I am 53+ years old, born November 1953; and while that’s not just REAL old, I’ve seen enough that the changes are pretty interesting. To me, anyway. The following list is some of the things I’ve seen, that I personally remember. They may not be in chronological order. I am not passing judgement on these things, bad and good things are both represented here. This is not a list I got off the internet, and it is not history I looked up in books that happened in the time I’ve been here – I actually remember these things, either having seen them directly or in the news at the time they happened:
I remember hearing about Sputnik, the very first man-made satellite of the Earth, announced on the radio while riding into town with my Dad in his pickup truck.
I remember seeing (live, I think, on black & white TV) the assassination of President Kennedy. I remember everyone being upset about it.
I remember before Lady Bird Johnson had clover planted in all the roadsides of Texas. And I remember when littering became recognized as a problem.
I watched on TV the launch of John Glenn in Friendship 7.
I remember before and after racial integration in the schools. I remember when our family doctor also treated black people – but they had a separate door into the clinic.
I remember when gifts were only given on birthdays and at Christmas, and it was unusual to get more than a few gifts. Christmas advertising started after Thanksgiving.
In America, you were (and are) free to worship whatever religion you want to. But back then we didn’t mind having Christmas and prayer in schools, and it was Christian. Religious freedom was not a big deal, because everybody had it. I didn’t go to your mosque, and you didn’t come to my Baptist church, but either of us could if you wanted to. And you’d be welcome, at least around here. Everybody was happy with this, as far as I could see.
I remember my family getting air conditioning in a window unit in the living room of our house when I was around 12 years old. Winter heating was a gas stove at one end of the house – the end opposite my bedroom. In mid-winter, it got almost as cold inside as out in my bedroom. I was around 16 years old before I lived anywhere with central air conditioning and heat.
When I was 13 years old, we got our first color TV. Dad had shot the black & white one with his .22, but that’s another story. We all looked forward to Bonanza, that being one of the few color shows at the time. We could only get four channels, and that was on a good day. Any three of them were pretty clear.
I remember when an old black man that was a good friend of my Dad passed away. Dad sat in his truck, crying – but he wouldn’t go to the funeral. That generation is now gone, and people today don’t think like that so much. I have seen progress against prejudice in my lifetime, but it does seem to be slow going, mainly because what a person is taught when young stays with them their whole lives, against all reason.
I remember being on a party line for the telephone. For those of you who have never had this experience, it means that (in our case) six families shared one line. Each family had a different ring. If you picked up the phone, you could hear the other people talking. Eavesdropping was commonplace. Some people would leave the phone off the hook so nobody (six families!) could use the phone until they were through with it. There was a lonely old elderly black lady who would talk for hours at a time. I think I was a teenager before we got a private line, which was one phone shared by our whole family. Nowadays I frequently see children with personal cell phones, as well as internet access.
I watched many other rocket launches on TV, of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. I remember specifically a Gemini launch that I got to see on TV at school – I think in the fourth grade.
I remember the first international phone call made via satellite. I don’t remember who it was from or to, except I think it was our President on our end. But it was on TV, and I got to watch his end of the conversation.
I remember the first time I ever saw anybody with a full beard. It was my very first hippy, walking down Highway 80. This was in my early teens.
I watched Neal Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. If I recall, it was about 2:30 AM where we were, and I watched it live with my Dad. I thought maybe someday I’d get to go. But I really wanted to go to Mars. Shucks, I’d go now if they were getting up a group.
Speaking of my Dad (and Mom) I remember when more people smoked than didn’t. Thank God that seems to be changing. On the other hand, I didn’t become aware of a drug problem until I got into high school, and even then I never saw any.
I remember getting my first .22 rifle (a very nice Browning) when I was 13 years old, and nobody thought anything about it. My dad mostly taught gun safety by example (how not to do things). I shot a hole in the floorboard of the VW the same day I got the gun. Educational!
My first car was a Volkswagon Beetle. It didn’t have seat belts. It didn’t have air conditioning, either. It did have a good AM radio, but that was about it. My second car (a ’65 Mustang) did have a lap belt for the driver only, but it also had no air or FM radio. Nor any sort of tape player. I remember the advent of 8-track, then later cassettes, then much later, CD’s and DVD’s. I remember how neat it was the first time I rode in a car with cruise control. I remember gas was $0.26 per gallon and I could fill up my Mustang for $5, give or take.
I remember when you could watch TV all evening if you wanted to, without seeing anybody die or cuss. If somebody got shot, there was no blood. I remember when homosexuality did not happen on TV. I was probably in my mid teens before I learned that there was such a thing. I remember when it was rare to see a black person on TV. And back then, many movie actors really were fit to be role models. Today, not so much.
I remember the hostages in Iran. It should be noted that Iran’s current President Ahmadinejad has been identified as one of the actual people holding the 66 diplomats hostage. I also remember Carter’s screwed up rescue attempt.
I remember foosball, fondly. I wonder if I can still do it. I remember playing Pong on one of the original machines. It wasn’t very impressive at the time. I dislocated my shoulder one time playing air-hockey. Other than Pong, the first time I ever played a video game was after I had kids of my own.
I remember medical insurance that wasn’t a hassle, and that paid generously. It was before HMO’s.
I remember sitting in my VW at school with some friends, listening to the broadcast draft lottery for the Vietnam War, in 1970. This was a draw based on your birthday. I was number 126 and didn’t get called up, although it was close. One of my friends got number 6. His birthday was Christmas Day, as I recall.
I watched the very first Space Shuttle launch, and many succeeding flights. I have seen a Shuttle re-entry with my own eyes one night; watched it go by, went in the house and watched it land in Florida ten minutes later, on TV.
I was excited by the first pictures from the surface of Mars. And also all the pictures sent back from Jupiter and Saturn vicinity. And the “Pale Blue Dot” is an absolutely awesome picture, taken of Earth from 3.7 billion miles away. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Blue_Dot
I remember when the very best photograph of Saturn was a grainy blob on a page. And they actually thought there might possibly be dinosaurs on Venus, and intelligent life on Mars. Now, of course, we have photos taken locally at these places. I remember when there was no map of the far side of the moon, and how breathtaking the picture of earth-rise on the moon was (and still is). You can see it here.
I heard with my own ears, but did not see, the destruction of Space Shuttle Columbia. At the time, I didn’t realize what it was I was hearing; I found out a few minutes later when the news bulletins came in.
I remember when there was only one phone company, and all phones had wires! I remember the advent of cell phones. I also remember when a cell phone wasn’t anything but a phone. I remember when there were no personal computers. Or calculators. I trained for a year and went to state UIL competition for slide rules, which were obsolete one year later.
The only computer programming class I ever had, as a freshman in college, was on a computer that took input on punched cards. I owned at least three personal computers before there were graphical interfaces. I remember, and used, CP/M, DOS, OS/2, BeOS, Windows, Windows 95, NT, XP and now Vista and Mac OS X. My two CP/M based computers had Z-80A processors at 4.0 Mhz (not Gigahertz), 64K of ram (that’s Kilobytes, not Gigabytes) and did not have hard drives. Floppies held 110 kilobytes. The operating system fit in 4 kilobytes.
I owned at least six computers before there was an internet. I remember CompuServe and a 300 bps modem on a Kaypro. I spent ten years of my career making drawings by hand, before there was CAD that could be used on a personal computer. I remember when somebody that knew what they were doing with computers was respected more than a plumber.
I remember before 911 – and how things have changed since then. And I remember exactly where I was when I heard about it.
That’s enough for today. Have a nice day!