Monday, August 19, 2013

When Lance was 10 years old..

In honor of Lance's 50th birthday I ask the following: When Lance was 10 years old which of the following were true?
(Disclosure- some of the below are from a birthday card.)

  1. A REMOTE meant a secluded spot off the beaten path.
  2. CABLE was something that supported a bridge.
  3. A VIDEO GAME was trying to make out what fuzzy images were on a snowy black and white 10 inch TV screen.
  4. A CELL PHONE was what you used to make one phone call from jail.
  5. A CALCULATOR was the accountant who did your parents taxes.
  6. AN AIRBAG was someone who talked too much.
  7. DIGITAL COMPUTING was counting on your fingers.
  8. HIGH SPEED ACCESS was an on-ramp to the freeway.
  9. SURFING was something done on a board in the ocean.
  10. A BIRTHDAY was something Lance looked forward to.
  11. A MOUSE was something you didn't want in your house.
  12. A SPAM ASSASSIN was someone who killed people by giving them poisoned spam.
  13. A WEB was what spiders wove.
  14. A BUG was what spiders ate.
  15. AMAZON meant where some big rain forest is (smaller now).
  16. GOOGLE was an obscure term used by some math folks for the number 10100.
  17. BING had no meaning.
  18. APPLE was either a fruit or the record company founded by the Beatles. (There really WAS a legal name-issue when Apple-the-computer-company got into music see here .)
  19. It was impossible to have 10,000 friends.
  20. There were only three Network channels and a few local ones.
  21. Music was on Vinyl records.
  22. You went to the bathroom during commercials.
  23. Johnny Carson joked that couples had sex during commercials on his show. (Ask your grandparents who Johnny Carson was, what commercials were, and what sex was.)
  24. People read books written on paper.
  25. Computer Science was not available as a major at most schools.
  26. When people said you sound like a broken record they actually knew what a broken record sounded like.
  27. People really would DIAL a phone number.
  28. People would have to actually stop at toll booths instead of using easy-pass.
  29. Long running TV shows would have one (or at most two) Christmas episodes since there were no arcs, hence an episode could be inserted into any season at any time. Contrast: M*A*S*H in its 11 seasons and 256 episodes had TWO Christmas episodes, where as 30 ROCK its 7 seasons and 131 episodes had FOUR Christmas episodes. (This may be THE least important consequence of the new technology.)
  30. There were bar room fights over trivia since you couldn't just look it up on Google. The Guinness Book of World Records was supposed to cut down on bar fights, but it didn't quite work.
  31. People knew how to read maps and get a sense of where things were instead of relying on technology. That's why today the number of hikers who get lost has skyrocketed.
  32. If MTV existed they would still be playing music videos. The question Why doesn't MTV show Music Video's anymore has been asked so often it is now Cliche. But the above video provides an answer.
  33. Lance did not recognize the importance of NP-completeness. Then again, neither had the math community, the non-theory computer science community, and Probably parts of the theory community.
  34. To find out what time it was you couldn't look at your cell phone, TV set, or Microwave. You had to go outside and look at your sundial.
  35. TV shows may have pilot episodes, or may not, but they didn't bother with explaining everything. Thought experiment: If Mr. Ed was on today
    they would explain how he could talk (A government experiment gone wrong? gone right?) rather then the ONE line by Mr. Ed in the first episode: Don't try (to understand why I can talk)--- its bigger than both of us.
  36. We all watched a TV show the same night. Contrast- last month I watched Firefly.
    (If you are a fan of firely check this out.)
    Bizarre result of this--- since people can't find people to talk about shows as much as the used do, there is now a show called TALKING BAD where people on the show TALK ABOUT Breaking Bad
  37. The final Jeapordy theme music didn't have lyrics. Now it does: here.
  38. When you heard a mnemoic device like Kids Prefer Cheese Over Fried Green Spinach it was hard to find out what it meant- now its easy (just use Google!)
True story: On March 9, 1967 John Smith (not his real name) wanted to watch Star Trek (Episode: Devil in the Dark) but his parents wanted to take the family out for dinner. So he pretended to be sick so he could watch it- because, as he puts it, if I don't see it now I will NEVER GET TO SEE THE EPISODE, EVER!!!!!. Imagine a world without DVR, DVD, TIVO, On-Demand, Hulu. He doesn't have to imagine it. Our younger readers do.

I think SURFING, MOUSE, and SPAM really have changed primary meanings. FRIENDS may have also.


  1. Thanks Bill. Reminds me of the time my daughter asked me if my brother and I fought over the TV remote when we were kids and I could honestly say we never did.

  2. 1.Remote controls were invented in 1950, although they might call them "remote controllers" instead of remotes.

    2.Isn't this still true today :P ? Common metaphorical usage was for reference to telephones (leftover from telegrams).

    3.Well, it can be "a video game". But Computer Space, Pong and Odyssey were already out, so you could play on a "home console".

    4.I'm gonna say no.

    5.Well, they had pocket calculators by then.

    6. Yes.

    7. No, if you knew what computing is, you probably knew about "digital computing".

    8. Yes.

    9. Yes.

    10. Yes.

    11. Maybe if it was one on the TV cartoons?

    12. Haha, probably never happened.

    13. Yes (it still is).

    14. They already had actual computer bugs then, it's where the name comes from. I suppose back then spiders ate bugs.

    15. Yes, also a member of a matriachal society.

    16. No, that's a googol.

    17. Vocalization of hotel bell (or any small bell)?

    18. Yes.

    19. Yes.

    20. Yes.

    21. Yes

    22. I hope not only during commercials.

    23. No idea.

    24. Yes.

    25. Yes.

    26. Yes.

    27. Yes.

    28. Yes.

    29. Probably yes.

    30. Yes on the first part, no on the second.

    31.People don't know how to read maps today? I think there are other reasons for the second one, if it's true, probably more people hiking.

    32. No, they were no music videos to begin with.

    33. Yes.

    34. hahaha, no. You could get it on the telephone, wrist watch or wall clock.

    35. Yes.

    36. Yes and really???

  3. Great list Bill. I realize, worrying, that when lance was 10, I was 17. Fortunately, Dr. Who was already on TV and you didn't have to really break a record to make it broken.

  4. Lance and Harry- When I saw Harry's comment I thought
    `Yes, remote controls had been invented but they weren't in
    wide use in 1973' so I tried to look that up. Could not find
    anything about when it was in wide use (not even on Wikipedia!).

    Lance didn't have one, I didn't have one, but thats just a sample
    size of 2.

    1. The high-bandwidth light-emitting/light-detecting photodiodes that convey today's remote-control signals were not cheaply mass-produced until the early 1970s.

      An earlier generation of TV remote controls used high-bandwidth sound-emitting/sound-detecting piezoelectric transducers. These controllers worked adequately, but they were too expensive/power-hungry/heavy/complex to come into widespread use.

  5. MTV still shows music videos. They're usually on from 4am-9am.

  6. Okay, somewhat related confession time:

    I once read something that mentioned that Claude Shannon married a computer. This gave me the impression that he was truly strange and odd. It was not until a few days later that a "computer", at that time, was an occupation filled by humans and not by machines. Suffice it to say that I was quite embarrassed after I mentioned what I had learned to one of my theory professors.