So, I ran across an article the awhile back about a micro generation called Xenials. They are a group, not quite Gen X, not quite Millennial. Born between 1977 and 1983, they are also referred to as the Star Wars Generation.
Hi, my name is Doug and I’m a Xenial. I was born in August of 1977. I am (shudder) 40.
The article I read was about how Xenial helped shape technology as we know it. We are a Generation that was born into tube TVs and rabbit ears and spent our adolescence evolving and adopting new technologies into our lives. While kids these days are born with a screen in their hand we had to fight and fumble our way through all of it. It was our feedback and ability to adapt that helped shape how technology progressed. This is my take on 40 years of technological evolution.
I still remember the TV we had when I was a kid. It was one of those giant console TVs. A faux, wood grained beast. We had to change channels by turning a knob! Can you imagine?! You had to physically get up and grab this big, plastic knob and turn, and turn, and turn, until you found something with decent reception to watch. It really didn’t take long though, there were only like 5 or 6 channels. With every chunky turn of the knob, you were treated with a blast of static and a brief snowstorm on the screen.
One day there was a magical man at my house. He was referred to as the ‘cable guy’. He climbed up on a pole, and ran a wire to our house. Once he plugged that in to the big, also faux wood grained box, on top of the faux wood grained TV, and then hooked the 2 faux, wood grained boxes together, (seeing a pattern here? It was the early 80s. everything was wood grained.) we went from 5 or 6 channels to 20+!! It was like TV being piped into the house, and it was wonderful. Granted, most of the channels at the time were absolute crap, the clarity was better. That is, as clear as a SD behemoth could be. But hey, its all that was available and it was all anyone knew. I had snow free cartoons and the clearest reruns of Green Acres I had ever seen.
Going forward I am going to focus on cell phones. I thought about reminiscing about all tech I have encountered, but I’m sure you don’t have all day. You’re welcome.
Show of hands, who knows what a pager is? No one, ok, I’ll explain. In the 80s and early 90s, it was a device used by doctors, drug dealers and captains of industry. I still remember, if you saw someone with a pager (they looked like old school garage door openers) and they weren’t wearing a suit or scrubs, they were a drug dealer. A gross exaggeration, I know, but I was a 12 year old suburban kid who liked to watch the news. Remember the ‘War on Drugs’? It was big back then. Pager = Drug Dealer.
Well, perceptions changed quickly because in 1995, I got a pager. It was great! Now my parent could get a hold of me whenever they wanted! Sigh… It was a sweet Motorola number with a big screen and a clip you would slide it in and out of. You could buy aftermarket cases in a rainbow of colors. I went with clear clip and black pager.
Let’s fast forward to 1999. I have a decent job and cell phones are finally getting affordable. They gone from heavy brick where you basically paid by the minute so something you could get a decent plan for and fit it in your pocket. I remember waking up one Saturday and driving down to Circuit City to get myself the beloved Nokia 5110.
That thing was practically indestructible. Phones back then did 2 things. You could call people or send text messages. You never did much of either though since cell plans were very limited. Once you used all your minutes or messages, things got expensive fast. One thing I don’t ever remember doing with that phone though is charge it. I swear, it seemed like it had an infinite battery life. Granted, the battery was about the size of 2 D cells. The great thing about Nokias in this era is everything could be customized. I remember I had a friend, Mikey, he had one that he replaced everything, including the antenna, to clear and when it would ring, it had dozens of multi colored LEDs that would flash like crazy. You could see it go off through jeans at night. Frankly, it was stupid, but to each their own, right?
In 2002 or so, it was time to ‘upgrade’. I use the term loosely because this is when phones went from indestructible bricks to fragile garbage. I went back to Circuit City and picked myself up a Nokia 3310. Now, phones didn’t have external antennas, although they should have. The reception was awful. They still did only 2 things, make calls and send texts, but data plans were starting to get better so you did more of both. You still called way more that text though. When you have to hit the number 7, 4 times, just to write and S, you just call the person. This model and others like it were some of the last to be customizable. I have to say that is mostly for the better. If you dropped phones in this era, the case would come off and the battery would pop off. It wasn’t uncommon to see someone sitting at a table or bench reassembling their phone.
Turn to 2004 and head with me back to Circuit City. Time for a new phone!!! I got myself the Sony-Ericsson T610, and it was a huge mistake. I was enticed by the fact it had a camera. It was a garbage camera on a junk phone. Horrible reception, dropped calls and awful pictures. If I remember right, you could get some form of internet on the phone, but it wasn’t real webpages and completely useless. Ok, I don’t want to talk about this joke of a phone anymore. Too many bad memories.
After the last debacle of a phone, I had even lost faith in Circuit City, so in 2005, I headed to Best Buy and scooped up a shiny, new Motorola Razr V3. It was a sleek, thin flip phone that was perfect for the pocket. It was a great phone. Had great reception, was durable and did everything a phone of the time should. If I had to have a phone that could only do phone type things, it would be a Razr. I liked it so much, I got another!
In 2007 I knew a guy that worked at a stereo shop that did phones also. He hooked me up with a brand new Razr VXX. The phone was free, but they pretty much all were back then. He threw in a Bluetooth earpiece and some extra chargers. It was great. I miss that guy. RIP Josh.
Ok, I need to side track to those stupid Bluetooth headsets. They were and still are, absolutely obnoxious. Look, I get it. They have their place. If you are in a car, or working at a desk, use it, they are great! Let’s face it, holding a cell phone up to your ear and holding it with your shoulder isn’t going to end well for your neck or the phone. But for the love of God, if you are sitting at a restaurant, take that shit out of your ear. You’re not that important and you look like an idiot. If you go to someone’s house, leave it in the car. You are there to visit presumably, so take that shit out and VIST LIKE A NORMAL PERSON!!!
Sorry about that guys. Back to the Razr VXX. It was even better than the V3. Better screen, better reception, better battery life. As good as the V3 was the VXX great. Then it happened, I killed my first phone. It met a watery grave. It was just a quick dunk, but the damage was done. I would never again hear my beloved Hawaii 5-0 ring tone.
At this point, I was done going to stores to get phones. Why leave the house when you can get it delivered! I get on my AT&T account and look to order another Razr, only it was nowhere to be found. My beloved Razr was no longer available. I didn’t know what to do. I hadn’t prepared for this outcome. By now, the iPhone was out and a few generations old. I was very resistant to the trend. I thought it was highly unnecessary. Who needs the internet in their pocket! That’s absurd! So, what was I to do? After looking at all the available options, I realized everything besides the iPhone and Blackberry was garbage.
Guys, in 2009, I got an iPhone 3G. Guys, I had the internet in my pocket. Guys, it was amazing. In all honesty, it changed my life. Not right away, but the Smartphone slowly worked its way into virtually every aspect of my life. So focusing on the 3G, it was great, it really was. Made and received calls without issue. Fast for its time processor. Finally, a camera that was functional. But the internet, my God, it was like cutting a tether. Any information you wanted at your fingertips. Pocket email! For those of you reading this born in the late 80s and beyond, this is something you will never fully appreciate.
2011. Two more years have passed. You could still get free upgrades so that’s what I did. Ordered a nice new iPhone 4S. In my opinion, it was just as good as the 3G, just a little more polished in every way. Better screen, faster processor, better camera. It was just, for lack of a better word, better. By now, the Smartphone is fully ingrained into my life. I use it for everything from Facebook to mobile banking. I literally don’t go anywhere without it. I can without a doubt tell you where my phone is at all times. Of all the things it does, there is one thing I rarely use it for, making phone calls. Just text me. Who has time to talk on the phone? Obviously that’s an overstatement; calls are still important, but just not nearly as necessary as they were in the past.
Guess what? Its free upgrade time!!! (And the last free one I will get) In 2014, I became the proud owner of the iPhone 6. Just like the 4S, the 6 was just plain better in every way. I have nothing ill to say about this phone. Always performed what was needed and never broke a screen. By now, I have a vehicle that has Bluetooth capability, so hands free calling in now the norm. While I still don’t like talking on the phone while driving, it does make it much safer. I have now embraced Spotify and podcasts and at this point, that’s all I listen to whether I am at my desk at work or in the car. Even when I am working in the garage or out by the pool, I just break out the Bluetooth speaker and my ears are fully entertained. Sadly, like all tech, the 6 started to show its age. While it still performed like it should, it just wasn’t fast enough to handle some of the more modern apps and websites. It never really crashed, it was just very sluggish. Also, the battery was getting killed. At 3 years old, it was really showing its age. Guess it’s time to look at upgrade options. (As I was writing this, the story came out that Apple is intentionally slowing down older phones. Looks like I didn’t need to upgrade like I though. Not cool Apple, not cool.)
I decided to go with the Ferrari of cell phones. That’s right, in November of 2017; I became the proud owner of a Space Grey, iPhone X. This phone is fast. Like lightning fast. And the battery? I can hammer that thing all day at work and I’m still at 75+% life. It’s incredible. Everything about the X is top notch. I can’t get over the display. The pixel density is ridiculous. 4K video is flawless. The cameras on this thing take amazing pictures and the on board editing is all you need. I am still learning what the X is capable of and I’m sure I don’t use it to its full potential, but at $999, I plan to keep this thing for quite some time.
The smartphone is often called the greatest technological innovation in history. And while that can be debated, it is easy to make a compelling argument to that statement. Let take a look at all they ways I use it on a daily basis. It’s my watch. While traveling, it’s my alarm clock and white noise machine. It’s my calendar. I check the news and Facebook. I keep in touch with friends and loved ones. I use it as my GPS when necessary. It’s my camera. I find new restaurants and check out the menu and reviews before I go. If there is a question or an argument that needs an answer, Google solves it. I can watch Netflix if I’m in a waiting room. While at work or in my truck, it constantly plugged in so I can listen to Spotify or catch up on podcasts. Plus, using Apple CarPlay, it is integrated into my touch screen display. Utilizing Apple Pay, it’s even my digital credit card. When bad weather is imminent, it’s my mobile radar. It’s my time killing gaming device. I use it for mobile banking. I use it to monitor my security system and surveillance cameras. On a cold day, I use it to start my truck so the windows are defrosted and I am nice anf toasty for my drive home. I have even fixed some pool equipment by watching YouTube videos. And shopping! Oh the shopping. If I want/need something, I order it. I honestly haven’t been to a mall in over a decade. If necessary, I can even make a call.
Seeing this technology advance from my childhood through adulthood is a unique experience that no other generation will have. It’s been a hell of a ride. Now, where’s my phone…