The fast pace of our digital world

How quickly things can change these days, and it’s getting quicker all the time too. When we first arrived in Australia, a mere 28 years ago and lived briefly in Frankston with family, I remember making a call to Melbourne required assistance from an operator, a system which had most likely been going on for many years. Today I can call our daughter in England any time I like merely by dialling her number, and not only that but I can have her sitting right there in front of me, through the wonder of modern computers and Skype. And it even goes further than that now because I’ve just become the proud owner of an Apple iPhone, which she also has so we can have a video chat using the Apple ‘Facetime’ app, which means that we can now stroll about anywhere we like while we’re doing it, instead of being stuck in front of my faithful old PC!

Cars too, have taken giant leaps into the future, with computerised control of just about everything from keeping the engine in good condition to telling you just where you are, anywhere in the world. Not to mention the heated seats, self-dipping rear mirror, automatic windscreen wipers, self-applying handbrake and air bags, to mention just a few facilities now available. The first car I owned, a 1936 Standard Ten, had manual advance and retard through a long lever just behind the steering wheel and non-synchromesh gears that required me to ‘double de-clutch’ when going down to a lower ratio, in order to climb a hill. I bet you could read that last sentence to any teenager today, and they would have absolutely no idea of what you were talking about! In those far off days, there was no such thing as a ‘radial’ tyre, or a tubeless one either (an inner tube had to be inserted to hold the air, something we now do only in an emergency). And remember the old leaf-spring suspension and wheels on each end of a solid iron axle; no independent suspension in those days, and no power steering either – you had to be a man to turn a car then (just kidding ladies, but you see my point!).

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Another area where a lot of changes have taken place is in the kitchen/laundry. In the 40s, my mother did the wash in a gas boiler with a mangle attached to the side; she kept meat fresh by storing it in a box with wire mesh walls and a damp towel thrown over it, and she washed up the dishes in the sink, using water from a kettle she had boiled on the gas stove top. That stovetop came in handy in many other ways too, like heating up the cast-iron irons she used to smooth the laundry, or to turn a spoonful of white sugar into dark brown caramel to colour the gravy for Sunday dinner, and even as a source of warmth on cold winter mornings! Electricity didn’t arrive in the kitchen for another 20 years, but when it did, it came in a rush with electric irons, washing machines, dryers, toasters, mixers and blenders, plus a lot of other stuff dreamt up by industrial designers to make more money for manufacturers but really of little use to the housewife – the electric carving knife is a prime example!

Even in the bedroom there has been considerable change. Where I used to go to bed in winter and wake up in the morning to find ice on the sheets where my breath had frozen, we now have air-conditioning, and electric blankets and delicious, light-weight doonas to ensure a comfortable night’s sleep, instead of the 20 or so pounds of blankets we used to throw over ourselves.

I’m sure everything is much better these days than it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago, but I can’t help being a little nostalgic for the lives we lived then, not to mention the fact that all our modern conveniences not only cost us a lot of money, but we are nowhere near as resilient now as we had to be then!

 

Do you think that modern advances are better or are they just plain confusing? Do you like adapting to a changing world or is it too much?