Modern technology upgrades before our eyes


By James H. Johnson

For an old guy, I thought I was pretty tech-savvy when I put all my music on an iPod.

It is so nice to be on the cutting edge. Alas, I learned recently that the iPod is a relic. A relic? How could something so new be a relic? Technology is changing fast.

It wasn’t long ago that I converted to CDs. Before that, my music was on cassette tapes. Going farther back to the olden days of vinyl records, I owned a large collection of LP’s and 45’s. I even remember, as a kid, buying a few of those heavy old 78’s. All of these are museum pieces now. Music is streaming from a cloud.

This got me to thinking about all the stuff we used to need that we no longer have any use for. Phonographs and record players, obviously, are gone with the wind. And when was the last time you saw a typewriter? It’s missing, along with all its accoutrements, such as typing erasers, correction fluid and carbon paper.

Dial telephones are relics, along with phone books and Rolodex files. Who would have thought we would never need a Rolodex again? That spinning spindle of cards was the heart of any efficient office. Speaking of telephones, even your GPS will have trouble these days finding a phone booth. Clark Kent is in real trouble.

GPS, of course, has replaced all the maps we used to have such trouble folding back up. Cartography has been changed forevermore.

Digital photography has done away with camera film, flashbulbs and old fashioned photo albums (pictures are up in a cloud now.) And when was the last time someone used a slide projector? Remember 8mm home movie projectors? They must be on display at the Smithsonian.

The VHS videotape machine was the wonder of the world to me. Of course, it went to the storage room when DVDs came out. They were cooler and not so clunky. Now they have gone the way of the dodo bird. Like music, movies are streaming now.

Books are still around in good numbers, but the writing is on the wall for them, too, I am afraid. My wife and I each have an electronic tablet which can stack hundreds of volumes within a magic pad about as thick as a pancake. We are reading the newspaper the same way. Glad we no longer have a birdcage to maintain.

In the line of books, have you been visited by an encyclopedia salesman lately? Our family owned a set of encyclopedia which grew each year as a new volume was released. These hefty tomes were the center of all knowledge for us. Now all of what they contained, and worlds more, is out there in cyberspace. Mind you, not all the information in that flotsam and jetsam is as reliably accurate as the old World Book.

I thought I had made a smooth transition from filament light bulbs to those twisty fluorescent types. A couple of weeks ago I went shopping for the new variety. I learned that the curly-ques are not new anymore. They are not even on the shelves. LED bulbs are the new lights on the block. They are expensive, but they last much longer. I bought one that was guaranteed to glow for 13 years, during which time light technology is sure to change maybe 13 times.

When I was younger, I marveled at how much my grandparents had seen in their lifetimes. Born in the age of the horse and buggy, they lived to see men walk on the moon. They went from kerosene lamps to electric light. They were first to use the telephone, and they were present at the dawn of radio and television.

I guess my generation can’t match the sweep of the technological innovations they witnessed, but we can still reminisce about CB radios, tape recorders and bag phones. Money can’t buy our memories of these old-fangled things. Wait. Money is going out of style, too. We are paying with plastic and cellphones now. No more handing over cash and waiting for change. Yes, in this way at least, there will be no more change.

James H. Johnson is a retired teacher who lives in Greenwood. Send comments to