Friday, January 21, 2011

Flashback Friday - When Old Was New

What new inventions or technology came out when you were growing up that you remember being amazed at? Were your parents "early adopters"--did they get the "latest and greatest" pretty quickly or did they stick with the "tried and true"? What are some things that you remember being a big deal when your family got them? (These may be items like stereos or kitchen equipment or bigger things such as carpet.) Were your folks prone to updating their furniture periodically or did they keep their old furniture forever? How was the way they were raised impact the way you were raised? And how did your upbringing influence the way you are today?

Nothing makes me feel older than to think about the things that have been invented since I've been born! Anyone who lived during several decades of the twentieth century can likely attest to this as well. The generation of my parents and grandparents experienced some of the biggest leaps of technology that have occurred during a single century.

Life was so hard and primitive when I was a child. We could only watch TV in black & white; there were only three stations, and you had to get up and walk across the room to change the channel! And you had to turn on the TV five minutes before the program started so the TV could warm up. And when you turned it off it the picture disappeared into a little white dot that stayed in the middle of the screen for several minutes. I don't remember how old I was, but it was a big deal when we finally got a colored television.

One Christmas when I was about 8 or 10 we got a stereo! A Magnavox console almost identical to the one in this picture. It had the sliding doors on the top, and on the left side was the place where you stored the records. The right side had an AM/FM radio and a turntable. You could stack several records and it would automatically drop them one at a time and play them. That was such a luxury!

When I was growing up our house did not have carpet. My folks had built it in the 1950's and wood floors were common. They weren't nice hardwood floors like you see today. They were skinny strips of wood, all different lengths, and they weren't polished and smooth and shiny like today's floors. And they were COLD in the winter! What a delight it was when I was in high school and we built a new house and it had carpet! I thought we were living "high on the hog," so to speak. When folks started ripping out carpet to put in hardwood floors, I just didn't understand that. Like my dad and wallpaper, which I shared yesterday, I associated wood floors with not being able to afford carpet. What's funny is that the carpet I was so excited about getting was a mid-1970's avocado green shag carpet! Blech! At least it was the shorter shag, not the real long one. Now I would love to have hardwood floors! How perspectives change!

Another thing I wanted when I was little was a princess phone. I thought those were really neat. (I never got one.) We just had a a plain old black rotary phone. Again, when we moved and I was in high school, it was exciting to get a phoone with push buttons, although for years my dad wouldn't pay the extra for the touchtone dialing, so it didn't go through any faster than a rotary!

Two other new things we had in our new house in 1977 that we hadn't had in the old house were a garage door opener (and guess who had always been the one to get out of the car to close or open the old heavy garage door at the old house!) and central air. In our old house, we only had a single unit in the living room. You froze if you were in there and sweated everywhere else in the house!

Getting an air-conditioned car was a pretty big deal, too. My dad bought a used company car that had AC when I was about nine, but we only had it a few months before my brother took it. A 1972 Chevrolet Impala was the first new car with AC that we ever had. That was such a nice car! I think it was also our first car with a radio, which of course was just AM.

It's probably obvious that my parents were not ones to immediately get the newest thing, at least not in terms of big ticket items. They kept the old stuff until it was worn out and then some. Whether it was a piece of furniture or a tool, they used it until it practically fell apart. Some of the original "blonde" furniture of the 1950's was still in my parents' house when we moved my mom into assisted living in 2001.

I do remember how excited my mom was when cassette tape recorders came out. My brother had a reel-to-reel recorder that he used to record games off the radio and my mom would sometimes use that. She loved her cassette recorder and taped lots of sermons off the radio to listen to again and again.

I think we got a microwave pretty soon after we moved. It was huge. I remember the early ads in the late 60's for the brand-new Amana Radar Range! We also finally got a dishwasher when we moved as well, although my mom only used it when we had company.

I remember when the popcorn poppers came out that you flipped over and the top became the bowl. Those were amazing! And they were great to use in the dorm at college. Now my favorite way to fix popcorn is the old-fashioned way, on the stove. I don't like microwave popcorn at all.

So many other little things we take for granted now. My kids never had to deal with their lunch box thermos breaking. They've always taken sandwiches in baggies, not wrapped in wax paper. (Environmentalists are swinging the pendulum the other way; I recently heard that the Austin school district has banned plastic bags in lunches.) We even ate sandwiches on waxed paper at home during the summer instead of dirtying plates, because of course we didn't have a dishwasher. And my kids have never known the joy (ahem!) of trying to get ice out of a metal ice tray that's been filled too full!

They've also never picked up soda pop bottles and turned them in for the deposit. Or cut themselves on a pop top from a can; those have always been connected and pushed into the can since they've been alive. They've also never sprinkled clothes and rolled them up for ironing. They've never put a cartridge in a fountain pen, or had it leak all over their hands. They've never used a bathroom sink where the hot and cold water came out of two separate faucets. (I hated that at my grandmother's!) They've never seen a wringer washing machine. And they've never used a flash bulb on a camera. Such deprived lives they have led!

We had an old Underwood manual typewriter at home. (I remember if you accidentally hit two keys at once they'd get stuck/twisted together!) And my dad used a big (and heavy!) adding machine with the lever that he used to balance the books as church treasurer. I remember the wondrous experience of taking typing in ninth and tenth grade when the IBM Selectric typewriters came out with the interchangeable balls for the fonts. They were absolutely amazing. We couldn't imagine anything any more modern than that for typing!

Then there was the astonishing TI-30 calculator that came out when I was in high school! To have a calculator that wasn't plugged in and they let us use it sometimes in Trig and Pre-Calculus was beyond incredible. Mine had a nifty vinyl case that was a denim blue color. I used that calculator for years.

And then when I was in college and working during the summers, one summer a new-fangled machine was in the office called a facsimile machine. It was huge and slow and the quality wasn't very good, but the idea that you could send a document over the telephone line was mind-boggling!

When I was in upper elementary school and junior high school and my oldest sister was in college, she would come home with these strange rectangular cards with various numbers of rectangular holes in them. They were called punch cards, and she used them in a new class with computers. She talked about this computer language called Cobol. I didn't understand much about it, but I remember that my mom kept all the old cards and the backs of the ones that didn't have too many holes in them got used for grocery lists and scratch paper!

The first Atari came out when I was in high school and although my family never had one, someone in our church youth group did, and it was fascinating to play Pong. My freshman year in college, Pac-Man came out and I remember trying to eat up the dots before getting hit by the bad guy!

One of the funniest realizations of our age was years ago when my boy was in Cub Scouts. His den was meeting at our house, and my man was showing them some of his patches from when he was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout. One of the boys asked, "Did you go on trips like we do? Did you go to NASA/Space Center Houston?" Uh, no, there wasn't such a thing back then! That was pretty funny!

Enough already! I'm sure I could come up with plenty more, but I'm starting to feel pretty ancient and I'd rather hear about your memories! Share them on your blog and add your link here!


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Susan said...

Oh my gosh I feel so old! LOL... I'm sitting here laughing because I can remember all of these things! I remember the tv with the dot that stayed in the middle for like forever...and walking across the room to change the channel my sisters and I would do paper rock scissors to see who had to go change the channel.

I remember when liquid paper was invented I was so happy because I hated making mistakes while typing.

Oh that rotary phone... awwwe... I'd hate to dial home in a hurry with that!

Joyce said...

I had to laugh at the ice cube trays. No auto ice in the fact very little ice period there. I cracked ice trays for six years. I hated it. Every time I cracked ice I muttered something about how it feels like 1950 something.

We're spoiled. : )

Tammy @BeatriceBanks said...

Ok, you are making me feel my age! lol I remember every single thing you mentioned. I try to tell my kids some of these things and they just give me a blank stare. They can't even imagine me not having a cell phone or a computer growing up. I remember when my parents got their first cell phone. It was so big! I also remember the year we bought my mom a microwave for Christmas. My brother and I had it in his room and we heated a cup of water to see what it'd do. Had no idea that only 1 minute of heated water would burn your fingers so badly!
Thanks for the memories today!

Kathy said...

What a walk down memory lane, Linda! I'd forgotten about many things that you mentioned--like those annoying metal ice trays!

I, too, remember when it was a luxury to get carpeting--and later thinking people were crazy to "rip it up" for wooden floors. LOL

Barbara H. said...

You brought out a lot of things I forgot. I do remember those big old clunky stereo and TV cabinets and metal ice trays. And the limitations of the old TVs.

Jim said...

Linda, your generation was so fortunate back when you were growing up. :)
Yes you had B&W TV but we had none! You had refrigerators, we kept stuff cool in the cellar, or on the (enclosed) back porch in the winter.
You had a princess phone, perhaps in your office. We had one, eight party, on the wall. Our ring was a long and three shorts.
I could go on and on but you will see why my entry this week is fairly barren.

This is a good write-up. It reminds me of our earlier married life. Thank you.

bekahcubed said...

Oh, I am loving your post this week. I've *known* about punch card computers and manual calculators and sprinkling laundry and rolling it up to be ironed. But it's wonderful to put people and times to the changes rather than just having them in the abstract.

The reaction to wood floors cracks me up! I wonder if I'll have have some sort of emotional reaction to changes in home fashions someday. Right now I don't think I feel too strongly about anything--but I guess you never know until your deep-rooted biases get challenged, huh?

Cathy said...

Loving this post. You've reminded me of so many things I had forgotten. But yes, I remember all those things too.

bp said...

Oh yeah! typewriters! My Mom used one for many years to type the church bulletin!

Have a great weekend.

riTa Koch said...

This was great!
--cassettes, I still have many favorites, some I have had put on CDs.
--cartridge pens, oh, my! But I go back before that, we had the dipping-in-the-ink well kind when I started school in Argentina. That didn't last long though.
--typewriter, the exact same one I learned on!
--metal ice-trays, oh yes!
--telegrams, a thing of the past; just found one from my dad yesterday.
--Pac Man, my SIL broke her thumb playing that ;)
Thanks, Linda!

CeeCee said...

Uggh I can remember many of the things you mention. You had me cracking up with the ole dot in the TV. Hahaa! But,I do not miss those computer cards!

I miss the rotary phones though, and couldn't stand the hot and cold faucets. Reminds me of Grandma though! Now I wish I had a picture of that sink. Remember the glass door knobs? Oh I wish I swiped one off a door.

quilly said...

The first story I ever wrote was typed on an Underwood typewriter. And, when I went off to college Gram bought me one of those newfangled electic typewriters -- it hummed so pretty!

Anonymous said...

I had to laugh when you mentioned that underwoods keys getting stuck together.