Old and New

I’m lucky.

Growing up with a wide range of technology gives a perspective that the Millennials missed and the Boomers didn’t fully understand. I’ve seen the progression from a mostly analogue world to a very wired and digital world. This instilled an appreciation for the ease, the simplicity, the complexity, and speed at which information is now passed. It also provides a great basis on organizing information so that both Boomers and Millennials can find what they’re looking for.

In music formats, I’ve used 33 and 45 RPM records, 8 Tracks, cassette tapes, CDs, minidisks, and now digital formats. In addition to that, my great grandparents had some 78 RPM records that I knew about, even if they couldn’t be played. I learned how to edit sound on a reel to reel — complete with fresh straight blade and tape — and also used one of the first commercially available sound editing programs for the computer.

Computing? I’ve used an electric typewriter, word processor, and computer. I used mainframes, terminals, towers, laptops, Palm Pilots, and tablets. Screens were once large, monochrome and heavy, and now they’re thin, full-color, and lightweight. Data storage has gone from punchcards to 5.5″ disks to 3.25″ disks, Zip and Jazz disks, CDs, DVDs, SD cards, thumb drives, external drives, servers, and now the Cloud (in the 80’s & 90’s, the Cloud was known as the Internet: same concept rebranded for the new millennium).

Phones at one point came big and black with a rotary dial, then touchtones, pagers, Nokia 6160, Razr, Blackberry, VoIP / Skype, iPhone / Android and other smartphones. Cameras had external flashes and used film (120, 110, 35mm, Polaroid…). Pictures often discolored due to the chemicals degrading. Slides and black and white film was still common. The first digital cameras hit the scene when I was a junior in college. In my senior year, I started to experiment with digital video, which meant recording it on VHS, encoding it, editing it, and then dropping it back to VHS. The school had one computer that was equipped for digital video editing. Now it’s everywhere, even on your home PC with digital in and digital out, and cell phones with the ability to upload it immediately to YouTube.

About that time, I also started playing with multimedia production. As a kid, I was really into drawing and animation, creating flipbooks because it was fun. I learned HTML my freshman year and could display pages on Mosaic. I took that and experimented with HyperCube. I did 3D animation, starting from wireframes that would take 5 days to render 15 seconds worth of a basic movement. And I figured out how to combine them.

I remember a time without cable where you had to get up and go to the TV to change the channel. Then the channel box on a long cord that snaked through the room, and finally the hefty infrared controllers. MTV was just beginning. And the cable company had a public access channel, didn’t dabble in phone service, or deliver your internet service (that was left to the phone company and dial-up modems!).

Libraries still used card catalogs. Each book had a card that was stamped with a due date. We scoured through large paper tomes and volumes to find the necessary data for research papers, often trading the index for scholarly publications that were obviously used quite often. Microfiche was common. In the 1990s, computerized OPACs were commonplace but often terminal based and a pain to use. Now they use the same technology that websites use coupled with RFID, self-checkout, email notifications, and online renewals. Scholarly indexes are now electronic databases, often displaying PDFs of the articles within one or two clicks. Microfiche is being transferred to digital formats.

And that’s just in 30 or so years. Imagine what the next 30 will bring!

Photo: Old Technology by Robin Kaspar and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license.

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Sara Written by:

I'm an Information Architect and Taxonomist in the greater Philadelphia, PA area. Mad about metadata. Incessant organizer. Knowledge monger. Information seeker. Wisdom chaser. Curiosity has yet to kill this cat!