Bob Dylan told us in 1964 that "The Times They Are A-Changing." Little did he know.
When the iPhone 8 debuted this week, I thought of the time, which seems like yesterday, when my wife and I upgraded to the 6S Plus which was just after the 7 hit the shelves. You might ask why we didn't just jump straight to the 7.
Well, we didn't feel like we had a right to skip the 6. We were 5 users for a couple or three years and it just didn't seem proper to totally leapfrog the 6 because of the glitter and glimmer of the new 7. Actually we were 5S owners, which made us a little more special than the just-plain-5 owners. Plus we wanted to give 3D touch a try as well as experience android size in an Apple product. After all, IOS is IOS by any other name.
If you followed the last two paragraphs, if you had no trouble with the lingo, then you're either 1) young or 2) a savvy Apple middle-ager or mature citizen. And, if you didn't follow the lingo, that doesn't mean you aren't young and/or savvy. Or age-advanced and hip. It may simply mean that you are a Samsung or other android afficionado or you like a flip to your phone and don't plan in this lifetime to upgrade beyond your trusty Nokia or your CD player.
Anyway, stuck at the Verizon store, sitting around waiting for the new phone to upload around 45 gigs of information of mysterious value, I reflected on my first brush with technology.
It's 1974 and my company has a promotion. Never one to shun a little healthy competition, I gave it my best effort and managed to win. A congratulatory letter arrived letting me know to expect my prize in the next few days. Early the next week, a package appeared on my desk. Opening it, I found this little plastic thing-a-majig with square numerical keys on the front and the brand name "Casio" emblazoned above a tiny, rectangular translucent screen. I scanned the instruction booklet and discovered that I had won a "digital calculator."
What a machine that little fellow was! What a miracle. You could multiply, divide, add, subtract, figure the square root...there was no end to what this item barely larger than a pack of cigarettes could do. Truly pocket sized!
Understand that I was a child of a generation that utilized mechanical cash registers the size of dorm refrigerators. If you plunged downward on three cumbersome keys, three tin rectangles would pop up in a glass enclosure to record a $1.38 sale. (And if you are one of the handful of people who actually can visualize that, then you are old...really old.)
What had the world come to? This was surely the invention of the century and certainly the end-all to long-winded mathematical solutions. No more carrying the two in your multiplication or adding a decimal point and a zero in your long division. This little know-it-all did it all. The answers were displayed magically via liquid crystal display, another miracle, allowing you to do little tricks when bored, like entering 7,7,3,4,5 and turning the calculator upside down to spell an oil company.
However...that little miracle worker today would be about as exciting to the tech world and the demanding, technologically advanced consumer as a common nail. Yep, about as intriguing as post-it note. Nearly as engaging as paper clip.
Back at the Verizon store, fanning ourselves when quoted the price of the 6S, the rep reminded us that we weren't buying phones, we were buying computers. He cocked his head, arched his left eyebrow, and asked us what our computers at home could do that this iPhone couldn't. I searched for a witty reply that would smack the supercilious grin from his face but came up blank.
We left the store with heavier pockets and lighter wallets.
But, strangely, when I return to that day in 1974, I'm convinced that I felt a great deal more satisfaction, excitement, and awe over that early edition calculator than I do over the next great smartphone. I can't help but believe that there was some understated beauty in that simple time of technological naiveté. That slice of time when you didn't worry over having enough storage-ready gigabytes or exceeding your plan's monthly data quota. When Macintosh was just a very tasty apple and Microsoft sounded like a new, improved brand of fabric softener sheets. When "you've got mail" meant that you could see the postman closing your mailbox door before heading for your neighbor's. When twitter was what your heart did when you fell in love. Again. And when the BeeGees sang "I've Gotta Get a Message to You," the last thing you thought about was thumbing away at a qwerty keyboard.
But the common nail? Anything but common. That little fellow is pretty diverse all on its own and has gone through many more transformations and variations than the iPhone. And with a birth date around 3400 B.C., it certainly a much more colorful history. In early America, they were so coveted that folks would burn down abandoned houses just to salvage the nails. Hopefully we won't be doing that for smartphones.
And, finally, there's the existential side of the nail. I read once that nails are secured in objects by the laws of friction. And they can endure the secured object's force due to their sturdiness. These are times when we humans could certainly benefit from the nail's simple lesson. With everything that comes at us daily, with all the friction that we create upon ourselves and allow others to create within us, we could all use a little more nail-liness. We could all learn to sturdy up a little bit more, huh? Can't manage that with an iPhone, can we? Look at those things the wrong way or apply too much friction and the screen cracks or the battery explodes.
So ignore the title of this blog. It's silly. But here's to the pocket calculator and the good, old nail. Raise a glass to their simplicity, honesty, and ingenuity. May they ever have a secure and calculated place in our history and our hearts. And in these times that are a-changing, may we never, ever allow modern technology to slowly invade and dominate every phase of our lives.
Now excuse me while I search for a strong wi-fi signal to publish this post and attach it to my Facebook page.
OMG!!! Tell me I just didn't say that....😕