By Mark FalangaPhoto courtesy of Sam Howzit.
1982 was quite the year. It started off with the MTA announcing improvements to the New York City Subway System. Midway through the year, The United Kingdom and Argentina got caught up in a war of some islands in the Atlantic. Finally, Time magazine named the Personal Computer as Man of the Year.
It marked the first time ever that Time named an inanimate object as Man of the Year, and rightly so. The computer was slowly changing how we worked, played… and even lived. It made so many things possible that we now depend on to continue on with our daily lives.
Also, 1982 always holds a special place in my heart since, well, I sort of came into the world that year (the 7th of July to be specific) and I’ve always been curious as to how the average person lived back then. Since my memory of that year is spotty at best, I figured the best way to find that out was to limit my use of technology to only what was widely available back then. So after I did one final e-mail and text check, I chucked my cell phone, dusted off my Walkman, and popped my collar as I headed back to 1982.
When I woke up the following morning, my routine was pretty much unchanged. Breakfast, followed by watching TV. So far, so good. But I seemed to notice something on the news, it wasn’t covering the news that was important to me. Sure, it hit all the top stories on politics and world affairs, but I’m mainly interested in sports, specifically, the New York Yankees. Yes, I realize the season just ended and spring training is months away but to me, the offseason trades and signings are almost as fun as watching the games. I took for granted that I could just check Pinstriped Bible for even the tiniest bit of Yankee news, no matter how insignificant and meaningless it may seem (they picked up little known reliever Mickey Storey on waivers, whew, I needed to know that).
I also found it problematic in attempting to set up plans with my friends. Without texting, I had to call them using my landline phone (something else that will soon be extinct). A recent Pew Research Center poll found that texting is now much preferred over a phone call. I found that instead of just relaxing and waiting for the texts to roll in and respond accordingly, I had to wait for the phone to ring, not know who was calling me, and then meet them at the bar without knowing if they were going to be late. It seemed a little archaic.
Another problem I discovered was when I arrived early at the bar. I’m so conditioned to just aimlessly search on my phone for news, sports scores, and anything else that interests me as I wait for my friends to arrive. I noticed other single people doing the same and I felt a little left out. Once my friends arrived, the rest of the night went fairly normal.
For the rest of the weekend, living in 1982 truly didn’t bother me that much, in fact, there were some things I kind of enjoyed. I actually liked listening to my Walkman. Yes, I said I liked listening to my Walkman. I rediscovered a bunch of old songs I never downloaded and kept on tapes for a decades and even found that I liked listening to good old-fashioned FM. What amazed me most was that I liked listening to the ads almost as much as the songs. For months I was complaining how there were no 24-hour sandwich shops in my area (I live in the Poconos, they’re rough to come by), and lo and behold, I heard an ad for a new gas station that had a full service deli 24 hours a day. I visited it later that night and they even have Boar’s Head cold cuts. Score!
Also, I found that not having to check my daily web sites, e-mails, and texts not only freed up more time in the day but also made me less anxious. I felt I was thinking clearer and it turns out, I might be right. A recent book by Professor Frank Partnoy suggests that modern technology makes humans more impatient by making instant decisions. By taking our time with our decisions, we can make more educated choices. In an interview with The Daily Mail, Partnoy said, “Our ability to think about the future is what separates us from animals, but technology is making us act instantly and make instant decisions.”
By the end of the weekend, I was mixed about how I would celebrate the end of 1982.
Would I still shun post-1982 technology or would I go on an all-night Internet binge? As it turns out, when midnight on Sunday approached, I just treated it like any normal night. Quick check of texts, e-mails, and then bed, nothing special. I suppose that’s the goal of all technology. As new inventions become more widely accepted, it works as just a part of your life. Also, there will also always be a group of people who are against new inventions. As it turns out, when the telegraph was first invented, there was a large opposition to it as well. So if you feel lost in this digital world but feel like you can’t unplug from it, you should definitely try… it might be easier than you think.