Saturday, February 17, 2007

Technology firsts

It would be cool if this turned into a meme: I'd love to know about how the rest of you experienced these firsts. Of course, if you are younger than me or a member of a more advanced civilisation, some of these things might have been around since before you remember, so feel free to substitute your own ideas for anything that doesn't apply.

First experience with a video player: 1986
When my father brought home our first video player, I remember being fascinated with the exciting new possibilities this opened up. I insisted on recording my favourite shows and watching them at fast speed and again on rewind. Family lore has it that even my six-year-old self saw the main advantage of video players almost instantly and announced that now we could watch a five day cricket match in just a few hours.

First experience with a microwave: 1988
My mother got a microwave for Christmas 1988. We read the instruction book and the recipe collection that came with it, marvelling at all the amazing things you could do. And this is where Mum began her path of enthusiastic technology screw-ups: she announced that the 5 minutes cooking time for the chocolate cake in the recipe must be a typo. Nothing could cook a cake that fast. She put the cake batter on high for 25 minutes and we had to leave the windows and doors open for the next few days.

First experience of more than two TV channels: 1989
New Zealand was always late to the party when it came to TV. Television only reached New Zealand at all in 1960, and it wasn't until 1989 that it expanded beyond the two state-owned channels. There was much discussion in my family about why on earth we needed another channel. What would they show? After all, every programme we had ever heard of was already playing on channels one and two. My parents concluded that they would probably just show ads and reruns. (We weren't far wrong.)

First experience with a CD player: 1991
I saved and saved and saved for a CD player. My pocket money, at a rate of 50c a week, was just not cutting it. So a friend and I, both 10 years old, presented ourselves to a local bank at the start of our holidays and begged for summer jobs in their office. We claimed to be 14, and weirdly—illegally—they gave us work. At $10 an hour (incidentally higher than any pay-rate I was ever to have again throughout the rest of my school and university years in New Zealand) I had my CD player by the end of the summer. I still have it, in fact, and it works just fine.

First experience with a computer: 1992
A friend at intermediate school had a Commodore 64. We'd go back to his house after school, turn it on, put in a disk, and go have a snack in the kitchen. By the time we'd finished eating, the disk had sometimes booted up and we could play Jumpman and some scary little game where you had to build a raft and get off an island before a flood came and drowned you. I didn't get to play with a real computer for another three years, and then I was mostly terrified of doing anything in case I broke it. How things have changed...

First experience with MTV: 1996
Like I said, NZ was late to the television party. I didn't discover MTV until I went to Germany on a high-school exchange. And then I was equal-parts baffled and intrigued by it. Music. All the time. Music videos. It was like RTR countdown (which I wasn't allowed to watch because Madonna was The Whore of Babylon), but it showed all day long! When I got back to New Zealand I was almost bursting with the anticipation of telling my friends about this weird awesomeness that was the all-day music channel, but the Powers That Be had burst my bubble by bringing MTV to New Zealand while I was gone. It only lasted about a year, though, and then vanished from our airwaves, never to be seen again.

First experience of email: 1997
In our final year of high school our school decided to invest in a computer room. There were eight computers, and classes were shepherded up to the room to have "computer lessons", which mostly consisted of practice at sending email to the person next to you. Unexpectedly, this turned out to fantastic preparation for university, where most of my computer-using hours were spent sending messages to friends at nearby computers.

First cellphone: 2001
First and last. It was a Motorola Clunky-Ass Can't-Sell-It. It didn't work indoors and sending SMS was a bit of a lottery. It cost me 2 Euro from a dodgy-looking shop in the Turkish district and I used it about five times before swearing off cellphones for life.


Propter Doc said...

I did it! I did it!

Anonymous said...

I'm totally going to meme this. when my mother married her second husband, we suddenly had not only a video player (betamax!) but a laserdisc. who has a laserdisc? Dude. Anyway.

StyleyGeek said...

Yay! I started a trend!

Anastasia: When I was talking about these tech firsts with Geekman, I asked him when CDs became popularly available (to see if I was behind the rest of the world), and he was all, "Well, if you count laserdiscs..."

I hadn't even heard of them until now, and that's twice today!

Miss M. said...

Wow... what's a laserdisc?

Count me in!

geekman said...

A laserdisc is like a CD or DVD, except it's about 30cm across (a foot, for all those weird non-metric people).

It really was an amazing piece of technology. It came out in the late 70s and could store DVD quality movies (but 15 years before DVDs!).

Interestingly, this was before everything became digital, so the signal was stored in an analog form on the disc.