In the relatively short space of time that I have walked the earth (30 years to be exact) technology has gone into over-drive and appears to be nigh impossible to keep up with. One need only refer to the launches of certain phones, tablets and software to confirm this. It seems that mere months after making a song and dance about the ‘latest and greatest’ product, something ‘better’ hits the shelves, relegating your once ‘unrivalled’ gizmo to the annals of antiquity.
I’m all for progress but I can’t help but think the world has gone a little mad. My own technology ‘timeline’ best illustrates just how far things have come. As a child I recall watching my parents use typewriters to compile documents and stories. In later years, the typewriters were replaced by Phillips Video Writers. I remember their hulking grey frames and small black screens emblazoned with yellow writing well. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that rotary dial telephones were still a feature of our home at this time and that our VHS tapes regularly got snarled up in the video machine.
As I grew up my friends and I played marble games at school, danced, swam, baked, visited the library, played London Bridge and Hide and Seek and collected and swapped cards. My brother and I revelled in collecting coins and stamps, walking our dogs, hiking, building blanket ‘houses’ in our rooms and playing in tree houses.
In the early 90’s we were delighted to discover the joys of TV games and walkmans. My parents bought a fax machine and photocopier (both completely separate of course) and my Dad invested in one of the first cell phones ever introduced to South Africa, a brick-like Nokia which I believe retails for a tidy sum under the title of ‘vintage phones’ today. Until then, if we weren’t at home to answer the phone, people simply called back at a later stage, and never after 5pm. And guess what? The world ticked over just fine.
Around this time K-TV was introduced and we felt really spoilt because we had a handful of TV channels to choose from. In 1995, the revolutionary ‘Windows 95’, complete with bulky screens and towers came into our lives, along with the Internet. It wasn’t until matric that I was given my first cell phone: a large, second hand, turquoise coloured Nokia held together with an elastic band. Today I own numerous cell phones, a tablet, an iPod, laptop, netbook and e-reader, none of which would probably be deemed the latest or greatest as they are all over a year old.
Yes, technology has come a long way in a short space of time and brought with it many advantages. That said, I occasionally look back on my life and yearn for the days when everyone wasn’t hyper-connected and could be reached anywhere in the world at any time of day. Today, despite the fact that there are hundreds of TV channels, people complain about there being “nothing to watch on TV.” Increasingly, I notice family members ‘phub’ (phone snub) each other at restaurant tables because they are engrossed in the latest tweet or Facebook update that has just been posted. It’s also a well-known fact that obesity is on the rise which has been linked to long hours in front of TV’s, computers and the like.
At the end of the day, technology and all its advances has its place but like many things in life, it should be enjoyed in moderation. So, in the words of ‘Stop Phubbing’, an online campaign against digitally derived rudeness which is gaining global support: “No Tweeting, No Facebook, No Instagram, No Foursquare, No Sexting: respect the food, the music and the company you're in.” Who knows? You might actually just find yourself enjoying the moment.