Everything New is Old Again

The Daily Post started me thinking about how much technology has changed in the last 34 years by asking “Of all the technologies that have gone extinct in your lifetime, which one do you miss the most?” In general, I can’t think of anything that I specifically miss because so many of the technologies that no longer exist have simply changed over the years. Cassette tapes have been replaced first by compact discs and then by MP3’s (there was also the MiniDisk, but that never really took off in North America). Video games evolved from the Intellivision through the early generation consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System through several more generations to the motion capture technology we are seeing in the Xbox Kinect. Telephones first became cordless then cellular then texting took off and now we have moved beyond smart phones to SuperPhones. Even my television is “smart” now, and even books are read on devices.

I’m not even going to discuss the evolution of computers and the internet.

So, how much is there to miss, exactly? I don’t own a cassette player anymore, but I do still have all my old tapes. I’d love to find a way to get the music off of them and onto my computer (and I know such technology exists, but I am cheap and haven’t bought one yet). I know I could probably buy all those albums online somewhere, but a part of me (the cheap part, probably) finds the idea of having to buy new versions of things I already own rather irksome. I know some people jump on the chance to buy all their favourite albums on various new media, but I just get frustrated. I can’t watch my Star Wars Collector’s Edition VHS tapes because our VCR starting eating tapes (R.I.P., Good Will Hunting), and from what I’ve heard about the BluRay version, there were…improvements…made that I might not enjoy.¹

That said, I do enjoy being able to listen to hundreds of songs on a device that hides in the palm of my hand. I can hardly remember what life was like before the internet. I don’t miss having to re-thread those beloved cassette tapes when they encountered a dying Walkman. Netflix is amazing, but I actually do miss browsing the video store, especially independent video stores that carried more than the usual fare.

There’s a lot to be thankful for in the technological developments of my lifetime. Somehow technology has smushed together my Walkman, telephone, computer, video game console, VHS player, diary, calendar, library, Rolodex, calculator, television, and newspaper and put it all on one device. Then it threw in a video calling app and instant messaging—things that didn’t exist at all when I was born. That’s pretty mind-blowing. It doesn’t leave much to miss.

I look forward to seeing what new innovations will be available to us over the next 34 years. But I won’t stop griping about how I have to pay each time to upgrade to a new media (damn you, Nintendo, for taking away my Wii games’ online functionality). I know that technology isn’t always improved for the sake of making it better. Sometimes it is “improved” just to make us buy new things.

¹Han shot first.
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