Scanorama column: Gadgets are forever

When I was a kid, my father was an appliance store manager. Maybe the times were tough, maybe my parents couldn’t afford daycare, but I spent a lot of time with my father at the store, playing around with televisions, radios and stereos.

Rest of the Scanorama column after the jump.

In fact, I learned to read by reading back the letters in a promotional pillow my father had brought home from work. It said, “have a great Grundig summer.” I was almost four years old.

My uncles, grandfather and great uncles were also in the business. TV was the big thing in the 1970s.
My father switched jobs, to another store, and I still tagged along. Mostly, I used to hang out in the back room, but I have a vivid memory of standing in front of a wall of television sets, and playing Pong. (I also have a memory of beating everybody but that may be something I’ve made up afterwards).

Thanks to Dad, I’ve been eating microwaved food since 1977, and I am still looking for a particular videotape from that same year. The tape was thick as a brick, but on it, was an episode of “Lassie” and the final of a Finnish music contest. Later that year, the winner of the contest became the spokesperson for “Black Casio” watches. You know, digital watches. I got one and a poster with the spokesperson on it. (I loved that watch, and was almost personally offended when a JPEG of that advertising campaign went around the Internet as a joke a couple of months ago.)

A few years later, Dad installed a car phone in our Opel, and for Christmas 1984, I got a Sinclair 64K personal computer and a tape with some games. I spent that Christmas trying to break a wall with a bouncing ball and a paddle.

Two years later, I got my first portable CD player. Because a CD player is worthless without any CDs, Dad had ventured out to a record store and got me three albums: Paul McCartney’s Press to Play, Sabrina’s Boys, and Eurythmics’ Revenge. Quite a range.

And so it goes. I can list holidays, events, birthdays, friends, classmates, by some gadgets and computer games that I link to them.

Gadgets are our collective memory. We can easily tell our own stories, but also the history of our society by looking back at the gadgets we’ve had, and the ones we skipped over.

But while technology advances, and we can do more things faster, the human needs that drive the development are still the same as, well, always.

We want to get in touch with people, we want to be entertained, we want to share our feelings and experiences with other people that have the same feelings and experiences, and we want to be loved.

Here I am, writing this on a laptop that’s hooked up to the Internet on a WiFi connection, listening to iTunes, with two mobile phones – Nokia E61 and SonyEricsson W850i – on my desk, while chatting with a friend of mine on Live Messenger (BETA).

Oh, you’re right. I’m not “listening to iTunes.” I’m listening to Eurythmics’ Revenge.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

How does that make you feel?