Tete-a-tete Archives

An eclectic sampling of my award-winning humor columns. New columns can be read online at www.nashuatelegraph.com on the first Thursday of the month, with columns posted here later in the month.

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Tete-a-tete: Streamlined technology makes it easier to come home for the holidays – unlike when I was in college

Youngest Brother and Younger Sister will soon be coming home from college for Thanksgiving. Along with their dirty laundry, they’ll be bringing something I was never able to bring home for a weekend when I was in college: their computers.

It amazes me how quickly technology has changed. Even though it’s been a little more than a decade since I was a college student, from a technological standpoint, it was essentially a different epoch. Laptops existed but had not yet come into widespread use. I had a decidedly-non-portable desktop PC, as did most of my friends.

Each person who lived on campus had their own landline in their dorm room, the extension for which was listed in the campus phone book. I remember being excited to have a T1 internet connection, as it was so much faster than the dialup connection we had at home.

Facebook was in its nascent stages; YouTube and Twitter did not yet exist. Our main social media platforms were a campus-wide system called FirstClass, AOL Instant Messenger and LiveJournal. No one referred to it as “social media” at the time, however, because the term hadn’t been invented yet. We simply called it what it was for us: procrastination.

Digitalization of entertainment was in its infancy. Overall, if you wanted to enjoy a particular type of entertainment, you needed to have it in tangible form, along with the appropriate equipment to play it. Watching a movie required a TV and a videotape and VCR or a DVD and a DVD player. Listening to music required a CD and a CD player. Reading a book required, well, a book.

As you can imagine, dorm rooms were rather crowded when I was in college, especially if you or your roommate was a bit of a movie buff or a bookworm.

Going home for a holiday weekend was an exercise in decision-making and deprivation. You couldn’t take your computer with you. If you had a computer at home, the internet connection likely wasn’t fast enough to keep in touch with your friends. You had to choose what movies, music and books to bring with you, especially if you had a long distance to travel.

And all Youngest Brother and Younger Sister have to do is grab their laptops or tablets, their smartphones and the respective chargers, and they have all of that and more. I mean, I even had to bring my portable alarm clock home with me. They just set the alarm on their phones.

Even more impressive is that Youngest Brother and Younger Sister’s computers fit in their backpack and purse respectively. Try doing that with a monitor, keyboard, tower, mouse and the tangle of cords needed to connect all the components. And their phones fit in their pockets!

I don’t mean to sound naïve or credulous (Phones! Phones that fit into pockets!), but I do believe we’ve become so comfortable with our current technology that we sometimes forget how incredible – and how fast – these advancements have been.

My college computer had a 1 gigabyte hard drive. A little more than a decade later, my smartphone has a capacity of 13 gigabytes, with additional storage in the cloud. Had you mentioned the iCloud to me back in college, I would’ve assumed it was something that built up in the center of a hurricane.

These developments are mind-blowing, yet we often take them for granted. It’s easy for me to get frustrated with slow or spotty Wi-Fi – until I remember the days when I would wait half an hour to connect to the internet through our phone line, only to be booted off every time someone called our house.

Technology has not always been a servant at my beck and call, doing its utmost to make my life convenient. It wasn’t that long ago that I would change my habits to suit the technology. During my college breaks, I would use the internet at home in the wee hours of the morning when I could be (relatively) sure of an uninterrupted connection.

How very odd to think that my parents would tell us how fortunate we were for not having to walk to school (uphill, both ways) in the freezing cold, and now I’m telling my youngest siblings to appreciate their instantaneous internet connectivity and have patience when their apps are slow to refresh. Hardship is indeed relative.

Overall, I’m pleased that Youngest Brother and Younger Sister don’t have to make the choices I did when coming home for a holiday and can enjoy the benefits of compact, effective technology. But I am anticipating a definite downside to it.

Since they don’t have to cram their luggage with DVDs, books and CDs, they have more room for dirty laundry. The internet has become much faster since I was in college, but it still takes the same amount of time to do a load of laundry. Happy Thanksgiving, Mom and Dad.

– Teresa Santoski

Originally published Nov. 2, 2017


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