My 16-year-old VCR just broke, giving me an opportunity to reflect on the many changes that have taken place since my childhood in the little things of daily life: I'm talking about memories from age 4 and up. I remember going to sleep with the door partly open and the hall light on. For some reason there was no night light, although some of my playmates had them. I remember looking out my window at night and seeing the lights of the Empire State Building, twinkling like Oz. Now there are many tall buildings to block that view, if I were to go to sleep in that room. And the night sounds...our Queens row house had a driveway and a garage, but the majority of our neighbors were non-car-owners. The sound of one car driving up the street more unusual than the sound of an airplane flying overhead on its way to Idlewild Airport. We used to have nice brass chimes that rang (acoustic!) when the doorbell was pressed. There was one console radio with a record-player in the living room and little radio in the kitchen where we listened to WQXR at 6PM, during dinner. We got the first TV on the block, and neighbors would come over to watch baseball games, or just to look at the test patterns that took up a lot of the daytime hours.
Now I look around my house and it's a humming hive of 24/7 electronic activity. My technical advisors tell me it's better to leave the appliances turned on if I use them frequently, so I do. Little green lights and little red lights blinking away on the computer, the keyboard, the optical mouse, the modem, the monitor, the TV, the VCR, the microwave oven clock...not to mention the traffic noises, which do slow down at night but never stop completely (except on Yom Kippur). The remotes have their own little caddy. Wires are everywhere, and they annoy me... I'm thinking about going Bluetooth. Or maybe camping instead...
So many things ring or buzz to remind me to answer something beside the front door: the phone, the cellphone, the computer (Skype is great). And then there's the insistent blinking things: voicemail on the cellphone, SMS on the cellphone, Instant Messages on the computer, voicemail on Skype.
It would be so different to live today without electricity, never mind without electronics, yet there are millions, maybe billions of people who do, right now. No wonder the world has become more complicated as it shrinks. The discrepancies are getting bigger. It worries me.