This article is for my three kids. They will, very soon, start seeing the world through adult eyes, and a lot of things about my generation will just plain not make any sense to them. I'm going to attempt to explain some of it, so that they don't dismiss an entire generation of people as rock-fuck stupid. For instance, the generation coming up behind us most likely won't understand ...
Do you use Skype or Yahoo Messenger? Take a look at some of their icons.
Specifically, the "Call" and "Voice Call" icons.
I know my kids have never used the old microphone that Yahoo Messenger uses to represent "Voice Call" because I raised them, and therefore can safely say than none of them are news anchors from the 1950s. But it won't be long before the vast majority of the people using those programs have never used a phone or mic like that, or even seen one in person. It doesn't take a genius to know that those are just outdated and obsolete versions of modern phones and mics, and you might even recognize them from any movie filmed before 1995, but other concepts might be harder to grasp.
For instance, if you weren't alive during the early 90s, how are you supposed to know what the hell that thing next to the "Save" button on every single program in existence is supposed to represent.
A Transformer talking out of the side of its mouth?
My generation knows that the little square icon is supposed to be a 3.5-inch floppy disk -- the primary means of backing up files or transferring them between computers from the 1970s through about 10 years ago. But even though these things no longer have a purpose or even exist in the computing world, they're still the universally recognized symbol for "save your work."
It would take 111,112 of these to backup your 160 gig hard drive. One of them could hold about one minute of one MP3.
But it's not just icons. There are terms that have outlasted the technology they described. Like when TV programs use the phrase "weekly rewind," my kids never bat an eye because to them, "rewind" just means to look back on something. To review it or play it again. The idea that tape would have to be physically wound around spools to watch something again is foreign to them.
A few people even had video rewinders. These same people own $300 HDMI cables today.
The term just stuck around, presumably because the importance of rewinding videotapes was drilled into our heads by video rental stores with more urgency than AIDS awareness.
We use the term "dashboard" to describe the control panel on a computer program. But everyone in my generation knows the dashboard is actually a shelf in the car that holds all of our cigarettes, sunglasses and speeding tickets. But wait -- that's still not actually what it is.
A dashboard is actually from my great-grandparents' generation, when horse and buggy was the common means of transportation. The dashboard was a piece of wood put up as a shield to protect your face and clothes when the horse took off running and its feet started slinging (or dashing) mud up at you.
Also where you mounted your wicked CD players.
OK, so maybe my generation is just as guilty of not knowing what we're talking about. But that doesn't make it any less strange that my kids will have no idea what I'm talking about when I mention ...
We used to have to plan our bathroom breaks around commercials because there was no TiVo or video on demand or illegal uploads of the show on YouTube. If you wanted to see a program, your ass had better be in the seat, or it started without you. If you drank a lot of coffee or tea, you were eventually going to have to make a choice between missing crucial plot points or pissing your pants.
Sometimes, that was a lot harder than it sounds.
Do you like cartoons? Not too long ago, those were a valuable commodity for kids because they came only on Saturday mornings, and even then only for three or four hours. Well, at least the good ones did. We had early morning cartoons that came on before school during the week, but most of those were a shitty, poor man's version of the real thing.
Or if you were being punished, there was The Bozo Show.
So since they were on only at a very specific time, if you wanted to see them, you got your ass up early on a Saturday even though you had no other reason to get out of bed before noon. Otherwise, you missed them, and you had to wait another whole week to see them again.
Late-night talk shows were on the other end of the spectrum. Want to watch one, but you have to be up early for work? Fuck you -- you either learned to function on five hours of sleep, or you learned to hate David Letterman.
I tried, but I just can't.
Speaking of TV, if you're watching reruns at all, you probably have a few questions, because ...
There was a time when an entire episode of a sitcom could be, and frequently was, based on one character leaving the room just seconds before another would enter it. The fact that they could never quite find each other was the driving point of the plot.
So much classic comedy has been sacrificed for the glory of progress and not needing to understand a map.
One of the most popular episodes of Seinfeld, "The Bubble Boy," was based on this. Jerry gets lost trying to follow George into upstate New York, and zany antics ensue. And for the time, it worked just fine because people could relate to it. Everyone had at one time or another tried to follow a friend without knowing where they were going, only to have that friend drive too fast or blow through the ass-end of a yellow light, leaving them in the dust.
And we've all had the odd game or two of Trivial Pursuit with a terminally ill boy in a bubble.
Today, it just doesn't work. We could simply fire up the GPS and tell it where we're headed. Or pull out the cellphone, call the person and say, "Hey, dipshit. Slow the fuck down or I will dick-whip you in the goddamn eye. I'm eight blocks behind you because you don't know how to fucking drive, Mom."
"Are you spending all your glasses money on fucking Ambien?"
In the same episode, George plays Trivial Pursuit with the boy in the bubble, and on what would be the winning question for the boy, George discovers a misprint that saves his ass. The answer was supposed to be "Moors," but they misspelled it as "Moops" on the card. That triggers a heated argument that just simply wouldn't last more than 10 seconds today. My kids don't know a world where a quick Google search on your phone couldn't clear everything right up.
For the same reason, lovable bullshit-artist characters like Cliff Clavin don't really make sense anymore. Our older readers remember Cliff as the beer-swilling mailman on the sitcom Cheers who sat at the corner of the bar and rattled off bullshit claims out from under a stunning mustache. Our younger readers would recognize him as "that dude we can shut down before the second word makes it past his stupid child-molester mustache." Everyone knows at least one guy like this in real life: "I have a cousin who played a stormtrooper in Star Wars."
Really? Let's pull up IMDb real quick. What's his name, again? That's what I thought. Shut the fuck up.
The Office recently had an episode where Michael got lost, and the gang from work had to find him. But before that plot got into full swing, there had to be extra setup scenes explaining that he had left his cell in Jim's car, and showing him attempting to call the office, unsuccessfully. In the old days of TV, as soon as the characters got physically separated, the audience immediately recognized the situation as one that has fucked us all. No extra explanation required.
"No need for wacky hijinks today, Tom! We've got Google Latitude."
And let's not forget about the old plot setup where one person picks up his phone and finds someone else already talking on another phone in another room. He catches part of a conversation, which leads to a miscommunication or gives him vital information that moves the story along. That's not just something that happened on TV. If you grew up in a household with two phones, at least once in your life, you went to make a phone call only to plunge into a private conversation mid-stream. But my kids will never experience that. Hell, they'll probably be baffled by ...