Brave new world 2

C

utting edge technology simply boggles my mind. Recently, I have seen TV commercials for Sony DVD cameras. I’m not sure how it works exactly, except that it record directly onto a disc. Can you record over it? Can you take it out, play it, then put it back in to record more? I dont’ know because I am one of those technologically challenged people.

Today, I went to a meeting for our language lab cum center cum think tank. One member from speech and hearing was talking about investing in virtual reality technology, wherein students can speak to virtual people for speech therapy. I joked, saying it sounded like we neede to build a Holodeck, but she told me I wasn’t far off. The technology is apparently available for students to wear a helmet built in screen and enter a virtual world. Can you imagine a student entering a virtual Tokyo, or the virtual sensei pad? I was virtually speechless…

Well, as most of you already know, I’m an old fogey. I grew up when hightech wasn’t word for us common folks. It was for the government. Have you ever seen a documentary where elementary school kids had to duck underneath there desks during A-bomb drills during the Cuban crisis? I was one of them. I remember seeing LIVE on TV, Neil Armstrong say “I small step for man.” (And just for you sports fan, I saw Sandy Koufax pitch three times.) Anyway, back then, hightech was to build bombs and send men to the moon. Hightech for me was the color TV and that new fangled remote control. We did not have Walk/Discmans, PS2 or Gameboys. Geez, when I was in elementary school, audio cassette tapes were for secret agents. And everytime I saw something new, my jaw would drop. Here’s a short list of the technological innovations that astounded me the most. Try not to laugh too hard…

5. Karaoke: (1981) I love to sing, as some of you already know. In LA, I used to go to piano bars in J-town to sing. People would sit at a bar that wrapped around a baby grand piano, and the microphone would pass from customer to customer, singing songs played by the pianist. Then at UCLA, I made friends with one guy who owned this contraption that could be used as a loudspeaker but also played audio tapes. T told me it was a karaoke machine: kara meaning empty, and oke the abbreviation for the Japanese pronunciation of orchestra. He asked me if I knew any Japanese songs. I told him, Futari de o-sake wo, and he rummaged through his collection of tapes, stuck one in, and he handed me the mike. I heard the familiar intro to the song, but there were no vocals. Sing! he commanded. (@_@) And thus began my love affair with karaoke. It was also the start of a short-lived but amusing tradition of Karaoke parties and ultimately karaoke contests. T and I would choose teams and compete with each other. No prizes, just bragging rights. We were able to scrounge up 10 singers–5 vs. 5–for our first contest with an audience of about 10 at my parents house. Hahahah! By our fourth contest, though, we had to limit our singers to 12 per team, and the audience numbered about 100! It was pretty amazing.

4. ESPN: (1980) I think the first cable company in LA was called the Z Channel. I’m not sure, because i didn’t own it, but a friend of a friend had it and we went to his house for a party. There were few channels, mostly year-old movies and news. The friend of my friend told us that there was a sports only channel. (@_@) Yeah baby, you know I gotta get me cable now! But when he changed to channel to ESPN, I was totally deflated. They had rodeo on. Okay, maybe today’s a bad day, what else do they air? I asked. He handed over the Cable guide and under ESPN, it listed events such as volleyball, softball, and stockcar racing. I learned that all the major networks had the rights to all the major sports, and ESPN picked up the sports NBC, ABC and CBS did not show. The genius that I was, I figured ESPN would go belly up in 5 years… Stupid me, I shoulda bought their stock…

3. Sony Pressman: (1981) Have you ever seen photos or old movies in which men would have a tansisotr radio in their shirt pocket and an earplug plugged in the ear (where else). Well, I was one of them, once upon a time. I would listen to baseball games or top 40 music on AM-KHJ or KRLA. The quality was poor, of course, but it was portable. If I wanted high fidelity, one would have to listen to a home stereo. And if you wanted to hear it by yourself, you needed these clunky over the ears headphones. One day, I was chatting with my friends at North Campus at UCLA–it was our hangout–when H, a Japanese friend sat down with a small headset on, I was intrigued by this small spongy looking thing. He told me it was attached to his Pressman. “It’s like a Walkman, but bigger because it could record–in stereo–and was used for interviews by media types,” he explained. The young O-man, being way behind the curve responded: “Oh, that’s interesting, but what’s a Walkman?” Anyway, I asked if the sound was good, and he said it was okay. You want to listen? I put it one and almost spit out the coffee I was drinking. (@_@) My ears had to be deceiving me. It sounded better than the stereo I had at home. I told this to H and the rest and they just laughed. Why am I always the last to know?

2. Video tape: (1971) I remember in high school, a teacher showed us a PBS special from the night before. I asked if they were showing it again during the class hour, and Mr. H said that someone had recorded it and we were watching the recording. (@_@) You mean to tell me you can record from the TV?

1. Pong: (1973) Some of you may not even recognize the name, but it’s the name of the very first computer game I played. I usd to go to the arcades with my friends and we would play pinball and air hockey. One day we saw this new game called Pong. Two players played a form of tennis on screen. Do you mean these two dials control the paddles? Do you mean that we control what’s happening on the screen? (@_@) Holy moly. This totally shocked me. To actually control movement on the screen was something I didn’t even imagine. Of course, the movement was simply moving a short white bar–the paddle–on either side of the screen, sliding it up and down. The goal was to hit the square “ball” and make your opponent miss. The ball would ricochet on the top and bottom fo the screen. I’m sure NONE of you would find this exciting, but for me back in the early 70, this was something that altered my world view. I learned that hightech was something that had very human, very mundane applications, that it wasn’t just for rocket scientists and the IRS.

Yes, I grew up in a very different world from most of you, which I believe explains some of the child-like (M would say childish) responses I still have to new things.

I was and still am amazed by new technology. But it seems to me that many of the younger generation take things in stride, that a new technology is just the next step. Is there anything that you have “discovered”–not necessarily technological–that has simply astonished you? What was it?