Since we have a two-storey townhouse and I have no fondness for ladders, we had the window cleaners over to our place yesterday. It's not too expensive, so we're willing to ante up once a year.
When it was time to settle accounts, the guy pulled out his cell phone and used it as a calculator. That surprised me because I hadn't seen a cell phone used that way before. Sometimes, I have to step back and appreciate the near-magicality of technology. You see, I can still recall seeing my first pocket calculator and being enthralled with its wonderfulness.
It was during summer holidays near the mid-seventies, and we were visiting the family in Scarborough. One day while walking through Eatons in Shoppers World on The Danforth I saw it and was intrigued. I hadn't even been aware that such a marvel existed, and this four-function beauty was on sale for only one hundred bucks! Imagine a small machine that could add, subtract, multiply and divide! Amazing!
Could I have ever used that little gizmo. I was teaching, and computing averages was an exercise in brain power augmented by a slide rule type of device. It wasn't an actual slide rule but a cardboard wheel that used some slide rule principles. I would use my noggin to add up a kid's scores and then use the wheel to calculate the average. Sometimes, I'd make a little mistake while adding in my head, and the wheel could also be a percentage point or two off.
So, you see, I sure could have used that handy dandy little calculator.
I didn't buy it though. It was too dear; a hundred bucks was more than ten percent of my monthly salary at that point, so I resisted. Within a year or so I found one at Sears that had more capability for only thirty-five dollars. Now, of course, they are cheap almost throw-away instruments that we value little.
But it seemed a wonder to me back then and seeing a cell phone put to that use yesterday brought back that sense of wonder to some degree.