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Technology Astounds and Amazes


Recently Paul Harris, a Missouri broadcaster who writes a popular personal web log, published a column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper in which he listed some of the things in his life that his 11-year-old daughter will grow up knowing nothing about.

Little things, mostly.

Cranking up the windows in the family car, for instance. There are no cranks in today's automobiles. Electric buttons control everything.

Like millions of other American adults, Harris recalls phonograph records, cameras with flashbulbs and flash cubes, phones with rotary dials, smoking at work and on airplanes, motels that proudly advertised their air-conditioned rooms, and gas stations where a rubber hose would go ding-ding when entering cars drove over it.

The bell alerted the attendant that someone needed gas and a window-cleaning. These days, customers fill their own tanks and clean their own windows. No need for a ding-ding.

Paul Harris's column got us thinking of some other things that American kids are missing, such as slide rules; defrosting the refrigerator with pans of hot water, or chipping out the build-up with a sharp ice pick; buying a vacuum cleaner from a door-to-door salesman; televisions that brought in just three or four fuzzy stations; double-features, cartoons, and multi-part serial adventure stories at the movies; and driving around without seat belts. You couldn't buckle up if you'd wanted to, for there were no belts in the car.

Just as we can't expect today's children to understand what it means to crank up the window, you'd best not ask them to meet you at quarter past five. You need an analog watch with moving hands to get a quarter of the way around the dial. It's a digital world now. A more convenient world. But maybe not as wondrous a one.

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