Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Technology

     I don't often stop to think just how much the world has changed since I was the age my kids are now.  We have become so immune to technological amazement that we forget what life was like without it.  I was complaining the other day about having my bandwidth reduced to a 150 gigabyte per month limit.  When I graduated from college the internet didn't even exist and large programs took up 3 or 4 1.1 megabyte HDD floppy drives.  Shoot my computer had a whopping 40 megabyte hard drive.
     It's not just computers, it's HDTV and satellites. It's cell phones and GPS.  It's social networking and Netflix.  I spent 10 minutes trying to explain why you couldn't download the pictures out of a 35mm camera to my 6-year-old. 
     Yeah, the world has changed, and somehow I missed it.

     My kids think that if they can't watch a particular show on TV or Netflix or the DVR, that they are being made to suffer.  They never can find anything to watch out of 200 stations on TV.  The have DS's, 3DS's, Leapsters, A Wii with tons of free games courtesy of Nintendo.  They have computers and an Xbox 360.  They have a room with so many toys that the floor has disappeared.  They are always bored. THere is never anything to do in our house, or so I am often told.
     I was the oldest of 10 kids.  We had everything we needed, but sometimes there weren't a lot of extras.  We used an antenna to pick up TV stations and a lot of re-runs were still in black and white. We didn't have a computer in our house.  Somehow, we all made it.  We generally weren't bored.  We entertained ourselves.  In the process, we had a lot of fun and made a lot of memories.  I am afraid sometimes our kids are missing out on the really important things because their lives are too full of the unimportant ones.
     Not that I am any better.  I would throw a fit if my internet was cut off.  Even on vacation we are constantly looking for some way to get online.  I recently paid 5 bucks to log on in an airplane to fill 2 hours of down time.  I do most of my communicating with people outside of my immediate family without ever seeing them or hearing their voice, thanks to the wonderment of the internet.
    We have become addicted to technology as a society.  Could we survive without it?  Recently a study by some group of smart people said that the GPS system going down would seriously endanger people's lives.  Maybe it is too late and technology is just a part of who we are as humans, but then again, maybe we are just growing soft.
    
     I'm one of those people who thinks that things are going to get really bad before they get better.  I Look at the debt we have that we cannot pay, I see the value of the dollar dropping.  I look at food prices getting higher while the packages are getting smaller, and I don't think that somehow, just because we've had everything we wanted our whole lives, we will be immune to the laws of economics.  As a father of 5 I really wonder how I'm going to feed them next year, let alone get them raised and educated. 
     I had a great example in my father and mother who managed to get 10 kids to adulthood and never let any of us starve.  I have the example of my great grandparents who struggled through the Great Depression and grandparents who learned the value of hard work from them and rebuilt their lives after World War II.  Have I learned enough though?  Could I do the same?
     Maybe I will find out.  It's not something I look forward to, but I want to be prepared to.  I am realizing how much that I have now that seems indispensable to my daily life that could easily be given up.  We are going to attempt a garden this year.  My grandfathers both taught me how, but I have forgotten.  I want to get out in the dirt with my children and relearn as they learn for the first time how sweat and a lot of hard work can be rewarding like nothing else.  I want to focus more on us as a family doing things together.  I want to learn to power down the technology so that if the lights ever do go out we will know that there is a world more real and important than any virtual one.  Sure technology is a wonderful blessing, but we should learn to use it instead of being controlled by it.