Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Technological Wonder

I was born in 1958.  Yeah, I'm that old.  I can remember watching television as a child on a very small black and white television... and that television was only broadcast for a few hours a day.  I can remember the excitement of watching it in colour for the first time.

I remember being given a cassette tape recorder for Christmas and waiting with it beside my radio in order to record the Persuaders theme on it... which I then played endlessly.  I didn't mind that the radio DJ spoke over the first part and the end of it.  Well maybe I did, but I ignored it.

Those were days in which I would hear a glimpse of a new track and then listen avidly to the radio to see if I could catch it again.  Even if I knew a portion of the words I couldn't find any information about it until I caught a DJ - probably on Radio 1 - playing it again, to tell me the band name...and even then the best I could do was to watch out for an article in a magazine, or an appearance on Top of the Pops.

The telephone in those days was in the main living room attached by cords to the wall and itself.  If I wanted to make a phone call, or receive one, I had to go to the telephone and do it in front of my family.  The television in those days was in the main living room and belonged to everyone.  If I wanted to watch a particular television programme, I had to either establish my right to the television or negotiate with everyone else.

I had cameras... but the film was expensive and required more money to develop the film.  At the end of the processing, sometimes weeks or months later, I would find out what was on the film.  Sometimes that was a wondrous thing... more often than not it was a disappointment to find that I had set the aperture or exposure wrong, had camera shake or not enough light and had fuzzy or underexposed pictures.

So... I am grateful for so many things that my children, brought up in a digital age, don't even think about.  When I got up this morning, the sunrise was not big but amazing, slashes of orange across a soft white sky.  Being on the 27th floor at the moment, you're separated from nature and the people moving like toys beneath you, but hyper-aware of the changing sky laid out before you.

I grabbed my camera and took a series of shots, able to see with each one the differences between what I could see before me and what I was capturing, and then could could upload it to my computer.  And marvel, not at the photographs, which disappointingly seem to shrink sky phenomena to an unexciting, even trivial, size... but at the ability to simply move from taking an image, to seeing it, to uploading it, in a few minutes.  It still excites and stuns me.

Similarly, when I hear a snatch of a song, can remember a few words and can look it up on Google... finding not just the lyrics, but the band website, the biographies of the band... on to Spotify to listen to the greatest hits, add them to a playlist, etc, I am entranced...grateful...astonished.  I appreciate it, the wonder of it, the amazing facility with which we can gain access to information.  I am constantly amazed that many of my contemporaries (even some related to me) are unable to see what they have with a computer and a broadband connection - a link to the best library, encyclopedia, network that has ever existed. 

So on the one hand I have children who take it all for granted, who do not remember a time when they couldn't take a phone-camera-mp3 player with them whenever they go out, and on the other, people who seem slightly hostile towards the technology, as though it may raid their bank account or suck up all the spare time that they need for watching television or gardening (or whatever they're into). 

And I... I am just transfixed by the possibilities that we have now that our grandparents could only have dreamed of... the ability to speak to people across the world and see them at the same time.  The ability to watch videos of friends and family or strangers and even strangerers on youtube.  The ability to share what we are thinking and feeling with anyone who cares to pass by.  I love it all.

My pictures are disappointing... the slashed fire in the sky when I turned the corner this morning and saw it on the horizon was far more striking in the real world than I captured in the photographs... but my wonder and amazement at being able to take photographs, upload them to my computer, upload one to this website and write a blog post and publish it... that's not disappointing at all. 

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