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Dept. of Me, Me, Me!

I've Been Thinking

I am old enough* that seeing an airplane go overhead was cause to run out of the house and look to the skies when I was growing up.
I am old enough that the first telephone number I remember was 884.
I am old enough that I remember the excitement when they put a transmitter up that allowed us to get our second television station. In black and white.
I am old enough that I learned to type on a 1930s-era Remington.
I am old enough to remember bristol board, manila paper, paper with the wood chips still in it, and school tests printed in purple aniline dye by a spirit duplicator**
I am old enough that my first comic book cost 8 cents. It went up to 12 cents when I was in fourth or fifth grade.
I am old enough to remember Boer War veterans coming to the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day.***
I am old enough to have listened to the funeral of John F. Kennedy piped through my school classroom****
I am old enough to have sent a telegram unselfconsciously.

I am still young enough to relish all those things.

* .. and lived as a child in a rural enough area ... but it was not in a wilderness.
** or Ditto machine.
***  Hey, I was very young, and the two of them were very old. Very old.
**** And I was in Canada.

This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/352472.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here; I watch both.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 26th, 2015 03:06 am (UTC)
I still got a lot of Ditto handouts in high school (and this was in the late 1990s; I guess we had Xeroxes, too, but not enough of them to phase out the Ditto machines, and the schools were too broke to buy all new equipment). For a similar reason, I learned to type on a mechanical typerwriter (in middle school in the mid-90s), although I think they got rid of them in favor of a computer lab shortly thereafter. (I still hit the keys with a lot more force than computer keyboards require because of those old things :P)
Mar. 28th, 2015 12:17 am (UTC)
(I still hit the keys with a lot more force than computer keyboards require because of those old things :P)

Oh my goodness, yes! I still have that habit! It was hard for me to take unobtrusive notes when I was doing interviews over the phone and typing, because folks on the other end of the phone always knew I was typing. My Best Beloved says that I'm a little less noisy now, but even listening to my fingers on the laptop as I type this tells me I still have that old "manual typewriter" habit. Heh.
Mar. 26th, 2015 12:42 pm (UTC)
One of my memories of Australia (circa 1975) is the two South Australia phone books: one for Adelaide, one for the entire rest of the state (380,000 sq. mi., 1/9 the contiguous U.S.). Neither was a whole inch thick.
In the second one, you could see the size of a town by the number of digits in the phone numbers. One was
Government agent . . . . . 6
General store . . . . . . . . . 8
Mission . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Mar. 26th, 2015 12:44 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure where the division is between the cohorts that remember phone books and those that don't.
Mar. 27th, 2015 11:59 pm (UTC)
Well, we're still sort of in the death throes of phone books, at least here in most urban parts of North America. We still see them pile up at our doors, for instance, and even my son is familiar with both white and yellow pages. (The generation after him? Well, I'm not so sure.)

Phone books are obviously more important to my brother in semi-rural Nova Scotia than they are to me; when I was last up there, I saw people still automatically going to the phone book, and not to their smart phone, for telephone numbers, addresses and such.
Mar. 27th, 2015 11:56 pm (UTC)
That's a little smaller than the telephone book with which I grew up, but not by much.
Mar. 26th, 2015 01:24 pm (UTC)
I remember many of those and, although we had 7 number local telephone numbers, we had a party line which meant the phone had two different sets of rings (one long, two short for us) so we would know who the phone call was for. My relatives, who farmed near Portage la Prairie, had a lot more people on their party line. You could listen in on the other person(s) calls but it was considered bad manners.

I don't remember 8 cent comic books but I do remember 10 cent comics.

When we got our second English language TV station, our TV would only give us a fuzzy picture at first. It turns out a layer of duct had accumulated on the contacts of the channel changer. The dust was slowly worn away by my sister and myself repeatedly checking the new station (CJAY).
Mar. 27th, 2015 09:59 pm (UTC)
I don't remember 8 cent comic books but I do remember 10 cent comics.

BB is telling me that I may have mis-remembered the 8 cent comics, and that I may only be remembering the 10 cent books, so we're probably in the same cohort.

People who lived outside of town still had a party line system at least until I was a young teenager.

It turns out a layer of dust had accumulated on the contacts of the channel changer.

Heh; well after all, it was back when having another channel to change to was a rarity.
Mar. 26th, 2015 03:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is fun.

When I was a kid, we had an old B&W TV forever. No cable. I do think we had rabbit ear antennas, though. We could pick up the three major US networks, plus the local PBS. My first impressions of TV was that everything was B&W. It was weird to see shows/ movies later and realize how much we'd been missing by not having color. We got our first color TV when I was in middle school, maybe 12 or 13, and only because the B&W had finally crapped out. My parents were the very definition of "cheap," and they both had experienced times of such bad poverty that they would use things until they literally fell apart.

By the time we got the color TV, their finances had improved to the point where they could also get cable. Back then, "cable" was basically a way to get better reception. Initially, it only added maybe one or two more channels. My brother discovered by twiddling some knobs that we could get pirated MTV. And I discovered, also by accident, that we could also receive MTV over the radio. Eventually the cable company caught onto this and scrambled the signal, but not until we'd had two or three years of free MTV. Good times. : )

My first typewriter was an old, 30s or 40s vintage model, maybe even older, that I think might've initially belonged to my father's father. It was in excellent condition, although it was lacking a couple of characters that would become standard on later typewriter models. That was the typewriter I used at home for my high school papers, which were all typed on that funky paper with the thin red margins. I remember also using paper you could erase mistakes with an ordinary pencil eraser; that was a huge improvement over white-out.

In high school, we used manual typewriters in our typing classes. They were much better/ faster than the antique I was using at home, and I remember feeling like I could just fly when I typed. Our first electric typewriter, a Smith-Corona that was purchased mostly for my sister (but that was later used by me, through my freshman year of college), felt like a rocket ship. Later, my dad got one that was even better than that. It even had two ribbons: one regular, and one for correcting. That also felt space-age. It did superscripting and subscripting as well, and because of this, I was able to con my parents into letting me take that typewriter to college starting sophomore year, because it made typing up science reports so much easier.

My first word processing experience was with XyWrite, which I learned as a junior in college. I can laugh now, but at the time, it was absolutely phenomenal, a revelation, to be able to just move a cursor around and insert things, to say nothing of being able to cut and paste whole blocks of text. My senior thesis was typed in XyWrite, and I did my graphs using a program called Sigma Plot, and the function that labeled the X and Y axes was slower than the second coming. God help you if you made an error or had to re-label a chart! Just backing up the cursor took half the day.

I'm old enough to remember VAX machines, which we used in college, mostly to run statistics programs.

For graduation in 1989, my parents bought me a Tandy PC from Radio Shack. Even after we'd moved on to better computers at work, I still used the Tandy at home: I could at least type in plain text and reformat the document at the office. In college, they had **just** introduced the 3" floppy disk, which felt VERY sci-fi to me, so I clung to the old 5" variety until I went to graduate school and was basically forced to switch to 3". I did toggle between the two for many years, until the 5" drives became obsolete, and I no longer had one at work. Now it's the 3" drives that are obsolete (I think you can buy them as an external drive, though, or at least you could until a few years ago).

I still recall giving a work study student a project to work on; the PC out at the students' work station was a cranky old thing that didn't like USB drives, so I put the file on a 3" floppy. Handed it to my student, who looked at me with an incredulous expression and said, "What's this?"

Edited at 2015-03-26 04:08 pm (UTC)
Mar. 28th, 2015 12:24 am (UTC)
I just want to tell you how much I enjoyed reading this. (I've actually read it a couple of times, because it's such a wonderfully evocative telling of a time of great transition.

My first word processing experience was when I did a very short stint as a typesetter on an old Compugraphic machine (I'll never forget the smell of the typeset film as it came out of the machine, still damp from the chemicals.) I wasn't a great typesetter, because I couldn't remember all the things I needed to remember, but it was an interesting experience.

My first word processing program was Word Star, and I loved it. BB had to forcibly wrench me away from Word Star to go to Word Perfect which I still LOVE LIKE BURNING AND I DON'T SEE THE USE OF WORD, IT'S SO AWFUL - ahem. Excuse me. Nowadays, I have to use Word, or Office Libre, which is a freeware word processing program that is similar to Word Perfect. Unfortunately, like Word Perfect, almost no one uses it (it's an .odt file rather than a .doc, .txt or .rtf file, and no one seems to be able to open them. *grump*)

Anyhow, yes, this is wonderful. And Tandy machines ... and TRS-80s, which we all loved as "Trash-80s" ... oh, the memories!
Mar. 30th, 2015 06:13 pm (UTC)
LOL, I'm glad you enjoyed. About 10 years ago, a friend of mine and I went to an exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston. Afterwards, we checked out the main exhibits, including the one on technology. We were both semi-horrified to see IBM PCs in the exhibit, the ones that had dual 5" floppy drives. We'd both used those. When you grew up using manual typewriters, a PC with 5" floppy drives felt like flying to the moon. My first experiences, you actually had a system disk that you used to boot up the software, then you took that disk out and inserted your own floppy to save your work. It was something of a revelation when the college got computers with hard drives, the software already loaded in, and you didn't have to boot it up via floppy disk.

I remember being excited by how much stuff you could store on a 3" floppy as compared to a 5", and then again how much more you could save on a flash drive. Now they have flash drives that can save insane amounts of stuff.

When I used Word Perfect my first year-ish on the job here, I hated it, because I'd been using Word for a couple of years in grad school, and it felt like dinosaur software. I picked it up pretty quickly, but it was a vast relief when we switched over to Microsoft Office in... I think it was the summer of 1994. For a while, I would do things in Word Perfect, then convert the documents into Word files, so I could print them with a better typeface. Finally, I was able to give up Word Perfect altogether.

I really loved XyWrite, though. It was based on a set of two-letter commands that were pretty easy to remember. I think part of the reason I opted for a Tandy as my graduation present was that it was so similar to the PCs in the college computer lab. Of course, it became outdated almost as soon as I got it home, but it saw me through grad school and my first few years on the job. It went into storage when I had to move to Cow Country in 2001, and then I junked it when I moved into my own place. I wasn't sorry to see it go, not even for nostalgic reasons.
Apr. 2nd, 2015 07:33 pm (UTC)
Now, that was word processing. Everything you needed, nothing you didn't.

In the late 80s, I learned WordStar and dBase because our supervisor had bought a 286 for the office, and I found it it could print out all our form letters with names and addresses - I wouldn't have to write out hundreds of letters each month - and, bonus, I wouldn't have to count 3x5 cards to complete the monthly report! The computer would do it for me!
I didn't realize that dBase was a complex program. I just hammered thru it so I could let the computer do the stupid work for me. I hated counting 3x5 cards.

But I was already familiar with computers - my first programming class, in high school, was the first one ever offered by the school system. NASA had donated a room-sized computer, and this allowed the vocational secretarial students to learn keypunch, a new and valued skill. We wrote the programs, in BASIC, and they keypunched them in. The next week, we'd get 11x17 green and white printouts of our work.
Apr. 2nd, 2015 09:18 pm (UTC)
Hi there! It's good to see you around - and oh, yes, Wordstar was wonderful (although I admit that I did eventually transfer all my loyalties to Word Perfect. Heh.
Mar. 26th, 2015 03:54 pm (UTC)
I'm too young to remember Viet Nam and Watergate, both of which happened when I was still pretty young. I do remember the big deal of the US's bicentennial, which happened when I was 9.

Our first phone numbers were only five digits. I still remember our old house number: 3-9530. Eventually it went to a seven-digit number. There were two area codes in Massachusetts: 617 for the eastern part of the state, and 413 for the western part of the state. You could call anywhere within your own area code, IIRC, for no extra charge. If you wanted to make a long-distance call, you waited for evenings or weekends. I remember what a huge deal it was when our area code changed from 617 to 508. And it seemed like a blink of an eye when the suburban areas got divided again into 978 and 781. Nowadays, the old 617 is the area code for Boston only, and the outlying suburbs are all 508, 781, or 978. Oddly, I don't believe the 413 area code has ever been subdivided. Not enough people live out there. ; )

My first cell phone was as big as a brick, had an antenna, and took up half the inside of my pocket book. My service plan was like $13 per month. I could send and receive calls--that was it.

We had mimeograph (?) machines when I was a kid. I don't recall my first experience with photocopiers, probably it was middle school or high school.

When I first started working this job, in 1993, there were maybe two or three photocopiers on the entire campus, and one or two fax machines. We had no email. If you wanted to make a long-distance phone call, you had to call the college operator for an outside line. No internet access. They were still using Word Perfect. It was a huge deal when they finally switched us over to Microsoft software. Because my boss was the dean, she qualified for an email account through one of the bigger colleges in the neighborhood. But she was technologically so challenged that I used the account for her, which I had to dial into via modem.

When the college finally got its own web site and email, in 1997, it felt like we had joined the modern world at last. At the same time, they upgraded our phone lines, so we could dial long distance from our own offices. What joy; we had left behind the horse and buggy era for good.

Edited at 2015-03-26 04:08 pm (UTC)
Mar. 28th, 2015 12:33 am (UTC)
Phone numbers are an amazing way to track the growth of a population. Even when I got to Chicago, things were still kind of handleable; everyone had a 312 prefix. Then they split the city and suburbs apart with 312 and 847; then they had to split the city into downtown and non-downtown: 312 and 773 (which prefix we now have, because yes, we still have a land line of sorts), while the burbs got split between 847 and 630. Then mobiles happened and they got 630 prefixes as well as 229 prefixes ... oh, the snowballing complexity of it all! Heh.
Mar. 30th, 2015 06:15 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised there haven't been any new area codes in MA recently, considering the cell phone explosion. And New Hampshire is still all 603, probably because moose don't need cell phones. ; )
Mar. 26th, 2015 04:13 pm (UTC)
We had ditto dupes in the 80's at my school. And I used to rush out and look at planes! The wonder of being a child probably.
Mar. 27th, 2015 06:52 pm (UTC)
I would be happy to se kids these days as suffused with wonder about things like planes as we were. Even now, when I see a sky full of planes I fell like squeeing aloud: "I'm living in the future!"
Mar. 27th, 2015 04:22 am (UTC)
I love you...

That is all.

Mar. 28th, 2015 12:25 am (UTC)
And I you, my dear! I'm just getting back onto my journaling now, so I'll have to take a run at my f'list and see what you all are doing!

*hugs right back*
Mar. 28th, 2015 05:51 am (UTC)
I remember the blue-inked copies from gradeschool in the ninties.

Your **** does not surprise me in the slightest.
Mar. 28th, 2015 10:24 pm (UTC)
Your **** does not surprise me in the slightest.

Well, in those days, Kennedy was the object of near veneration among young people throughout the First World; he was harbinger of change, he was young, and handsome, and fearless (remember, we didn't know about his faults or weaknesses, etc.); and to have such an assassination take place, practically in front of our eyes, thanks to television news, hit everyone hard. The U.S. was right on our border, when it sneezed, we got a cold ... there were so many reasons that the reverberations of his death, and the funeral itself, would become part of the school day.
Apr. 1st, 2015 08:36 pm (UTC)
Sweet memories! ^_^
Apr. 2nd, 2015 09:18 pm (UTC)
I love it when the memories are sweet and not sad; and these were all pretty nostalgic.
Apr. 9th, 2015 08:11 pm (UTC)
Indeed :) ♥
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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