My bottom drawer–a technology cemetery

There are places in my office that store old, outdated, once expensive devices that seem wrong to throw away.   I have my first Palm Pilot.  It was such a novel device in it’s day.  It kept a calendar and notes in the palm of your hand.  I have Walkmans that held cassette tapes, then later CDs.  I wore them on my daily walks and listened to books like Lonesome Dove and My Antonia as I circled the walking path at Mountain View High School.

I have my old flip phones, in progressing generations. I remember how angry I was when John gave me my first mobile phone for my birthday.  I couldn’t imagine why I’d ever want to be that available to anyone who wanted to call me at any time.  I imagined it ruining my life.

There are dozens of external drives, each with a bit more space than the last, each a bit cheaper than the one before.  They were my only back up at the time to keep my words safe for future generations.  I wonder what’s on each of them.

There are recording devices for gathering oral histories.  There are magnifying glasses to help me decipher old German documents and handwriting.  There are cords and rechargers, and batteries separated now from their devices.  Which ones did they once service?

Then there’s the camera cupboard.  Once it held my very expensive SLR cameras and lenses, always easy to reach while the kids were growing up.  I tried hard to document their lives every week.  The cameras and lenses were large and cumbersome, especially my sports lens that went with me to basketball games, volleyball games, track meets and tennis matches.  As the self-appointed team photographer, I captured spectacular and not-so-spectacular moments, emotions and faces during wins and losses for all the years our kids and their teammates competed.  Now this cupboard is a cemetery for old pocket-held cameras, throw-away cameras from weddings and other events, and lots of camera instruction manuals.  I’m noticing now in the bottom left the small wooden container that holds someone’s baby teeth.  The nice cameras and lenses are packed away in fancy camera bags in the basement.

Last week we went to the BYU campus and Book Store to pick up a t-shirt Adam ordered online.  I’m happy he’s still loyal to his BYU Blue.  I took the pics below as we walked through the Wilkinson Center, past the Cougareat, to enter the BYU Store (formerly the BYU Bookstore when it really used to sell lots of books instead of mostly clothing and gifts).  (It was my favorite place on campus.)

What caught my eye was this new study area, filling the walkway to the Book Store.  A good use of space, I thought.  But what really amazed me was the power strip running along the countertop.

Look at all those outlets!!  Every few inches there’s an outlet.  Dozens and dozens of them.  Hundreds of them.  Each is ready to receive a device of some sort.  Holy Cow!

When I was a freshman in 1977, our dorm rooms had an outlet by the desk.  The only “device” I can remember owning was an immersion heater that looked something like this one:

We used it to heat a cup of water to boiling.  The coil heated the water.  That coil could burn a hole in the desktop if you weren’t careful.  We’d make single serving Lipton Chicken Noodle Cup-A-Soup (introduced in 1972) or hot chocolate on cold nights when the cafeteria was closed.  We thought we were so modern and ahead of our times!

I didn’t own a blow dryer or any “devices” for my hair (I dried my hair in the community bathroom down the hall by sitting under the hand dryer).  I didn’t own an electric typewriter until a few years later.  All of our papers were hand-written.  Each room had a land-line phone with a rotary dial.  We simply didn’t need to plug anything in.  My, how the world  has changed.  I wonder what today’s students do when the power goes out.

Here is my latest piece of modern technology.  This is a wireless, bone-conducting headphone.  I got one for John for his birthday last month, then ordered one for myself.  They cost about $70.  We love using them.  They comfortably rest on your temple bones outside of your ears.  The sound is excellent.  Others don’t hear it.  Your ears are free to hear what’s going on in the world around you.

I had to teach John how to create a music playlist so his headphones would sync with his  phone.  Now he can listen to music while he works in the yard.  It’s a whole new world for him.  I’ll walk by and he’ll say, “it’s Gentri,” or “now it’s Eva Cassidy!”  He wants me to know who’s singing to him!  This latest device will now bump a few older headphones into the cemetery drawer!

If you look closely, you can see John’s headphones in action.

Even though new technology is sometimes scary, diving in and trying something new is not so bad once you get used to it.  It’s probably time to clean out my cemetery drawer and camera cupboard to make room for the future.

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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