A video came across my Facebook feed called "Kids React to Walkmans" where a group of children are given an early 90's style portable cassette player and asked to figure out what this contraption is and what it does. As a whole, they're pretty much flummoxed and by the end of the video they have proclaimed modern MP3 technology to be far superior.
Well, duh. Anyone who has ever had to repair an unspooled cassette with a pen could tell you THAT.
Watching these kids in the video struggle with what seemed like the relatively simple concept of popping a cassette into a walkman so music comes out the earphones made me think of some of the other near- or completely- obsolete tech that my generation takes for granted.
A few weeks ago for family movie night, we watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which, by the way, is now one of my favourite movies ever. Surprisingly kid-friendly, too. As we watched, the thought came to me that it was entirely possible that none of the children present even had any concept of film-based photography. To the best of my knowledge my kids have only ever used digital cameras or at best disposable cameras. They've not been exposed (ha!) to the fumbling involved in loading film in to a 35mm camera.
Okay, maybe other people found that sort of thing easy, but I have ruined many a roll in my time.
My kids would not be able to point out or name any of the equipment that used to sit in my dad's home-made darkroom when I was a teenager. Negatives, slides, spools, washes, fixatives. All completely foreign.
I wondered how much of this particular film went over their head, not being familiar with the process of photo development.
It's not only technology. We also take the cultural references for granted.
A week later, we gathered and watched Saving Mr. Banks. About two thirds of the way through I came to the realization that my kids had never actually seen Mary Poppins (Tess's kids had). We've got an extensive collection of movies, some dating back to the early 20's, but somehow this one had gotten by us.
There's always this misconception that children and especially teens don't have appreciation for things that pre-date, well, them. However, it's an appreciation that can be built up, with exposure.
One day in car I popped in a Mountain Goats CD and my eldest rolled her eyes and went "Ugh.. old people music.." (Seriously? The Sunset Tree came out in 2005! Old people music. Psh.) My response was to put on The Complete Robert Johnson Collection.
You want to call something "old people music?" There's your old people music. Sorry, Grandma.
I dunno. I guess I grew up with an appreciation of my parent's generation of music and film, because I was regularly exposed to it. When other kids were listening to New Kids on the Block, I was into The Guess Who, Harry Belafonte and Stompin' Tom.
But there are some things that I guess we can't quite recreate, like the excitement of getting a custom-made mixed tape, or seeing animated penguins dance on screen with Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews for the first time.
Myself, I haven't seen Mary Poppins in years.
I think I may have the soundtrack on vinyl, though.
Post-Script: Holy crap! Typewriters! I didn't even mention typewriters. What kind of crazy old-timey shit is that, amirite?
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