Sunday, January 16, 2005

A Bit of Modern Anthropology

Consider the following:

In 1955: Your household would’ve had a radio, getting AM/FM, along with a record player. Maybe you would’ve had a transistor radio. If it had a television, it would have been black and white, and got about the big three channels, with some local UHF channels. A daily paper subscription would’ve been your best source of news. It was common for some to not have a phone in their house.

From 1955 to 1965: Your household would’ve definitely have had a phone. It was much more likely to have a TV, possibly a color television, with about the same number of channels. There also may have been more FM radio channels and UHF TV channels than before in your area.

From 1965 to 1975: By now, your household would most likely have a color TV. Possibly, there would’ve be an 8-track, reel-to-reel or some non-vinyl means of music, which could now play “hi-fidelity” stereo. You may have had a touch-tone phone. Only a committed hobbyist may have owned a do-it-yourself computer kit such as an Altair 8800

From 1975 to 1985: You would have several color TVs, along with remote controls, a VCR, and a video game console (i.e., Atari, Colecovision). You would now have a “video camera” which makes videotapes for you, a vast improvement from old home-movie cameras. Along with video games, there are now portable LED games. The TV could likely have gotten cable, allowing the viewer to choose from dozens of channels, including one or two 24-hour news channels. You would’ve most likely had a touch-tone phone, perhaps even a cordless phone (with a relatively long antenna). You would have multiple AM/FM stereos in your house, complete with cassette players. Compact discs and video laser disc were around, but rare, as were “portable phones”. You may now have a computer that runs DOS programs, such as an Apple II or subsequent clones. But those who were well-to-do or had a technical background may have owned one of the first Graphical-User-Interface (GUI) computers, the Macintosh.

From 1985 to 1995: Your cable choices have expanded greatly to many spinoff movie channels and pay-per-view options. You own several cassette players, CD players, VCRs. Video cameras have gotten small and more portable, and now have better quality. However, many of these new media would new be integrated with your computer.

You would be able to play CDs, and possibly record and watch some form of video media your computer. You would have gone through several generations of video game consoles, the most current of which plays 16-bit image quality games.

The graphical and computing content on these computer would be vastly improved, matching the best video from TV. Indeed, by now you would likely own some sort of GUI interface computer, be it Apple or “Wintel”, but most likely the latter. Even more important, your computer would have a modem that would, through a router service, connect to the Internet, a completely new, but quickly growing phenomenon. It would offer the user with a plethora of information and communication on just about every other topic, e.g. just about every famous work of literature which has passed into the public domain. The internet also has some interactive features, such as “realtime” games. An Internet user would also have an email address by which he can almost instantaneously send and receive written message, and also documents and programs measuring in the megabytes.

Also important to mention: Media deregulation of odious “equal time” doctrine had an interesting impact on AM radio, long thought to be a dead medium. The quality of AM is inferior for music playing, but still suitable for monologue. Thus you would have “talk radio” host have begun shows expressing highly controversial and political motivational opinions, both influencing your political opinions and revealing to you political bias and mis-reporting in mainstream media sources.

You will properly have some kind of mobile phone.

From 1995 to 2005:In your household, HDTV, coupled by DVDs, will give you unmatched visual quality. Digital cameras, be they for motion or stationary pictures, will make unmatched video quality. Multi-media options will allow you digital control over what you watch, and when you watch it. Yet that’s only the beginning.

Your computer, coupled with the internet, will give you (to list only a few benefits) $35.00/month free unlimited long distance, instant access to consumer goods sold around the world, audio/visual telecommunications and instant messaging with anyone around the world, free or extremely cheap music and movies (depending on your scruples toward exponentially eroding IP laws), ability to pay all your bills electronically, power to download free software that was considered state of the art only years ago, and your ability to publish your own media.

Speaking of self-published media, from them you will have at your fingertips all media sources on every major story, and commentary by thousands. Coupled by talk-radio and counter-biasing news networks, “bloggers” will make old-media sources obsolete. In some cases, they will expose for you, within hours, reports by media figures in their 70s as being ridiculously fraudulent.

You will almost definitely have a cell phone. You may have even given one to your children because “it makes you feel safe to know where they are.” These phones themselves will have the ability to email, IM, and play games. If you do not have one, it is only for reasons of privacy.

Game consoles—interacting with PC software and IT--will make graphics and scenarios which interact with gams around the world and have an other worldly quality. There are also game consoles the size of old video game controller, for sale between $20 and $40, which contain hundreds of the old 8-bit games.

Did I mention you also have a robot vacuuming your floor?

Notice how little changed between ’55 and ’75, compared to ’75 and 2005. Was it just the knee of a pre-set J-curve? The liberation of computers from their main frames? The advent of libertarian-conservatism? (Doubtful, at least merely in the political sense). Whatever the reasons, we have a huge ride ahead of us.


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