Back when I was a kid, the introduction to the popular sitcom, “All in the Family,” by Norman Lear, started with Arch Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) and his wife Edith (Jean Stapleton) singing at the piano:

Boy, the way Glenn Miller Played,

Songs that made the Hit Parade,

Guys like us we had it made,

Those were the days.

Didn’t need no Welfare state,

Everybody pulled his weight,

Gee our old LaSalle ran great,

Those were the days.

I didn’t know what a LaSalle was, but if I’d bothered to sit down at my PC and look it up on the internet, I would’ve discovered that LaSalle was a car made by GM’s Cadillac division between 1927 and 1940. Wait—we didn’t have a PC. None of my friends had one either. After all, we were the first generation after the dinosaurs were wiped off the earth. In 1967 the closest thing to a PC was Digital Equipment’s PDP-8, a piece of junk by today’s standards, and back then it cost 18,000 bucks—which was about twice my dad’s annual salary. ($18,000 in 1966 would be equivalent to $142,207.03 in 2019.)

Money has changed.

Not having a PC, I should’ve looked up LaSalle on the internet using my cell phone. Wait—I didn’t have one of those either. In fact, no one did. But it’s not merely because they were too expensive. Nor was it because Lithium-Ion batteries hadn’t been invented. It’s not even that no one had bothered to put up the stupid cell towers. The truth is that no one had gotten around to inventing cell phones. Saddens the heart, don’t it?

When I grew up, if you wanted to phone a friend, you called the friend’s house phone from your family’s phone and asked if your friend could “come to the phone.” Meaning come to the phone in the hall where anyone in her house could (and would) listen to one side of the conversation.

Phones have changed.

The internet was designed by the American military to allow a network of computers to communicate without any central control guiding them. This design was a quantum leap in the field of computer networks. The military reason for this radical design was to prevent an enemy from bringing down the whole network by destroying the central system (the so-called “single point of failure”). But the design was so good that it became a very robust system in commercial and academic applications, too. Al Gore invented the internet around 1969, the year I graduated from high school. At first, the internet had only two applications: file sharing and e-mail. What made it take off, was the work of a 34-year-old named Tim Berners-Lee who, in 1989, invented a new application called the World-Wide-Web. The Web consisted of a set of rules called “Hyper Markup Language” and a Web “browser” that interpreted those rules and presented the resulting text and images to the user’s screen.

Thank you, Tim!

Technology has changed.

Besides giving us information, the internet has helped me personally. For the last twenty years I’ve used this formula for handling information:

 A fact comes in.

 If I don’t absolutely need it then toss it out to free up my brain cells for more important stuff.

 I have to have it, but I can find it on the internet: Toss it.

 I have to have it and I can’t look it up on the internet, but my wife, Karyl can remember it:  Toss it.

 I have to have it and I can’t look it up on the internet, and Karyl won’t remember it. Oh, dear—I’ll have to try to remember it (which means throwing away the memory of something else to free up the brain cells for the new stuff. Unfortunately, I don’t get to pick what is thrown away and I won’t know what was thrown out until I desperately need it.

* * *

Back when I grew up (before the Bronze Age) kids weren’t glued to their devices like zombies who’ll have arthritis in their thumbs by the time they’re 30. They actually played outdoors. Everyday. You could hear little kids squealing, and big kids playing semi-organized games such as hide-and-go-seek-with-the-ball—a combo of hide-and-seek and dodgeball. To this day, the sound of children squealing is refreshing to me. It’s the sound of kids in love with life and getting exercise thrown in for free of charge.

Recreation has changed.

Some of the changes are probably good but we were warned in Toffler’s book, Future Shock (1970), that we might get overloaded by the rapid pace of change. Not me. I didn’t get overloaded. I got plumb passed by. For example, I’m one of a handful of people on the North American Continent who forgets to carry his cell phone about half the time.  

Back in 1963, Bob Dylan wrote the song, “The Times They Are a’ Changing.” They still are, but the pace is ever faster. If you’ve never heard of Dylan, he was—never mind. Just google him on the internet.

Times have changed.

Bobby Gooddaze asked me just last week: “Do you miss the good old days, Johnny?”

“Don’t kid yourself, Bobby. These are the good old days!”

“These are the good old days” is a William Powell line from the movie, “The Thin Man.” Know why he said that?

It was in the movie script, you nitwit.

Powell’s character, Nick Charles, was making the point that we don’t have the chance to go back, so we might as well declare today as one of the “the good old days” and carry on as best we can.

BTW: Mrs. Harmon isn’t feeling well this week or she’d write a letter to the editor pointing out that “Saddens the heart, don’t it?” should’ve been “Saddens the heart, doesn’t it?” To encourage her, send a get well card to: Mrs. Harmon, 1224 Sawyers Dr., Caddo Mills, Texas, 75135.

BTW2: Maybe I CAN go back. Last week I found the parts list for my DIY time machine. I don’t have the construction instructions, but stay tuned. I may try to round up the parts and see if I can recall how they fit together—if I haven’t already re-used those brain cells.

Johnny Hayre worked at E-Systems/Raytheon/L-3 until he retired in 2013. He and wife Karyl have lived in Greenville since 2002 and are now “empty-nesters.” They have three living children and seven grandchildren, who are each beautiful, intelligent and  all the usual parent-grandparent praises. Email him at GHB.JohnnyHayre@gmail.com.

Recommended for you