Thursday, June 24, 2010

We've seen incredible change in 28 years

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I graduated from high school 28 years ago this week. It was Sunday, June 20, 1982, and 500 of my classmates and I sat in a sweltering arena with no air conditioning. To make matters worse, we'd just been told by "the powers that be" that it was against so-called etiquette to fan ourselves with our programs.

Needless to say, I ignored the etiquette. I was so warm that I was on the verge of doing my impression of Frosty the Snowman on his way to becoming a puddle with a top hat in the middle of it. I fanned myself like crazy and didn't care if I got in trouble. After all, I was graduating. What were they going to do to me, anyway?

And besides, I also had a head full of hair at the time... lots of hair... and I was roasting alive. Had I shaved my head before the graduation ceremony began, I'm pretty sure I could have stuffed a couple of beanbag chairs with the clippings.

Oh, those were the days!

How times have changed. Back then, a flock of eagles could have set up a colony in my hair. Today, I slap sunscreen on my head to avoid the unavoidable sunburn if I'm outside for more than 30 seconds.

The world has changed so much since that hot and humid day in the arena. There were no cell phones. When we wanted to talk to our friends, we called using a handset attached to a telephone by a wire or actually went to see them. We didn't text. We didn't e-mail. In fact, there was no such thing.

Personal computers were just coming on the market and were rare as hen's teeth, not to mention incredibly pricey and laughably weak compared to today's powerful machines.

I used to have pen pals at the time. It was a thrill to communicate with people from as far away as Korea, the United Kingdom, South America and Africa. It was a lot of fun checking out the different writing styles and exchanging photos. The stamps were always so cool, too - quite different and ornate from the rather plain ones we had here in Canada.

Today, we communicate instantaneously with people from around the globe, the art of the hand-written letter a thing of the past.

Photos can be sent in a nanosecond to anywhere in the world. In fact, you can have an online conversation using services such as Skype where you can see and hear each other - for free! It's unfathomable how times have changes. Back then, you had to pay long distance charges to call 50 kilometres away. Today, you can call (and see) someone in China for nothing.

If we wanted a book, we went to the library or the bookstore. If it wasn't there, they could perhaps order it for us, but it took a long time. Today, buying a book online either from a book seller or an auction site takes literally seconds, even for hard-to-find titles. Shopping online back in 1982 wasn't even a flicker in our minds.

Does anyone actually have snow days anymore? There was actually a time when it was impossible to work if you couldn't make it to the office.

Today, with the Internet, e-mail and company online portals, it's practically impossible to have a true "snow day" - in years past one of Mother Nature's unexpected little treats. Now, there's no excuse for not working from home. Even if the electricity is out, you can still use your cell phone or laptop computer (if it's properly charged) to get some work done.

If a song you liked wasn't available on a 45 RPM record, you had the buy the entire album. Sure, you could order in a 45, but it took forever, and by then it would no longer be a hit.

Today, services such as iTunes give you the ability to purchase the song you want instantaneously for around a dollar.

Back then, if you ran out of money on the weekend, you were out of luck. There were no ATMs - or they were extremely rare. Grocery stores didn't take credit cards or debit, either, so you had to either go without or borrow cash from family or friends. Forget about Sunday shopping. Pretty much everything was closed. In fact, many things were closed past 6 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, too.

Did you miss your favourite television show one night? Well, tough! You'd have to wait until it ran again. And even to find that out, you'd have to keep checking the newspaper listings to see if it was on. Today the listings are available 24/7 on the television or online. It's similar for movie showtimes and even grocery store flyers.

Had a child who was skipping school? Unless you got a call from the teacher, you'd never know. Today, you just check the online attendance reports. Remember the notes sent home from school? Today, they're being replaced by notices on Facebook, school websites and voice mail messages sent home.

Remember when you had to wait for the television or radio newscast or the newspaper to be delivered to find out what was happening in the world? Today, it's all instantaneous thanks to news websites, including those of newspapers. And thanks to Twitter, you know when anything major is happening in the world immediately.

Yes, the world sure is different from that hot sunny day in 1982.

I wonder how the world will be different for today's grads 28 years from now?

I can't wait to find out.

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