So this week, we bought a new fancy LED, internet-ready, 3D capable TV. (I know, we’re idiots, but it was on sale). We spent the next few days fiddling with the display, trying to figure out the settings, and downloading apps. Last night, as I was choosing which Van Gogh masterpiece I wanted to be my screensaver, I started to wonder if perhaps things had gone a bit too far.
Four short years ago, I had the distinction of never having had cable/satellite in my home. In my childhood home, we had a huge, wood-encased monstrosity of a television, tucked against the wood paneling in the living room. We had all of four choices of channels until I was in my teens, when the WB came on the network scene. Ungainly antennae rose from the back, mocking us as we twisted them this way and that, trying to get a relatively snow-free picture—relative being the key word.
During those years, my parents generally limited our TV watching to 1 hour a day. Though we’d try to get around the edict, peaking around the hallway corner or passing through to get yet another glass of water from the kitchen, for the most part, we had to find other ways to occupy our time. For me, that meant hitting the great outdoors on the nice days, and reading, drawing, and pestering my siblings on the bad weather days.
Back then, playtime never included the family computer, which was tucked amongst the cluttered disarray of my father’s study. Its black and white DOS prompted screen was a mystery to me, used only for typing school reports when my father pulled up the word processing screen. When my homework was done, the rhythmic screech of the dot matrix printer filled the house, assaulting our ears for minutes on end as it labored to produce its uninterrupted line of pages.
Of course, in those days, no one had ever heard of the internet (at least not in my world), and cell phones were as heavy as bricks and about as unwieldy, an expensive luxury that allowed the user to communicate fuzzy and broken sentences to the baffled person on the other end of the line. For the most part, landlines were the only reliable form of instant communication, and long distance rates made phone calls to my grandparents very special events, indeed. On those rare occasions, we three kids would be charged with sitting in a row near the phone, so no time was wasted in the handoff as we each had our minute on the phone.
Back then, my parents had no trouble monitoring our phone use. I distinctly remember being grounded when I was in middle school after my father picked up the phone close to 10pm, and instead of a dial tone he heard his little girl on the phone with a boy. Of course, the one thing that we kids could get away with was prank calls, since there was no such thing as caller ID until I was at least in my teens. Does anyone else remember the hilarious prank calls Bart used to make to Moe’s Tavern on the Simpsons? Such a thing would be impossible now. I guess that’s a good thing, lol!
Sigh :) Back in those days, technology was a sidebar to my otherwise hands-on life. I read paperback books, I doodled on notebooks, I used the home phone to let my friends know I was on my way over, and played games using a dice or a little silver thimble or shoe. Research involved a trip to the cool and quiet library near town, where we spoke in hushed tones and spent hours searching through microphiche and pouring over the tiny cards of the library catalog, looking for just the right book or article about the subject we were researching. With success came the digging in pockets for dimes for the copier, the handing over of library cards, and the toting home of an armful of books.
And now? Well, in the hour it has taken me to write this blog, I have exchanged four emails, checked my chirping Tweetdeck, and Googled the following things: how to spell ‘mirophiche,’ Monopoly pieces (and yes, I am ashamed), and Raleigh weather. Thanks to the Google logo shout-out today, I also got sidetracked trying to remember who the heck Jules Vern is (today’s his 183rd birthday, and he wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 days, and other brilliant works of fiction). Though I used my laptop for these searches, I also could have opted to use my iPhone or my shiny new TV. If I had decided to go old school and head to the library after all, I probably would have googled their hours, then used my GPS (either in my car or on my iPhone) to get there.
In a way, our lives are infinitely more enriched for all of the connectivity and information at our fingertips. But for all of the technology out there, I think we have to make a real effort not to live in 2D – or even 3D (as touted by the movie industry, anyway). Instead, we need to remember to live with all our senses, in person whenever possible. Texting, and Wikipedia, and Twitter are all great tools, but let’s not forget to set aside technology now and again, and live the life directly at hand. This week, I want to make an effort to return technology to the background of my life, instead of living my days saturated by it.
So my challenge to myself this week?
-No more than 1 hour of TV.
-Dinner at the kitchen table with my hubby
-Have lunch with a friend this week
-Write and mail at least one letter
-Browse through my mother’s old recipe cards for dinner ideas this week.
-Instead of turning on an exercise DVD, take the dogs for a walk
I want to hear about how different your life is now compared to the technology of your childhood. Are you willing to join me in my challenge? What will you do differently this week?
Today’s recipe? Back to basics! No microwaves, no refrigerators, no mixers or ovens. Just you, a spoon, and a stovetop are all that’s needed for these yummy no bake cookies!
Cocoa No Bake Cookies
1 and 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth, your choice)
3 cups quick-cook oats
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa. Slowly bring to a full boil, then cook for two minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter, oats, and vanilla. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper and let cool until hardened.