Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Wonder of it All

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.


Rachel & Natalie's Mommy said...

This takes me back to the days of the dinosaur computers - the good ol' Pet, the Commodore 64, 128, etc. I remember my Dad's first modem, too - I think it was almost as big as my microwave...and super slow :)

Amanda said...

That did cost alot! Mobile phones are so small now. It makes me laugh when you see the original mobile phones in an old 1980's movie. They look like a brick!

Anonymous said...

Boy have you sent everyone for a trip down memory lane! ;o) It just makes me appreciate what we have got nowadays but sometimes I do wonder if it has all gone a little too far. When I lived at home we had no telephone, no video player, and even the toilet was outside. (Some may think that is the best place for it.) We were thankful for a good wireless. (radio for you youngsters) Mobile phones! We never had them and you know what? we managed... we didn't frazzle up and die of boredom...we walked (no car either) to our friends and played out all day til we were hungry. Oh Happy Days!

womaninawindow said...

Really? The seventies? Wow, it's all a blur. Can't belief what we think we need nowadays. I hear people saying, "I couldn't live wihtout my cell phone!" Um, ya, you could!

Lorna said...

I count myself so lucky to have experienced some of that magic and I can't wait for the new bunch.

megz_mum said...

Technology changes so quickly, computers and gadgets become obsolete before they wear out!

Turtle Guy said...

I had to laugh - I wrote out a comment to the post, submitted it and got a screen which read something like "this action has been duplicated - use your bowser's 'back' button" so I did. I lost my comment, and it didn't appear to post.

What was that about calculators? I think the wonderment is in their simplicity. It seems we're always complaining about the inefficiency of the computing world when something doesn't work properly, and I think we've simply been spoiled by having technology that generally works so very well all the time that when it doesn't we get cranky.

The calculator was a definite leap in technology. My sister had one in the 70s that I'm sure my parents didn't spend $100 for, but I was envious. My parents bought me a remedial tool called "The Little Professor". It did just the opposite. It asked ME for the answers, and told me just how well or poorly I'd done on a series of 10 questions. It wasn't until I grew up that I realized how much my parents had done for me by not allowing me the short cut.

I love the calculator on my cell phone. I put the short cut icon on the main menu so I can flip the phone open and be calculating with in in one keystroke!

Bravo, technology.

Pearl said...

hiring a pro to be on ladders, excellent idea! :)

gizmos, some are so shiny, they catch the eye alright.