Sunday, July 31, 2011

How to tell a video from a DVD

My kids teased me the other day for calling a “DVD” a “videotape.” Apparently that’s like calling a “refrigerator” an “icebox,” a “Kindle” a “book,” or a “landline” a “telephone.” But as hip (do they still use that word?) as I try to be for my kids, I realize I’m fighting a losing battle when I mention things like “travel agent,” “wristwatch,” “long distance call,” “encyclopedia,” “fax machine,” and “TV set.”

I remember when my dad bought our first TV, long before there were HDTV Plasma Flat Screens. I was four years old, just had my tonsils out (remember those?), and came home from the hospital to find a 23-inch black-and-white RCA sitting in the living room. There were only three channels back then, with live programs like Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” Martin and Lewis on the “Colgate Comedy Hour,” and “The Red Skelton Show,” but that was enough for us. We didn’t even mind getting up off the couch to change the channel, since “remote controls” were figments of sci-fi shows like “Captain Midnight.”

Now my kids own several TVs, all the size of plate-glass windows. And instead of three channels, they get over 300, everything from BBC news to Spanish soap operas.

Music technology has also changed over the years. Back in the day I treasured my pocket-sized transistor radio, the forefront of giant boom boxes and portable Walkmans, even though mine was limited to the tunes I could pick up while turning the dial (like “The Wolfman Jack Show” bay-bah!)

Today my grandkids can listen to a tune like “Forget You” (AKA the “Asterisk Song”), have it identified (Shazam), download it (iTunes), and play it back (iPod) in seconds.

When I was a kid, I wanted to learn Morse Code so I could communicate with faraway friends over a shortwave radio, saving money I’d have to use for expensive long-distance telephone fees. I never did get past the letters S O S, but today I don’t have to. I can email, IM, text, chat, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, or Tango anyone, anywhere, any time. And instead of memorizing a complicated Morse Code, all I have to do is learn a few text codes, like LMAF (laughing my asterisk off) or PLOS (parents looking over shoulder.)

Remember the dot-matrix printers that looked like pointillism art? Three-inch floppy discs that filled up faster than you could type “save?” Typewriters that made a clatter, letting you think you were writing something important? Dictionaries instead of spell-check? Road atlases instead of GPS? Yellow Pages instead of Google? Mailing a letter instead of pushing a button (sometimes by accident)? Wondering what your friends are doing at this very moment instead of checking Facebook and Twitter? Using film in a camera instead of not? Coffee percolating on the kitchen counter instead of standing in line to buy it? Car keys instead of push-button remotes? Watching the scenery go by instead of viewing in-car movies?

Now if only they could invent something that teaches the videotape generation how to use these gadgets, we could really stay hip. Or cool. Or Sweet. Or Rad. Or Fresh. Or Tight. Or Dope. Or whatever…


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home