I sometimes fantasize about being able to write to myself in the past and describe all the different things we now have that were pure science fiction not so many years ago… or at least when I was a kid.
That got me to realizing that by explaining how some of today’s technology, and even concepts, as if to someone in the past, really led to an introspective view of what things were like earlier in our lifetimes.
For an example, I might describe a “smart phone“. I could start in one of a few directions, looking at the changing telephone and in fact how mobile phones have changed society; or viewing the smart phone as a hand-held computer, complete with very many useful tools. For sake of argument I’ll be looking at the later, the “smart phone” as a “hand-held computer”.
What might I write about smart phones to my younger self in the 1970’s? To begin with, I have to consider not only the world of the 1970’s, but also my own personal view of the 1970’s. My own personal view back then is perhaps the more important from the point of view of heritage.
Back in the early ’70s I was in high school. Now I knew about computers from childhood. I watched “Star Trek” when it was first being broadcast, I also was an avid reader of Science Fiction starting off with the adventures of “Tom Swift Junior.”
In high school I was extremely fortunate to belong to the school computer club. It was a time when even small computers were large enough that they might barely fit into a small bedroom. Of course that didn’t include the tape drives, disk drives, or the necessary air conditioner — that would likely be the size of two large deep freezes stacked.
I think that even on Star Trek they didn’t dare refer to their “Tricorders” as mobile computers. The view of “home computing” was that of computer terminals connecting via phone line to a computing centre in a central location like a university or corporation.
The old Telex teletype machines were gradually replaced with new “dot matrix” terminals and terminals with thermal printers. There were a few large terminals with CRT monitors. A few were even colour! I’m not sure if the mainframe computers had CRT consoles yet or not.
We did have ways to chat online. If you were on the same computer system as someone else you could send messages back and forth. I know we enjoyed chatting with students at another high school. They really got annoyed when we would send a “ctrl b” in a message. That rang the bell in the terminal and while ours was an electronic beep, the other school had an older Telex terminal.
Those teletype machines had an actual bell, and when it rang it annoyed the office staff at their school. We chatted via a computer at the local technical institute, but could have probably connected via phone directly to their school’s computer terminal. That seemed fun for us in high school.
As you can see, thinking about writing to my young self led to memories of what it was like back then. For myself, that only can go back to the 60’s. I was a toddler and later primary school student then. I think it would be interesting to see what older generations might come up with. I think I might know someone who was born in 1914…