Of Old Age and iPads

I turned old yesterday. Specifically, 31. Just two days ago, I didn’t feel old. Being 30 was exciting. It feels good to say, “I’m 30” when people are rude, intimate, or foreign enough to ask your age ask your age. You’re on the cusp, you’re standing on the threshold between the intoxicating, insecure freedom of being in your 20’s and the maturity of your 30’s.

“I’m 31” feels boring, somehow. Like you’ve already stepped through the door and are now on the other side of respectable. Like people expect you to show up to parties wearing a sweater and having thoughtful, non-committal opinions about the national GDP. I am still young, but I feel I am on the road to old.

So, I compiled a mental list of things that make me feel old right now. In the future, when I am inexplicably even older, my daughters and sons will come across this post in the catacombs of the Internet on their iPad 26’s and then mock me relentlessly for being so ancient. In those heady, futuristic days, when everyone is bald and we all wear silver body suits all day, Facebook and WordPress will evoke the same giddy derision as the words “Friendster” and “GeoCities” do now.

All of them, I realize, have to do with technology. Which perhaps isn’t fair given the speed of innovation that computer technology and our late capitalist economy are capable of. I mean, Steve Jobs helped invent and promote the personal computer and the iPad 2, a device even school children think looks like it came out of the future as depicted in Star Trek (you know, that very shiny JJ Abrams movie).

In the past, and by that I mean, pretty much the entire history of our species before about 1960, technology moved at a snail’s pace. We have technological ages like the Stone Age and the Bronze Age that lasted hundreds, if not thousands of years. Back then, a dude would invent ovens and then 834 years and millions of burned hands later, a different dude would invent oven mitts. These days, something like the iPod comes out and revolutionizes entire industries and then is nearly obsolete as technology (meaning, a device that only plays digital music) within 3 years.

Perhaps that’s the cost of living in an age of rapid technological change. The technologies of our youth (land lines! long distance rates!) become obsolete before we even get married or have children. Perhaps it makes our own past seem more distant, or perhaps it’s just that blogging encourages more self-indulgent self-reflection than is healthy.

Anyway, here’s what’s making me feel old this week:

1.) I owned a first generation iPod. The scroll wheel was a physical wheel that physically turned. I still have it. I got it in college. It’s only 8 years old, but it feels like a relic of some lost age, like it was Charlemagne’s personal music device.

2.) Seriously, I had a Friendster account in grad school. Grad school! MySpace was still for bands. Facebook was still a glimmer in Zuckerberg’s eye. There was only Friendster. It was big back then. As Oline commented on Twitter, we “crafted testimonials as though they would be read at people’s funeral when they died.”

3.) When I was a kid, we had a typewriter in the house. It was not an antique or decorative. It was functional. My parents used it to write things. It was soon replaced by a Mac II, but still. We had a typewriter.

4.) I remember people smoking on airplanes. The no-smoking light above your seat actually meant “put out your cigarettes in the little ash tray built into the arm of your seat,” not “please turn off and stow your iPad 26 as we turn off the artificial gravity and start our ascent into Neo-O’Hare Space Port.”

5.) I played Mario Bros. in an arcade. Not Super Mario Bros. Normal Mario Bros.

6.) Up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-B-A-start. If you know what that means, then I’m sorry, but you’re old, too. Go put on a sweater.

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3 Comments

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  1. you remember people smoking on planes?? i don’t even remember that. must be because i’m six months younger.

  2. Yeah, I don’t remember the smoking on planes, either, and I started flying when I was 6 months old… and I’m only 5 months younger. But I take issue with FB being a glimmer in Zuckerberg’s eye when we were in grad school – I joined in 2004, I think. I’m super old, but FB is no spring chicken. :o) Don’t feel bad, Austin. We’ll always have Alex P Keaton, The Princess Bride, and Transformers (back when they were only destroying cartoon cities). But happy belated birthday!!!

  3. I love those old video games. Man, I remember having those old Nintendo handheld games (not the gameboy), but before that. We had donkey kong and a game called “Fire” where you controlled two firefighters with your left and right buttons and they moved to save little screaming people.

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