All of a sudden the world changed, and it changed again. Events, inventions, personalities, and attitudes have made these changes look not only inevitable, but easy. I'm here to tell you, they weren't.
Above you see a picture of the first computer, a thing called Univac, as it appeared in 1957. It was known as an electronic brain, and great things were predicted for it. Corporations gradually embraced the new technology, but a life with personal computers was undreamed of. We were told in a book called Future Shock that someday we would love them--women could put their recipes on them, and we could record the cocktails our friends preferred for parties we were planning. Nobody really had any idea of how the invasion of technology was truly going to affect our lives.
The world of the future was assumed to be something like the cartoon world of an animated television show in 1962 called "The Jetsons," involving a family with a personal robot to do housecleaning and a vehicle that flew them from planet to planet. Telephones with screens were assumed to be just around the corner, and indeed the technology to produce them was available, but the public demand didn't exist and the idea was seen to be an invasion of privacy.
Nobody thought of cell phones, Google, faxes, scanners. When I walk around the city now--or anywhere in the world--almost everybody I pass seems to be talking to himself (with almost imperceptible earbuds and wires connecting him to somebody off in the distance), or talking into a little device smaller than a deck of cards. First came pagers, which we carried about in our pockets, and which went off at inopportune times and required a quick exit, "I gotta go!" as soon as we saw the message. Cell phones perform the same service, although you can exit without actually leaving the premises. You just say, "Sorry, I gotta take this," and sit there gabbing away about business deals or laundry lists, or whatever is more important than courtesy to the person you're talking with.
I've written posts here about people who've changed the world as we know it. My recent one saying that about Michael Jackson raised some hackles. I tried to say that he taught us to dance in a different way, and he made us want to dance. Earlier I admitted that Julia Child had taught us to view food, wine, and cooking in a different way. I have written that Barack Obama, with his steady hand and brilliant mind, has transformed the Presidency and rendered the pundits all but ineffective. He may have also changed the way the world views people of mixed races. I do not say that these people did anything more than change the world that we knew, woke it up to new experiences, and made it more interesting to deal with. To compare them with their predecessors is to miss the point. They weren't present when the world changed this time.
I'm something of a nostalgia nut and spend a lot of time writing about the way things used to be. I've written two books about the utopian village of Fairhope, Alabama, where I grew up and learned to appreciate the eccentric and the wise. There are things about the world of today that I may never accept, but I celebrate the changes that elevate our quality of life and challenge our personal ability to change. I don't expect many to see everything the way I do; I've learned that that is not possible no matter how brilliantly I think I've explained it. I just am glad that you've joined me on this journey of finding myself--whether or not you're in Hoboken.