Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Going Old School

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.


  1. Today is the first day of no more television on while we eat dinner. And the one hour of television sounds great.

    Honestly, our toughest time is after homework is done and it gets dark. The television beckons to us (the kids and me) with its blue and white light.

    Must. Get. Away.

    See you Saturday!!

  2. That is exactly the time (when it gets dark), that I generally sit down to 'relax' in front of the tv, too, Marquita! I'm determined to break the habit, especially since studies have shown TV is actually the worst way to try to relax! We have to be strong together, lol.

    See you then :)

  3. Umm, okay I'll fail the challenge right away. 8pm to 11pm is my TV time and I give it up for no one. :)

    However, I do need to walk the dog more...and plan to do that as soon as my youngest gets better. He's relapsed and has a fever and is sleeping as we speak/type.

    I hated growing up with one TV and no cable. And while I think my kids spend too much time playing electronic stuff...I can't really blame the tv because I love my drama shows. Particularly tonight with both NCIS shows and White Collar.

    Okay, I am old enough to know who Jules Verne was and what he wrote. And yes, I got the 20,000 leagues under the sea reference before hubby did.

  4. Yeah, Beth, my hubby is an NCIS junkie too (among other shows), so I doubt he will go along with my plans :)
    Sorry your kiddie is sick again, but hopefully he will be on the mend soon! With the weather warming a bit, dog walks will be lovely when you can get to it I think.

  5. Great post, Erin. And the cookie recipe....I'm thinking I need to try that one.

  6. Thanks, Petrina! And you should - you *definitely* should ;)

  7. Ha! Yes, I remember having to take an actual class my freshman year of college called LIBRARY 101 where we learned how to navigate the card catalogue and how to use the microphice...it was a whole semester long! What a waste of time. Although, there is something cool about film negatives and microphice...something tangible that I love. If everything where digital, what would archeologist of the future be able to study?? Great memories of Dad's crazy cluttered study and that loud printer:) Ryan and I started doing one medatative meal a week a few months ago and I love it...silence is such a rare commodity these days. We also have no TV Tuesdays. Amazing how hard it is to go without TV for 1 day a week. Sad. Yep, good and bad things about technology for sure. I vividly remember being so afraid to drive at night on the back woods roads in Kentucky and I think a cell phone would have made me feel so much better. Of course, it was AT&T it probably wouldn't have worked anyway;)

  8. Best recipe ever! (had to get that out there)

    I definitely like your challenge, but I think I may have it easier. I work on the computer all day at my day job and when I come home, the last thing I want to do it see something lit up with a bright backlight. Hence, I read, go to gym and play Scrabble with hubby! However, the weekends can be different, so I will take on the challenge of less TV!

  9. Haha, BookGeek - my hubby agrees about the recipe :)
    Good luck with the challenge. With my house in shambles because of the renovation, I've eaten in front of the boob-tube more than I wanted this week (table is under mountains of stuff that's been relocated). Hopefully I'll do better this week!
    Love me some Scrable - perhaps I'll pull ours out this evening. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  10. I love the no TV Tuesday idea, kara! But since Biggest Loser is on that day, I'd have to do No TV Thursday instead, lol. We all have to have that one program we love, right?

    And Kara? You totally just showed your age ;)

  11. Erin, I totally make these cookies all the time. My recipe is just a little different (2 c sugar, evaporated milk, less oats and cooked just a little longer), but it's the same idea. They are soooo good. :)

    I think if left to my own devices I would be fine with no TV. There's nothing I really like to watch. Now, internet? That's another story entirely.

  12. Oh my goodness, Marnee, I read this on my iPhone and just realized I never came back and responded!! You are such a doll for chiming in :) And I would be utterly BEREFT without my internet!!
    Now, I think I'm gonna go make another batch of cookies ...

  13. Oh I am so going to try that recipes after my diet is over!

    I didn't grow up exactly like you, although my house was "the Land that Technology Forgot".
    Our TV and phone time was monitored. I was always made to keep myself occupied with books or playing outside or whatever. AS much as technology can be wonderful, I whole heartedly agree too much can be a bad thing. Techno-Moderation, I say :) Great post.