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My Memories From 18 Years Ago Have Grown Up & Moved Out

March 1st, 2019 by dk

I was invited this week to think back on my year in leadership for a local civic organization. The exercise left me astonished to discover that 2001 was 18 years ago! Whatever new thoughts I had back then are now old enough to move out and live on their own. I’ll be grateful for the times when they stop by for a quick visit.

The World Trade Center was still a beacon for New York commerce and very little else. Terrorism was barely a thought, “homeland” was a word we never used, and federal security agencies were spelling “al Qaeda” five or six different ways — preventing any unified defense. We could buy an airplane ticket with cash, and walk with friends to the gate, unimpeded. Nobody took their shoes off in an airport, even if it was new carpeting.

Our TVs were still bulbous, and the video rental store would fine you a dollar if you forgot to rewind the VHS tape before returning it. Global warming was talked about, but not everyone had their minds made up about it. I heard about hybrid electric vehicles, but had never seen a Toyota Prius myself.

Mark Zuckerberg was a high school student, just learning to drive. FaceBook was still several years in the future. We had the Internet, but it wasn’t a central part of any normal person’s world. I used Netscape, Alta Vista, and AOL. Google was not yet being used as a verb. Bing was only a cherry.

Cell phones were uncommon, so emcees asked audience members to turn off their pagers, just for practice. Those who had cell phones barely knew what to do with them. It took Kiefer Sutherland racing into our living rooms as Jack Bauer on “24” in late 2001 to get us to imagine what we would do if we had a cell phone. Fight crime, mostly.

We had reasons to go home at the end of each day. Important mail was delivered and our answering machine might be blinking. If there were messages, we had to rewind the tape to listen. (How much time did we spend rewinding things?) If we called somebody back, but they were talking to somebody else, we’d get a busy signal.

Nobody’s phone did anything but make phone calls. There was no such thing as texting. No app stores. If you were bored for a moment, you had to tough it out. The weakest among us would challenge strangers to “Rock, Paper, Scissors.”

If you wanted a photo of anything, you needed a camera. And film. And maybe a flash cube. And you would need patience, because even the fastest photo developing services needed an hour. Streaming concerned fishing or rafting. The only thing to be found in the cloud was precipitation. Our devices weren’t yet smart, so we still had to be.

I had fun rewinding my memories of that year, but I’m thankful rewinding is mostly a metaphor now.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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