Technology Dominates Modern Day Life, But Is It Good or Bad?
As a Gen X’er (those born between 1965 and 1980), I grew up alongside technology. However, life in the 80s and even the 90s was much different than it is now, and my childhood didn’t feel like it was dominated by all things electronic. We didn’t have cell phones, Google, or social media when we were young (much to the shock and horror of my kids). I didn’t spend the majority of my youth staring at a screen. I wouldn’t have grown up in any other decades, although that is all I know. Many people argue that we had it better than kids do now, but did we?
Communication and Entertainment - From Street Lights to Cell Phones
Growing up, I spent most of my time playing outside with my friends. I have so many fond memories of running around outside for hours, exploring and going from friend’s house to friend’s house until it got dark. When the street lights came on at dusk, that was my signal that it was time to head home. My mom also had a giant bell that she would ring, and we would hear it from a distance and know that it was dinner time.
In elementary school and junior high, my friends and I passed notes back and forth to chat, and we knew about 1,000 different ways to fold a piece of paper. My friends and I would often mail letters to one another despite living just down the street and having the ability to walk to each other's houses. I still have all of my notes and letters from childhood saved in a box, and it is quite a large collection.
We used landline phones with super long curly cords to call family and friends, and long phone calls were common and plentiful. One of our home phones was a rotary phone, and I still remember hating when someone had a 9 in their phone number, as that number took the longest to dial. When we were out and about, we carried around quarters for payphones, which we used to call our parents and tell them when it was time to pick us up from the mall. When I got to high school pagers (aka “beepers”) were popular, and it felt exciting to be able to communicate on-the-go.
During my youth music was mostly played via the radio or cassette players, but we also occasionally pulled out the record player. We spent hours waiting by our boomboxes, waiting to hear our favorite song on the radio, and when it came on we would quickly press record to try to tape the whole song on our cassette tapes without missing a beat. We used portable Walkmans to listen to our taped playlists. In the early 90s, audio CDs replaced cassette tapes, and cassette tapes basically became extinct.
MP3s, or digitally-compressed music files, brought about a new level of accessibility to music in the late 90s. However, it was still tricky to grab music off of the internet, until Napster came along. Napster was a software that enabled people to download their favorite songs from other users, who had retrieved them from ripped CDs, often breaking copyright laws. The software peaked from late 2000 to early 2001 until it declined in the early 2000s due to lawsuits from musicians and music companies. The Apple iPod, a portable media player that was released in late 2001, was designed by Steve Jobs and revolutionized how we listened to music. Apple came through once again in 2003 when it introduced a new way to download music with the iTunes Music Store, which offered millions of songs for only 99 cents apiece. Now we have a plethora of ways to download inexpensive or even free music online using iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Pandora, etc.