The wonder of effective communication hit me powerfully the other day. I was sitting in the lodge at Mammoth Mountain, my ski resort in Southern California, early in the morning before the lifts had opened. My wife was eating breakfast, I was drinking coffee, and I wanted to check on a dear friend who lives in North Carolina, so I sent him a quick text.
Moments later, I received a reply from an airport where he happened to be, waiting for his luggage, in Vietnam. Here I was waiting out a snow storm at a ski resort in California while he was waiting for his luggage at a sweltering airport in Vietnam, our connection being our smart phones and our respective tiny keyboards. I’ve known DW since nursery school, which is what we called pre-school when he and I were growing up.
Being the nostalgic guy I am, I just sat there and marveled at how much the world had changed, for he and I, since those nursery school days and how communication had changed in the decades we’ve known each other.
It really is not only a walk down the proverbial memory lane, but a look at the changing methods of communication we’ve lived through. At first, being single digit aged boys, our communication consisted of playing together. That meant primitive games of toy soldiers in each others backyards. We didn’t even talk on the phone to arrange getting together as our moms made the arrangements.
Later, in our teens, we attended different schools, but saw each other at teen events through our religious school. When we attended different colleges, we stayed in touch by hand-written or type-written letters.
From that point on through the next several decades, the cost of long-distance calling stayed prohibitive, something our children know nothing about, so DW and I stayed in touch by two methods. Hand-written or type-written letters, snail-mailed to one another as he had moved over-seas shortly after college and later, audio letters that we recorded on cassette tapes via portable cassette recorders we each bought.
This lasted post the CD-era and post the period when long-distance phone calls were less prohibitive and cell-phones had become ubiquitous. It had just become our habit. When personal computers began intruding on our lives, we did slowly begin to switch from the audio tapes and written letters to e-mailing. But, it felt like we’d lost a communication friend during that changeover.
There was a multiple-year period, during which time many of these technological advances were becoming commonplace, when our friendship became dormant. Nothing dramatic had occurred between us. Maybe the simplicity of communicating with pen and paper had been the glue that held us together, maybe not. Who knows?
When we did resume our friendship about 3 years ago, after he’d returned to the States and settled in North Carolina, we did adopt the modern methods of e-mail and cell-phone communication as our primary ways of staying in touch, plus the occasional text as mentioned at the beginning of this article.
I wonder what will be this sort of nostalgia for our children? Will they look fondly back at Janet Jackson’s SuperBowl expose or Brittany Spears kiss with Madonna? Will Brangelina be something they think about with fond memory or will it be their first iPod or iPad? Maybe their first laptop or first flat-screen television will touch them the way my Davy Crockett hat did? Again, who knows? Will a particularly cute rap song about killing police make them smile in fond thoughts of yesteryear as watching The Beatles sing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on “The Ed Sullivan Show” does for me? I wonder? Will they marvel at how slow the Internet was when they were kids when they can talk to every appliance in their homes from their flying cars?
I guess we’ll have to wait and see as the marvel of technology marches inexorably on…
Postscript: I wrote an article a while ago, Text, Steve, Text, about a friend of mine who had thus far refused to learn to text, but shortly after the article’s publication he did, in fact, learn and begin texting. We felt, here at BoomerTechTalk, that Steve was possibly one of our first success stories. Steve and I now regularly have effective communication via texting and I love having that additional tool to use with him.