AT every point in my life I have seen the hardware and technology around me as unremarkable and unchanging, as normal and even boringly normal, and this has been over 60 or so years of probably the greatest change ever.
Yes, I'd marvel briefly at a new thing, but only briefly. I remember before I was 10 being gobsmacked by the first flushing toilet I saw, and not just because everything disappeared with the pull of a chain. That the toilet was inside the house, and not in its own distinctive building up the back, was just as shocking.
It was a couple of years before I saw the last of the dunny man carrying the pan on a shoulder up past our house to his truck, but well before that historic day I'd come to see the flushing toilet as unremarkable. It was just a little late getting to my street.
After years of banging the keys of manual typewriters in newspaper offices I remember being astonished by the electric typewriter, but within a day or two it was the new normal. Years later my amazement at even computer terminals lasted only a day or two before they became hard work and something I accepted I could not understand.
Over the past few days I've created a list, on my smart phone, of things that at some point in my 65 years have become the new normal, of things we didn't always have, and the change in my life has never been so stark. Imagine if this change had happened in one day.
As well as the flushing toilet and the sewer, there came to be hot water on demand, the hot water tap we couldn't live without. And without a hot water tap there was no bathroom shower.
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The dishwasher arrived at my place in the early 1980s and hasn't left since, the microwave oven about the same time, and while the push-a-button washing machine and clothes dryers didn't mean much to me they did to my mother and my wife. As a single adult I took my clothes to a laundromat and probably would still today if my wife didn't do the laundry.
It is easy to forget the change brought about by the mobile phone. We can phone almost anyone, everywhere in Australia at the standard rate, when for much of my life trunk calls, or those beyond the local exchanges, were so expensive they were reserved for family emergencies.
Televisions and home phones arrived in my life 50 years ago, although it was almost another 15 years before I had a telephone in my own digs. It is easy to forget the change brought about by the mobile phone, the biggest of course that we are contactable pretty well everywhere. We can phone someone, almost anyone, everywhere in Australia at the standard rate, when for much of my life trunk calls, or those beyond the local exchanges, were so expensive they were reserved for family emergencies.
No SMS! No selfies, no phone camera, no sending photos in an instant (and with perfect clarity), and without digital photography and probably phone cameras there may be no Facebook, no eBay or Gumtree or online sell-your-house or sell-your-car sites.
Without the internet there most certainly would be none of those. No online newspapers or news sites, and most people would still be reading a newspaper in paper form every day. No email! Many adults have never lived without the internet and will find it difficult to imagine life without it. No online dating! No online shopping!
To get a handle on life without internet we have to consider life without home computers, tablets, smart phones, without Google. Difficult, and perhaps impossible when we realise that the internet is essential to pretty well everything we think of as modern. For a generation today the internet didn't arrive, it was already there.
GPS came to cars and amazed me for a little longer than most new things. At about the same time the anti-lock braking system, known as ABS, arrived and we can only fully appreciate it when we hear the fft fft fft on a wet road and realise it has saved us from an out-of-control skid and probably a collision. Much earlier seatbelts were instantly a pain and still are. Because cars became just a little better each year we may not realise how far they have come.
Good teeth used not to be the norm, in the days before fluoride was added to water. So many children and adults had black holes in their teeth! New therapies have come close to eradicating stuttering, which used to be common and was often severe.
Antibiotics, cancer drugs and treatments, and a new family of anti-depressants that work so well they're known colloquially as happy pills.
Supermarkets, cordless tools, affordable air travel and more recently air travel so cheap it's a little worrying, sunscreen, solar energy, ATMs and the redundancy of cash, CCTV that can track a person through a city, dashcam, DNA and its role in pinning crims even decades after the crime, portable music, Airbnb.
Plastic cards and easy credit, gyms for other than fanatics, steroid-pumped muscularity, coffee and cafes, de facto partnerships and homosexual marriage, police radar and speed cameras, wheeled bins, university as the standard progression, gun control for everyone but crims, app-managed cabs that avoid government restriction by calling their service ride sharing.
The ubiquity of China, the popularity of life-destroying drugs, the control of smoking. Amazing. And more to come.
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