Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Not too long ago I stumbled across an interesting comment by somebody out there somewhere:
My mother was born in 1910 and I was born in 1950. It seems to me that my mother experienced more change during her first 55 years than I did during my first 55. She flew in an open cockpit bi-plane as a girl and flew in a trans-oceanic jet as an adult. The development of antibiotics had a larger impact on medicine than any of our modern developments. Radio, television, nuclear weapons, two world wars, interstate highways, the list goes on and on. The internet is a big deal, but it seems to me the list of things during my lifetime is smaller. The world changed more during her first 55 years than it did during mine.
We might add to that list the automobile, which technically was around back in 1910; but as my grandmother (who was born in 1905 and is going on 101) will tell you, the automobile didn't arrive in her neck of the woods, up in rural central Wisconsin, until around the beginning of World War I.

For that matter, electricity, running water, and indoor plumbing didn't arrive in my grandmother's everyday life until the late 1930s; and of course there were many locales in rural America where electricity came only after World War II. And ask anyone who can remember back that far, what a difference the advent of the washing machine made: where do you think Kurt Vonnegut stole his line, "Goodbye, Blue Monday!", from?

I was born in 1956 into a world where all these items were present; but as a kid growing up, I was always acutely aware that I was separated by only a few short years from a time and place where such conveniences were not widely available, or not available at all.

I also remember pondering, as a kid, how the style and outward form of life might be changing, and even changing radically (well, this was the late 1960s). But that something in the basic pattern of everyday life in the developed world had coalesced, oh, more or less after World War I, and that beneath all the outward variation in style, this coalesced "something" was not so different in my time than it had been in the days of flappers, prohibition, and 23 skidoo.

In fact I still think, looking back from the vantage point of today, that this basic "something" has changed not so radically since I was a kid. Without a doubt the greatest shift in everyday life in my lifetime has been the computer and the Internet: I can think of nothing else in these past 50 years that has made as big a difference in the way we do things every day as the automobile, radio, and television made in the 20th century before I was born.

And I suspect I, a denizen of 2006, would feel more at home and less in a foreign land, could I travel back 80 years to 1926, than an inhabitant of 1926 would feel could he travel back only 40 years to 1886.


Blogger The Tetrast said...

You're totally right. When I was a kid (1960s) I thought that the advances in commn vehicles, instruments, utilities, etc., was going to continue, even speed up. Lots of us thought that we would grow up into the world of The Jetsons.

I've thought that that's why the theme song of the Simpsons is a take-off on that of The Jetsons, the idea being that the world of the Simpsons is what we ended up with instead.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006 8:15:00 AM  

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