March 27, 2011

Sharing Memories (Week 13 of 52): Changes in Technology

I can't believe it's Week 13 of our Sharing Memories - A Genealogy Journey Follow along each Sunday as we write and sometimes share, our memories of childhood. Your descendants will be so thankful that you did!

This week's topic is about change - changes in technology. Recently I was thinking about my father and his love of records - the old 33s - show tunes and Irish drinking songs mostly. We didn't have a record player until I was about 9 or 10 years old. Then my dad bought a huge stereo in one of those big cabinets - you know the kind there the top lifted up and you put the record on from above. Remember the little adaptors to put in the middle of the turntable so you could play 78s?

Our telephone was used only for emergencies. We occasionally phoned a friend to say we wanted to visit but we sure didn't chat for long! Phones were black with a rotary dial and you picked it up, waited for the local operator and gave her the number you were calling. I wish I could remember ours, but phone numbers back then were names followed by a number. Eventually the operators were no longer in use, and you just picked up and dialed normally (on a rotary dial, not push button!)

I remember that placing a long distance call was a very big deal. Every Christmas my mother and her sister would give my grandmother (their mom) as a Christmas gift - a long distance call to England to talk to her sister. It was a very big and exciting event and was always held in our house. We would sit in the living room waiting anxiously and eagerly for the long distance operator to call us to say our call was ready to go through. Grandma would always yell once she was on the phone because after all, England was a long way from Canada!

Computers? No such thing for homes although I did work with some at the age of 19. I was a data processor (briefly) and worked in a room where the entire wall was huge computers with big reels of data whizzing along!

Pay phones were everywhere - no cell phones back then. Pay phones were in the old red boxes and I seem to recall paying a dime to make a call. Hah!

I know television was available but we didn't have one. When I was about 10, maybe 11, we got a small tv. Black and white of course, no such thing as a colour tv then and shows were only broadcast in black and white. My dad watched the Ed Sullivan Show and Liberace. On the rare occasion I was allowed to watch something, it was a western. They were very popular and the one I remember was Rawhide.

My mother used some strange contraption for a calculator. It was almost like an abacus! It was metal and small, about the size of a small paperback book but thin. There was a little pointer which she inserted into small numbered holes to slide something across or to choose what numbers she was working with. I was quite fascinated by it but never did get to use it so am not describing it very well. I'd love to know what it was.

What has changed since you were young? I'm racking my brain to remember other changes during my life!


Eileen said...

First, it is 45's that used the adaptor. They had the big holes. 78s were a technology older than 33s. I remember playing some 78s of Vaughn Monroe on an old record player.

I listened to radio shows a lot. We got our first refrigerator in 1948 (icebox prior to that) and out first TV in 1950. I remmember transistor radios and when stereo records first came out. Then there was quadrophonic.

I bought my first home computer in 1982 but had already been working in the computer industry for 11 years.

Oh yes, those were the days. While I spend much of my time in the past, I have no desire to live there.

I love our computers of today, the Internet, blogs, researching online and other great stuff.

Genealogy Blogger said...

Eileen - thanks for clearing up my confusion over records! We didn't get our radio, tv or record player until sometime in the mid to late 1950s. We kids weren't allowed to touch them as I recall

You jogged my memory about other things too! My mother did laundry in a wringer-washer, and all clothes went on the line to dry. She cooked on a coal (could also use wood) stove in the kitchen until the middle 1950s.

Elizabeth said...

Your mom's gadget may have been a sliderule - Daddy had one, but I don't know how to use it. We used calculators and computers in college (never in high school), but the computers were in a separate room and you had to walk across campus to get a printout.
We had a little black&white TV with three channels in the kitchen. We watched Star Trek, Flinstones and the news. Later on, we went to my grandparents' house on Sundays to watch Wild Kingdom and Tarzan on their color TV!

GeneBugGrams said...

Did your mother's calculator look like any on this web site?

LindaS said...

Thanks for the link, GeneBugGrams! Really brings back memories. My dad was an accountant with his office in the house in the 1950s-1960s. Several of those look very familiar.

Most "adding machines" back then (rarely called 'calculators' because they couldn't. Calculate, that is.) did multiplication by addition, and it was all done by mechanical moving parts.... If you set it to multiply 47 times 43, you could go away and have lunch while the gearing slowly went kachunk, kachunk, kachunk, adding 47 + 47 + 47.... 43 times. And noisy!!

Mimeograph machines.
Electric popcorn poppers.
Reel-to-reel tape machines with chunky microphones.
Brownie cameras.

And wringer washers! In the early 70s, we had a new baby and no money, and were renting an old house with that still functional old appliance left in the basement. And poles for clotheslines standing in the backyard. Many diapers were fed through that wringer!