tech time capsule

As much as my blog is sometimes a communication tool, sometimes a kind of journal, sometimes just a place to stash my stray thoughts, it is also a kind of time capsule -- for myself in the future, as well as anyone else who wonders what life was like for some individuals in 2004. (Shout-out to the anthropologists of 2050!)

Earlier this week, I went to change our cell plan -- excuse me, wireless plan (as I date myself perpetually in my language) -- so my honey and I would have nation-wide free minutes to each other. Because now all the stuff you used to have to pay extra for comes as part of the basic package. So I changed our Old Basic package to New Basic -- same price, way more stuff. But in the process we also had to upgrade both of our phones, because they were too old to handle the new wireless technology. (That was fine since one of them was ancient and barely worked anyway.) So we have new flip phones that are loads of fun. I always just get the free phone, the basic thing they are giving away -- I don't care enough about it to spend extra money on a phone. But because the pace of technology changes faster and faster all the time, today's giveaway phone seems pretty cool to me.

So now we've started Mel's Cell Phone Museum: now housing my first cell, which then became my gf's when we went in together on a "family" plan, and my second one, now relegated to artifact status. Who knows what we'll have in a few years...

Anyway, it got me thinking about my personal technology timeline. When I was a kid, we'd ask my parents to tell us about life before TV -- aside from stories about listening to WWII reports on the radio, they were annoyingly vague about the impact of technological change on their lives. They weren't early adopters of anything, and so my childhood experiences lagged behind many of my peers'. For my generation, we've already been through so many significant tech developments that it's already hard for me to keep track of them. So here's my start at my own timeline, part of my personal time capsule:

1982 I get my first "serious" stereo: separate components. A turntable, a single-deck cassette deck, a receiver, and speakers. The receiver is still in use in my living room today.

1983 I take two semesters of typing class in high school, where we learn on electric typewriters. I know how to calculate space for footnotes and use carbon paper. Erasing technology involved those little sheets of white powder on a plastic backing that you would place under the strike area to cover a mistake with white.

1985 I get a Walkman clone.

1985 I am given an electric typewriter for my high school graduation present. Until that time, all the typewriters in the house (3) were manuals. My parents continued to use manuals for several more years.

1988 I sign up for an account at the computer lab at my university, and learn the Word Perfect function commands. I have a plastic box to carry my 5 1/4-inch floppy disks to and fro. My senior thesis is the first thing I ever word processed on a computer, but I wrote it all in longhand draft first.

1990 Sick of writing long papers in crowded labs at my first graduate institution, I get my first computer: a Compaq laptop with a 486 processor running MS-DOS. It comes with a 2-inch thick manual that allows me to learn anything I want to know about DOS. I liked that. I now use 3 1/2 inch hard floppy disks.

1990 I'm living in cramped quarters, with most of my stuff in storage. I get a "boom box" that has a CD player. I begin to buy CDs rather than LPs.

1991 I get my first email account. I use PINE. I get an external modem. I wish I could remember how slow it was.

1992 I get a CD player component for my "good" stereo.

1993 I get a new Winbook laptop running Windows 3.1. It has a faster dial-up modem built in.

1995? I get my first cordless phone. Now I can wash dishes and talk to my friends at the same time. I soon invest in a headset attachment to ease the crick in my neck.

1995? I get a CD portable player for the gym.

1996 I am an early adopter of the PalmPilot: I get a 1000 model within a month of their release in March. This is probably the only device I've ever known instantly that it would change my life for the better. It did. For several years, people would stop me whenever I used it and ask me what it was.

1997 I get a new desktop PC running Windows 95. I get an external zip drive.

1998 In preparation for moving across the country, I give my turntable and 3 crates of LPs to a good friend who's an enthusiast. I hadn't listened to an LP in several years.

1998 Bypassing my university's crappy modem pool, I sign up with my first commercial ISP.

1999 I get my first TV and VCR.

2000 I get my first cell phone.

2001 My partner brings a DVD player into our new joint household.

2001 We get a Gamecube game console because the guy at Toys R Us told us he'd have some at about midnight on Dec 23.

2002 I get a new desktop computer running Windows XP. A faster dial-up modem.

2002 I get a new Palm, the m130. My original PalmPilot still works, but I wanted some enhanced functionality and some new software that wouldn't run on the old OS.

2002 I get my second cell phone, about 1 inch smaller than the first.

2004 We get DSL at our house and I fall in love with the Internet all over again.

2004 I get an MP3 player. I still listen to music in the old style, however, album by album, rather than mixing up songs. (Mostly.)

2004 My third cell phone, now a trim little flip model.

Thank goodness for Wikipedia, since I had to check names and release dates of some of these things to confirm my memories. As you can tell, I'm hardly technologically advanced about anything (although I've been doing informal tech support for my colleagues for years). The PalmPilot is the only thing I've ever gotten right away when it came out.