Echoes from the past
I read recently that the iPhone has more capacity than computers did at the time men were first sent to the moon. The author then went on to cite the Apollo 13 mission when the astronauts spoke those scary words: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”
As it turns out, Houston didn’t turn to any computer for help, they used slide rules to right the wrong. The slide rule has been around in one form or another since the 1600s. My father was an engineer; I used his slide rule to solve Physics problems in Grade Thirteen. But both the slide rule and Grade Thirteen have since disappeared.
That got me thinking about what else of worth has disappeared in my lifetime. I came up with quite a list. We used to walk everywhere: to school, music practice, or friends’ homes. Not today. Everyone gets a drive until they can drive themselves and even then they still get chauffered regularly. Few parents in the past watched their kids play organized hockey. Today, they’re all there, shouting epithets at the referees. Mothers are the biggest beraters of all.
How much snow has fallen? Not six inches anymore; it’s fifteen centimetres. And the temperature is not 40 Fahrenheit, it’s 4 Celsius. What do we read? I used to read three newsmagazines – Maclean’s, Time, and Newsweek – every week. Now, I couldn’t tell you when I last picked any one of them up. I think Maclean’s has become a monthly. Too many other members of the media have gone out of business. Social media fills in a few gaps but some of what appears is fabricated. But which items? And how much further will AI take us from reality?
And whatever happened to safety patrols run by public school students? There was a time when those participants were respected by their peers and got to arrive a few minutes late for class. Nowadays it’s a paying job for adults. And bicycles with no gears? Long gone.
But among all of the things that have disappeared perhaps the best and worst example is daydreaming. Train and bus passengers no longer stare out the windows and admire the passing scene. Everyone’s on their phone, playing games or wasting time on other nonsense. Daydreaming is good for you. Ideas pop into your head that could bring about a better world rather than the divisive place in which we now live.
Or am I just echoing the elders of times gone by who rued what was happening around them. After all, in Rome, Cicero lamented, “O tempora, o mores!” meaning “Oh the times! Oh, the customs.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.