everyone a little jerky, it touches me. There is no confusing it with real life. HDTV wants us to see every nook and cranny of the human face, while the magazines air brush the heck out of everyone so they are thinner and smoother than could be possible in real life?

There is an almost artful quality to the old films. In their soundless movements, the discoloration leaves open an element of our own imagination to add to the movements;put a story or our own hopes into them. With sound and high tech, the more it becomes easy to record everything, does it make what is recorded less valuable, or less precious? Does the fact that we can text, talk or connect with people literally all the time anywhere make what we say less worth hearing? Once, an awaited letter contained a week or months worth of news, often put in ways much like we enjoy reading a novel or story. Today, we simply say, “uh, huh…yep…AWESOME…nope, nothing new” of course what could have happened since the 10 minutes prior you talked to one another. Does ease and constancy breed intellectual decline? Would those kids who met at summer camp and write and send photos to each other as friends be more inclined to learn the written language and improve their social skills then simply texting “i h8 u ;)” ?

On some level it is nice, I suppose, that we can communicate easier and distance have become smaller by technology and even easier travel with highways and jets. Yet, is there something loss to is as well? What if we had quick travel for emergency to save lives, but for personal travel we had to use old 1910 cars that you crank and only go about 30 mph? Would our approach to work be different? Would our visiting and shopping be changed in a way that would make us look around and become involved in our community more, because we have to stay there or it is easier to walk? Would our Need to depend on one another more increase our human bond and realtionships? Maybe even affecting our language skills and what we think of as ‘entertainment’? Could a solution  to our incessant need for oil be reduced by such measures? Possibly, but I know it would never happen. But, ponder that your car only travels 35mph top speed. You have to crank it. There are no heaters in them. Now, how does that affect where you choose to work, shop, be?

It is true the ease and speed of the modern world makes it possible for us to get places faster to find jobs that make more money outside of our area, but because of the roads and the need to ‘upgrade’ the community controlled parts of our life, we all pay more taxes into that. There is not simply living easily on a farm and having a 10 mile radius be your life, without having to pay for the pleasure of highways to ship items to stores that you have to drive further to shop and their need to ship things from China and India and your need to go further and more often to make the money to buy those things and then to pay for the roads that allow you to…Well, you get the idea.

Again, I am not bemoaning the modern world and crying out, “Oh, the good ole’ days…” but, I am wondering, do we ever question or wonder, do we need it? We seem, as a people, to blindly accept every new gadget and take it into our lives at breakneck speed. Hubby just showed me (in the same article) that they have also developed a 3-D TV that you wear special glasses that receives the TV signal at  a particular  refresh rate to each eye, so the programs (which have to be filmed that way) come out of the TV. So, we are just trying to create a more real world? We can have that world for free, walk outside or look around you are already living in a 3-d world! Yet, these things will just come along and there will be ads for them and then the box stores will have them on sale and we will all NEED them, setting aside what we just NEEDED last year, now worth nothing after spending thousands on it and it can go to the piles of other old electronics in the landfills.

Does it stop? Will it stop?

When I was marketing yesterday, I had to go to our local chain grocery to get the few things I cannot get at my local market. The place, since my change to shopping more ‘locally’ has become as alien and as abhorrent as the Mall to me. As I was wondering the endless aisles filled to the brim with product, I saw a girl, maybe 11-12, following her mother about. She held her little flip phone with full keyboard and was texting away. She was so practiced at it that I saw she could walk along, missing other shoppers, without taking her eyes off the screen. Though she was in a busy store full of people, she was living on that little grey screen filled with simple little characters. I felt so sad. I almost wished for an ill behaved child that was knocking things about, as at least they would be THERE  in the moment. Yet, the little girl, face as blank as a mask, eyes in a strange stare, and fingers moving at an almost unrealistic speed, maneuvering her way through the aisles. Is this our future? Is it bad good indifferent?

Sometimes I wonder if I would have been better leaving Pandora’s box closed and never traveling back in time. I always have felt ‘out of time’ but not until my year in 1955 have I felt so concerned for our future. Yet, I know all that I have come to be and to know is thanks to just being aware. By going back I would look forward with the ‘seer stone’ and see what was to become of the world in the past 50 years. Now, I am afraid of the next 10!

I wonder, too, is this phenomena of ‘longing for days of old’ a modern concept? I know many generations of artist at various times have looked to the past with a romantic view, but in 1950’s were there groups of people in their 20’s longing or romanticizing 1900? I just don’t think so. Yet, since my blog and now my site and forum, there are many people, even in their 20’s, who have a very real yearn and attraction to the ‘old ways’. Even if this is a romanticized view, it is an interesting development. Is it a subconscious backlash to increasing technology? Does the ease and rapid change of the modern world frighten us or repel us on some base level? Is it an almost animalistic warning? Who can know?

It is tough to strike the balance between reviving the good things from the past while remaining in the present. But, it is a challenge I think worth doing. It allows one to not be ‘lulled’ by the modern world. One doesn’t have the ‘wool pulled over one’s eyes’ so to speak. You are more aware of what is happening and changing and what is meant to just be ‘normal’ in the modern world when you can look at it from the past from time to time. It puts you more in control over your life and let’s you say, “You know, I don’t NEED that technology. I am happy with what I have or maybe I will even reduce what I do have and find myself happier with less and my need for less”.

I have been planning my kitchen redo on paper for sometime. Every time I add more here and there, changing thinking I need this and that. Yet, the more I live in our little home the more I wonder if I am not still being lured by the money need to have more. I did a little experiment last week. I took all but two pans from my kitchen. I had a sauce pan and a small fry pan. I also have a girdle built into my old stove as well. I even removed some of my extra utensils. So wooden spoons instead of rubber spatulas etc. What did I find? That after a day, I did not even miss them. I even didn’t use my old 50’s mixer and instead used my hand crank mixer and was fine. I began to look at my tiny 10’ by 10’ kitchen differently. Do I need to add on? Do I need more space a bigger pantry? I wasn’t sure. And as I began to think no, I also began to feel less stress. As if not NEEDING to enlarge the space was a relief, like someone said, ‘No, you don’t have to do that hard job for me’.

So, as my project is getting under way into its SECOND year, I am finding the opposite of the beginning of 1955. Then, in my still very modern mindset, I was on a vigilant search to buy and source as many authentic 1950’s things as possible on eBay and etc. Now, I realize that I still do want to mostly use and have old items/appliances, as they are 1)cheaper 2)built to last 3)rather stylish. But, that my need to have MORE of things is beginning to lessen. Traveling to the very root the very core of our modern consumer world, the 1950’s, maybe has made me look back another 50 years and wonder “Well, what did they have? What did they use? What did they need?”

Of course you can say, rightly so, aren’t we glad we have more freedom, better medicine, less racial hatred and more rights for women and minorities? Yes, we are glad of that, but just because we live in a time that has more ,does not mean that we have to HAVE More? We should be happy to have and take advantage of modern medicine and better freedoms, but that does not mean we have to buy into the need to have all the latest gadgets and technology that serve only to ‘entertain’ us. An entertainment that might actually be lulling us into a sort of comatose state. We don’t have to have our children mindlessly wandering the halls of malls, eyes glued to little screens, endlessly texting. We can take the good of today AND the good of the past and make our own unique wonderful future. We can enjoy the rights and medicines of today, but dress in Victorian costume and cook over a wood stove if we like! We can take TV and computers out of our life even, if we so choose. Or we can use the computer as a tool or as a ‘special’ time entertainment or as a way to have a community, as we do here, but still realize that we can do many things the ‘old way’. It is our life and we do NOT have to do what the TV and adverts tell us to do.

Often, when I begin a morning with a melancholy feeling towards the past, or a ‘Gee, I wish I could go back”, after some real thought;some real dissection of my feelings, I often end up feeling better. Because I realize we CAN relive the good of the past, even make our lives as much like the decade we might covet. We can even use this technology to realize we are not alone in these thoughts for ‘longing for the past’. Those of us who long for the old or simply have an inner desire we cannot really explain away can find one another and say, “Ah, yes…I am not alone.”

Sometimes I wonder where our passions and joy of the ‘past times’ might lead us. Maybe there will be a day when some of us will come together and ‘make a neighborhood’ stuck in 1955. Or a group of us will live in an area recapturing the pasts aspects of community from the past. Who knows? I do know that I am glad for the technology of the computer for allowing me to share what I have so far and to find and meet so many other wonderful people who also feel a little ‘out of time’. We can make the life we want. We can live in a world of our own making. We just have to get up from the tv and say, “This is what I want, This is what I would like to try” and get to it! We can make our own modern time machine and rather than travel to the past bring it forward around us. We can use the ‘technology’ of hard work, imagination, and determination. I know, though I am always tinkering with the settings on my time machine, I am glad I have ‘built’ it. And, I am glad that many of you have come along for the ride.

Who needs Wii Fit when you have your own imagination?


  1. I love your deep ponders. As a kid of the 60s and 70s, this world seems to get increasingly weird.

    All of the dads in my neighborhood growing up were stern. Nowadays the parents feel obligated to hand over whatever the kid wants--cell phones, video games etc.

    I think the status symbols we knew as kids such as designer labels or a particular purse have been replaced with electronics updates. (not that chasing after any kind of status symbol is OK)

    Oh, and the companies nowadays!! It used to be that companies were upright and sturdy. (maybe they weren't really, but that was my impression)

    The dads in the neighborhood had jobs at...GM, Coca-Cola, the railroad etc. Firm jobs.

    Now you really have to look at a company from all directions to make sure who owns it, make sure it's not a scam etc. So many are greasy now.

    And I love the "hillbilly" boys dancing. I want to join in with them. Not everything has to be done to perfection or for a competition. Just have some silly fun sometimes!

    I have a question, maybe more for your hubby...I'm thinking of putting my old manual typewriter back into commission. Are typewriter ribbons still made?? Typewriter lovers aren't using up an age-old stash that will soon be depleted are they? I hope not, because I would love to start typing away and know that the supplies will still be there when needed. Thanks so much.


  2. Kris7-I shall ask hubby when he gets home, but I think they even still sell the old school ones at Staples ( I know, a big box store) and, of course, eBay for old supply.
    I just loved the Hillbilly dance. Just to think of those two boys taking all that time to coreagraph it and get the clothes on (probably their dad's though that size would be appropriate for them today, only they would have to sag more with underpants showing).

  3. I've been lurking and enjoying your blog since you began. Thank you for sharing your time and talents.
    I was conceived in mid-March of 1956, and so I look back into my own time through your explorations.
    My parents were so young (18 and 21) but completely adult. Times were without a doubt so much better for. children then. Our Mothers were home, our teachers well educated and often exemplary public servants, not baby-sitters, but leaders commanding respect of students and their parents. Our parents stayed married, our Grandparents were involved in our lives.
    Despite the turbulence of the 60's and waywardness of the 1970's, I'm blessed to have been born into the world in 1956.
    I'm only surprised we didn't have the nuclear war we were CONSTANTLY threatened with. So there is hope for the future.
    I remember my second grade teacher talking about the year 2000, how we would be in our early 40's, I thought, Golly, I don't even know anyone that old.It goes by quickly. So quickly.
    Keep up the good work.
    Happy homemaker,
    Sherry Krol

  4. Thank you 50sgal for your 'Thinking' blog entry. Try not to carry the weight of worry about the future. Like you say, we can have the life we want by choosing the best from the past and the best from now. We are so fortunate and if we take our job seriously as 'complete adults' as Sherry mentions above (welcome, great comment!)we can positively guard and guide our own family.

    What life experience that 11-12 yr old girl is missing with her head in her screen. I see a similar example at our town library. We have backpackers from many countries visit our beautiful city and where are they? Lined up engrossed in the free-web-access computers, eyes glazed over, head in the screen or huddle in a cubicle with their own laptop for hours on end. Why bother coming? They could have done exactly that back home. It's sad what they are missing.

    There's a lot of us in this boat along with you 50sgal, choosing in our own ways to live simpler and we thank you for your ideas, inspiration and encouragement. (You can bring up children sheltered from the negatives, saturated in the fun and positives, enjoying and experiencing their childhood to the full, with your direction and full participation. Keep this in mind. Many have loved doing it and you'd do a great job.)

    It is a fun challenge to examine what we really need. Because we plan to move towns within a couple of years we are encouraging ourselves even more to down-size. I have found too that I don't need anywhere near as much 'stuff' in the kitchen as I thought, even though I spend much more time in there.(I am in favour of having good tools that we USE and LOVE but being excessive isn't always better.) Let's live lighter. It is invigorating and liberating. Linda

  5. Sherry Krol-Thank you. I love when someone comments who have been 'lurking' as you say. It makes me think, 'hmmm, maybe there are others out there listening to my insanity'. It sounds like you were born in a time that was wonderful to be a child and I am sure you loved it. It does seem teachers today are more baby-sitters or wardens. I have heard people say (here on the blog) that teachers have little children, as young as first graders, call their teacher by their first name! When I was young (my parents were in their 40's so all my parents friends were older and all their children grown) I used to go with them many places surrounded by grownups and would never have thought of saying, "Hiya Joe" it would always be "Mr. or Mrs. or even Miss" I remember, as I got older and into my 20's I often still called such family friends Mr and Mrs, uncertain as to when I would recieve the 'adult status' to use their first name. Now, I think even some children call their parents by their names! It might seem a silly thing, but such terms of respect are important to young children and it makes you want to BE the grown up yourself one day. Now, if grown ups are just poor versions of kids, no wonder the kids think they are 'the cat's pajamas' because they ARE the best version of a kid, since they actually are children.

  6. This entire post brought to mind the movie "Wall-E". I don't know if it ws out before you entered 1955, or if you have seen it? It ponders the future, and just what might happen to humanity should we continue on this track. Of course, it is a Pixar film, so it is sweet and all, but still. The thought of grossly overwieght people who do nothing but ride round in chairs all day talking to people ONLY via the computer, while allowing the same computer to run their world if frightening to me. If you haven't seen it, 50sgal, step forward and have hubby rent it. It is worth watching. (It is also sweet in its own way).

  7. Perhaps I’ve mentioned this before, but son thinks it is SOOO embarrassing that we don’t have a flat screen TV, but I’ve said that we keep our “old” TV (about 9 years old) until it dies, since we watch so little TV it is OK with me. I keep my cell phone until it dies too, my previous cell phone died when it was 8 years old and sadly could not be repaired. I was so sad, it was a great phone. The one I have now is also great, but I don’t think it is OK that I have to pay such a high price for it. I don’t care about photo, video, radio, mp3 player, Facebook access, etc. – why can’t I buy a phone that is ONLY a phone!?

    A fun thing, considering spending money, has occurred to me. I’ve got this new job, which I hope is great this time, so I wanted to buy myself a gift to celebrate – but, alas, I cannot find anything to buy! ;) I don’t need anything, nothing tempts me. And before your blog I would have rushed out and bought some luxury items I didn’t need. You are a very good role model, and I love your rants! :D

  8. PS: Have a lovely Easter, dear! :)
    I'll go to my tiny Summer cottage and do I look forward.

  9. Lori B-I have not seen it. It does sound cute. I was interesting to just ponder (maybe because to me it also sounds fun) that we could continue advancing, maybe even at a faster rate, with all minds to our health and longevity including the planet that we have to live on and then the rest of us just sticking with 'what we have'. We could still make more and buy more, but just remake the same type of thing. Even the thought of old cars that we couldn't use as much made me realize how when cars were first really availabe for the masses, people still have a very town-centric or area-centric life. They were not jaunting off here and there and had a closer knit community. Just an interesting hypothesis to ponder.
    Sanne-I know, it is annoying. I used to be the 'get it now it's the latest'. I cringe when I think of my 'wall tv' I had to have when we lived in the city, it broke when we moved back and obviously I don't care as we have no tv now. Happy easter to you as well and I am jealous of your cottage, have fun. Your son will grow out of the need to 'have the latest' I did, but look how long it took me!

  10. I miss the 1950s so much, sometimes i feel so lonely in this gray modern world, but when i read your blog it's like an oasis in the middle of a desert. Keep up the good work
    ! (Sorry if my english is not perfect, i'm from Brazil):)

  11. Thank you so much Anon, I shall try. Sometimes I wonder if my blog is still interesting enough to people now, but comments like this push me onward. Thank you so much.

  12. your best post, yet? i think so...

    cuba is laughed at the world around for still using their old 50's cars. it is a mechanical object, so if something goes wrong it can be fixed as long as the parts are available. nothing wrong with that!

    sometimes i ponder the need to have more, and think that at least some of it (mine, anyway) stems from the fact that nothing made now suits. it is shoddy. it will be outdated within a few years. one small piece will break and the whole thing must be tossed out, as there is no one to do the work of fixing it plus no parts available for repairing it. so, we have quantity again but no quality.

    where is this town we are all moving to? have you seen the gentleman's dioramas that are getting so much press today?

    so, when are we going to do what this gentleman has made the 'mock' version of, for real?

    i do not idealize the past. as anything human is, it had good and bad things about it. but we do need to start asking the question of why we need to reinvent our whole world every 10 years or so, when the old thing worked very well already.

    scientists have linked the stress induced from living in constantly changing environment with overconsumption of food in mice, i believe. perhaps there is some method to this madness?

  13. Those photos of his diarmas are amazing! I know, that is what we need to do. I have even put on the backburner (with many things) to at one point buy a car that is old enough to have not had computer sensors etc installed so it can be repaired by normal humans. It would involve hubby and I understanding how to do it, but it cannot be impossible, right?
    I would LOVE to buy 150 acres some where and say, "Okay, here is our 1955 town" and then get anyone and everyone who wanted to get involved TO get involved. We could make a town center, small farms, it would be great. Impossible and hard work, possibly, but what an adventure! Any takers?

  14. I love your blog! You have been such an inspiration to me. We have trimmed our life back for the last year year. We gave our microwave away first. People that visit think this so strange. Now we can't stand the taste of food warmed in a microwave! LOL! And thank you for helping me with a delema I was having - what to wear to do my housework in! The rolled up jeans and my husbands shirts are perfect! I have been reading your blog from the beginning and am not done yet, but I love it! Thank you!

  15. Oh my goodness, 50sgal, I could have written this post—word for word! I am so glad that there are others out there who feel that they were born in the wrong time. It is a comfort and a great thing to attempt to bring the past into our current lives.

    Thank you!

  16. Loved the video! I find it sad that kids these days don't even know the joys of running barefoot through the grass. I grew up barefoot and only put shoes on when we went to the store. And that was usually rubber boots, or water shoes if we were getting stuff to take to my aunt's house on the lake. At this very moment I'm barefoot and won't be putting shoes on until I leave for my hair appointment.

    You need to see Wall-E. It's cute and has a great message without being over the top and preachy. Wall-E also loves Hello Dolly.

    I did just get a new cell phone, a 3G smart phone. Circumstances beyond my control dictated its necessity and that's the only reason I got it. If it wasn't for that I would have gotten something simple and basic.

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