Friday, April 22, 2011

Sleepless in Seattle - How Technology Marches Forward


I would guess that probably 90% of the people who are reading my blog are women.  And if you are a woman, then most likely you have seen Sleepless in Seattle, right?  I mean, it is a total chick flick and they put it on cable reruns all the time.  And what is not to love about the story?  That there is one person out there meant for each of us, or, as Jonah says to his dad in the airport, that he and Annie were supposed to be together in another life but weren't, so they have to get together in this one.  How romantic is that?  The idea that there is one person, just for us.  And that somehow, if not in this lifetime than in another one, we will find each other.  Oh!  That is just so chick flick, kick you in the crotch romantic, isn't it?

I happened upon the film last weekend and realized that the movie was in theaters way back in 1993!  Do you have any idea of how much things have changed in 17 years?  I hadn't really thought about it.  17 years is almost as long as my oldest son has been around and wow, how technology has leapt forward in the last 17 years!  Here are some things I jotted down as I was watching the movie.  I got a huge kick out of all of them, but I really watch the movie because I want Meg Ryan's long, thick, lustrous hair and that's the only reason I watch it.  (Not really, but isn't her hair awesome in the movie?)

1993:  Listened to the radio  Now:  iPod, youtube

1993:  Push button phone with a cord attached to the earpiece  Now:  Cordless phones that are on the way out, to be replaced by phones that will also keep your calendar, your contacts, surf the web, connect you to your social network, and cook you dinner.  Okay, they won't cook you dinner, but if you set them to vibrate and ask a friend to call you repeatedly...um, never mind.

1993:  Rolodex for phone numbers  Now:  Numbers programmed into our cell phones - just hit a button

1993:  The guy calls you for a date, picks you up, and takes you out to dinner  Now:  Hook up on an online dating service; meet at a Starbucks for latte

1993:  Manual or electric typewriter for correspondence  Now:  Email, text, or instant message

1993:  Computer that is so large it takes up your whole desktop  Now:  Laptop probably to be replaced by tablet computers

1993:  When you flew somewhere, you were met at the gate by your family  Now:  Be dropped off outside the airport and get x-rayed and patted down by a bored member of the TSA

(This one calls for a bit of commentary.  In 1993, terrorists had not yet rocked our world, at least not here in America.  No, I know, Oklahoma City.  But foreign terrorists who think all Americans should die is what I'm getting at. I don't know if the security precautions are working, since a guy got caught on a Christmas day flight a couple years back with a shoe bomb and was taken down by passengers, but at least no more buildings have toppled out of the sky.)

1993:  If you got a call while at dinner, the maitre'd would come over and say, Mr. So and So, you have a call.  Now:  People don't have dinner as a couple anymore.  They are constantly texting with other people or taking calls on their cell phones.  I don't think I call this progress.  There is no more intimacy to the dinner date.

1993:  Pull down atlases and those maps you could never refold  Now:  Google maps and GPS

1993:  Books for Travel  Now:  Kindle

We have become a technology laden society.  We are always plugged in and connected.  It worries me that my kids seem to have all of their social relationships on their video games and I'm sure I'm not the only parent worrying about this.  I also carry a fair amount of guilt that I have allowed this to happen, because I know I could have gone down a different road or even moved my children to a different part of the country where having the latest technology is either not affordable or not acceptable.  But would I have been doing them any favors?

Here are some other things we had in 1993:  Roller blade couriers, long distance telephone charges, bi-weekly library visits, the World Trade Center, a sense that it was okay to send our children outside without having to watch them every single second.  Our parents kicked us out of the house in the morning when we were on school break and called us back in (by voice) at dinnertime.  Now we are more intensely aware of where our children are every minute.  Is it more dangerous now than it was then?  That's a debatable topic, for sure. Children back in 1993 were stolen just as they are now (Adam Walsh, Melissa Sue Brannon).  But I think we had more of a sense of security and safety then as opposed to now.  Now we've seen buildings crumple to the ground after being hit by psychopaths in the name of "jihad."

I have a lot of nostalgia for the things I see in Sleepless in Seattle.  I just remember it as a simpler time.  Sure, our toys weren't as much fun.  But the thing is, we didn't know the toys were less fun.  And spending an entire weekend on the porch reading a book was a relaxing thing to do.  No cell phone in your pocket.  Just you, your book, a glass of iced tea, and the porch swing.  You didn't have to stay constantly connected to the world and we were happy that way.

And by the way, I totally get it that I am writing this on a laptop and publishing it on the internet.  The up side of all of this technology is that we now get to have our voices heard by a larger number of people, even if we don't sell one word of print.  Or maybe that's a down side.  I guess it depends on how you look at it.

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