Digital Age Journalism & Social Media Anthropology

Technologically Speaking


Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle © Wikipedia

In 1992, when my grandmother was 94 years old, she received her first remote control TV. It was a family gift but one that baffled her for the two remaining years of her life.

There are many things that are no longer just the way they were. Similar to the story of Rip Van Winkle, someone who had simply fallen asleep or gone underground for a few decades and returned to the present would find his present to be very much in the past. There would be many technological changes that might baffle him. This blog post, Technologically Speaking, illustrates a few of these.

Remote Controls

Remote Controls © Wikipedia

When I came to visit her, I would inevitably find the remote control device, designed to do everything she used to have to get up from her chair to do, wrapped in a napkin. It was her way of dealing or not dealing with a technology that was foreign, too complicated and unnecessary to her.

iPhone kiosk

Is it a pay phone kiosk? No it's an iPhone kiosk.

Classic TV © Copper Creek Inn

Classic TV © Copper Creek Inn

Today, no red blooded American would dream of having to move from the comfort of a ‘Lazy Boy’ chair or ‘Number Bed’ to turn on or off, raise or lower the sound, or change the channel of their TV. But to my grandmother, born in 1896, getting up to make these adjustments was just part of the experience of watching TV.

donate meter

This is a donate meter but it looks like a parking meter.

There are no longer phone booths. They are long gone. In addition to that, there are no longer even pay phone kiosks. Well, the frameworks still stand but the telephone and all the working guts have been removed. The kiosks stand useless, merely a symbol of their past. Who needs pay phones, now anyway? No one does. Everyone has a cell phone or mobile device. Or do we?

In fact, have you ever noticed what people below a certain age do when you ask them what time it is? They do not look at a watch; they take out their cell phone to check the time.

One of the more intriguing changes in technology is the parking meter. They still exist in places. I even hear that one town takes pennies. But I have no idea what haven that happens in. Maybe someone can Google it and let me know.

RVC parking

How I miss an ordinary old parking meter.

Now a days, parking meters in upscale areas require credit cards rather than change. One can even add money by phone. Some ‘parking meters’ are used to collect donations rather than pay for parking. There are even parking payment centers that cover many spaces with one machine. They require quite a bit of proficiency to master.

There is no question that technologically speaking our lives have changed for the better. But once in a while it would be fun to find something done ‘the good old fashioned way’.

How about the example below for a bit of nostalgia? Technologically speaking, it is best to leave some of the things from the past in the past. I’ll take a modern toilet any day.

portable toilet

No more out houses. But yes we still have portable toilets.

The Copper Creek Inn

Slow Design and the History of the Parking Meter
History of the Pay Phone
History of TV Remote Controls
Porcelain God: A Social History of the Toilet

Rip Van Winkle

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