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OPINION: Lifetime changes that are universal today

Can’t take farm out of boy June 2, 2021 at 8:56 a.m.

Sometimes I find myself resisting changes, even though for the most part I have always been ready to try new things, and have welcomed many changes as progress and improvement to our ways of life.

My cellphone, a flip-phone that I have used for several years, was a device that I went to because the cell phone companies were retiring their so-called 2G service. Now, this week I received a letter from AT&T saying that by February 2022 they will be retiring their 3G service, and that my phone will no longer work after that date.

Well, becoming out-of-date is becoming common with the rapid technology changes that happen to us these days. Back in 2007, I had a new Heat and Air Unit installed in our house, making sure that I went with the latest in refrigerants and a high SEER number. That unit replaced an old furnace and air conditioner that was about 35 years old, one with the old belt-driven blower. I have been thinking of the current unit as fairly new, and that it shouldn't give trouble any time soon. But, one of the recent technicians who serviced the unit told me that "your unit is getting old," and the refrigerant that it uses is no longer being manufactured." Hmmmm!

I'm thinking again that though we old people are often stereotyped as just old-fogies resistant to change, we actually have gone through change after change after change in our 20th and 21st century lifetimes, and we just wish to be able to use our new changes for a while before we have to change again and learn again how to do things that we thought we had learned once and for all.

In the computer world, I have already been out-moded at least five times. I started with Commodore computers in the 1980s, and when Commodore was fading out in the 1990s, I moved over to the MS-DOS world of IBM-compatible computers. Then came WINDOWS, first as a shell running on top of MS-DOS, then as a replacement of MS-DOS.

So, we have been through Windows 3.11, then Windows 95, then Windows XP, followed by Windows 7, and now Windows 10. We have gone from MSDOS-like command prompts to menu-controls and on to Graphic User Interfaces with mouses and touch pads and touch screens and who knows what else.

I was born in 1940, and came to be aware of being in the world in the midst of World War II. We farm families were accustomed to outdoor toilets with old Montgomery Ward catalogs as our toilet paper. We drew our water for the house by letting down a bucket in the well, and drawing the filled bucket by a rope running over a pulley attached to an arch over the well. The well was our refrigerator, the place for keeping our milk and butter and cheese. The water at the bottom of the well was very cool, so it kept the butter and all very well. Our bathtub was a No. 3 galvanized washtub, of the type that was also used as a rinse tub working with our wringer washer (which was powered by a little gas motor that our Mom could never get to start without help). We kept our water bucket by the sink, usually with a dipper in the water for drinking.

The houselights were kerosene lamps, one of which always sat on top of the old upright piano to light the living room in the evenings. We did have a battery powered radio, so we were up-town in keeping in touch with the world. And I was able to listen to the Lone Ranger and Tonto and to Sky King. Many of the old radio programs were at least as interesting as the later TV programs. The broadcasters knew how to use sound very effectively. Listening to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game on the radio with Harry Kerry as the commentator meant that you weren't missing much even without the visuals.

I'm not sure just which of the big changes we have been through we would miss the most if we had to go back to the previous ways. Possibly one of the most major would be the coming of rural electricity in the late 1930s and 1940s.

Electricity would lead to so many differences in what we did day to day. Today, we use electrical appliances as just one of the expected normal parts of life. Our houses today are built so as to be dependent on electricity, hot and cold running water, community sewer systems, natural gas service. Internet by cable or satellite, and cell phones and smart phones have become almost universal. We hardly think that life could have gone on for centuries very effectively without all those things.

Alexander the Great of Greece probably thought he was on top of the world in the millenia gone by, but he never had a phone, never saw an electric light, never rode in an automobile, never saw a flying machine. We common people live with luxuries that the wealthiest people of years gone by never imagined. Maybe we should be more appreciative than we commonly are.


Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge and an award-winning columnist, is vice president of Pea Ridge Historical Society. Opinions expressed are those of the writer. He can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected], or call 479-621-1621.


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