Back in the Day

By: Tina Shaffer

I’m feeling a tad bit nostalgic. I heard a song play on the radio the other day while I was driving home, and it took me right back to when I was in elementary school and I got The Hooters record as a birthday present. I must have listened to “All You Zombies” a gazillion times (I STILL love that song – I have it playing on YouTube as I type this).

I looked over at my friend in the passenger seat as she flipped through the 3,000+ songs on my iPod, and we ended up in a long conversation about how drastically things have changed in the past few years.

I was a decent student, but struggled with long division. I remember coming home from school one day, and there was a note telling me to go downstairs and turn on the fax machine. I pressed the power button on the behemoth machine, and waited 5 minutes for it to boot up. Suddenly, the roll of thermal paper was creeping through with a note that said “Try to have these done before I get home from work tonight. Make sure to show your work so we can go over it together. You will be able to learn this!” Well, you couldn’t write on that paper so I had to copy it onto regular lined paper then try my best to do the math. Today, that would have been a simple email that would have come through to my smartphone in a matter of seconds. For the record, I am now able to do long division with the best of them.

In High School, we actually had to take a class on how to use the internet. We had Yahoo!, Excite, Alta Vista and I think that’s it. Remember when you’d try and connect to the internet and you’d hear that weird sound as it took over your phone line (check THIS out – and see if you don’t cringe!)  – and you were cut off from your friends and family for as long as it would take for your system to crawl from screen to screen. It took FOR.EV.ER.

Another thing we talked about was how we used to watch parts of videos in slow motion on VCR over and over again. One of my friends even had a separate VIDEO CASSETTE REWINDER! We could pop in another movie without losing 5 minutes of time rewinding the one we just finished. It was amazing. And you needed a VCR, because a lot of channels went off the air after peak hours. I can’t believe I’m old enough to say I remember that… but I am. And I do.

GPS? Nope. Maps or AAA Trip Tiks were necessary for road trips, along with craft boxes my mom would prepare to occupy us along the way. We could color, do crossword puzzles, play hangman and read the “old-fashioned” way: using a book. To a kid today, that’s an iPad made of trees.

Now just one smartphone can handle everything I’ve mentioned. Music, movies, directions, games, blogging, along with so many other things!

I know that I’m really only touching on one area of development – electronics – but when we see teams perform their Challenge solutions – it’s so easy to recognize the next generation of innovators. Maybe they’ll come up with a way for my phone to make me a cup of coffee in the morning…now THAT would be innovative. Think about it.

So, it’s your turn to tell me about the most innovative thing you’ve seen a team come up with, or just tell me about something you remember from days gone by.