Sunday, March 20, 2011

A few changes in lifestyle...

I had a conversation with a group of teenagers, and now I really feel old. I did start to reflect, though, on life when I was 18 years old, which was 40 years ago. At the time, I was working for the Tennessee Valley Authority as an apprentice electric lineman, and had a little apartment. I was comparing things generally then with things generally now, and the teens could hardly relate. Some of the areas we covered follow.
Communications: I had a landline telephone, which at the time was the only kind. I had a dial-type desk phone of course, in basic black; in those days, one did not own phones, they rented them from Ma Bell, and touch-tone phones were more expensive. How did I operate voice mail systems? Well, I didn't, since there was little voicemail then, and the systems with it simply gave a message, and took yours after a certain number of rings. No, you did not press 1 for English; everyone was expected to speak English, since this was the US of A. So there. No, there were no cellphones, so how did I call someone if I was not at home? Look for a pay phone, which was not difficult, since the things were everywhere. How did someone reach me if I was not at home? They generally did not. Texting? What was that? I was a bit ahead of the game with that, though, since I was a Ham radio operater, and VHF FM mobile units were coming into popularity, since repeaters were popping up everywhere, so I generally had communications if I needed it while out in the car.
But how did I email anybody? I didn't, since there was no email. If I needed to write someone, I would commit my wisdom to paper, fold it, place it in an envelope, address the envelope, add a stamp, and take it to the mailbox. It would eventually get to the recipient. Of course, since my handwriting has always sucked, I would generally put my words to paper using technology - a typewriter. No spell check, no cut and paste, no whatever; it was a typewriter.
I had to do this, of course, because there were no personal computers - they did not come around until the mid-1970s, and were pretty much unaffordable to most folks. Of course, when they did start to show up, there were no mice, since there were no GUIs; command line only. There were some telecommunications by about 1980, but generally among hobbiest geeks, on very slow dial-up modems, and by text only. The internet did not become available to the general public until about 1990.
So, with no computers and no internet, how did one do research, shop, or pay bills?
Research was done by going to the library, looking up stuff, and checking out some useful books.
Shopping was mostly done by going to stores. What a concept! If local stores did not have, and could not order, what you wanted, you went back to the library, looked up some companies that may carry what you wanted, and call the company on the phone (usually a long-distance call, though some of the larger companies had the new-fangled "800" toll-free numbers) or write them a letter, and request a catalog.
Bill paying was done, of all things, by writing checks, and mailing them to the biller.
One of my little discussion group said that he eats a lot of pot pies and TV dinners, and was a bit surprised to find out that yes, those were around back in the day, but were not "microwaveable", since microwave ovens were not common. In fact, both TV dinners and frozen pot pies came in aluminum pans, which would not be agreeable with a microwave appliance, so they went into the plain ol' oven.
Yes, a few changes over the years...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Typed on a thrift-store find Royal Royalite portable. Very dirty but fully functional, with case, $9.88 + tax. I did the typecast above just as a test, and except for a quick run-through of keys in the store, this is its first bit o' printing. I am encouraged. I will get it cleaned up and tuned up, and a fresh ribbon, and we will see what happens.

Bit o' update: a bit of research by serial number shows this to be a 1962 model, manufactured in Holland.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Real radios glow in the dark!

I was tinkering around the other evening, and dragged out a handy toy, my 1941 Zenith Universal Companion portable radio. It is a six-tube unit, in a wood cabinet covered with a shellacked linen covering. It is AM only, as this was before FM broadcast. It still works fairly well, with a bit of a hum, bacause of bad filter capacitors that I will need to replace one of these days.

The operation of this thing is surprisingly good, considering that it is seventy years old. When it got dark outside, I was able to pick out the three-letter stations in Chicago, Atlanta, and New Orleans, and a dial full of others. It has only a 4 inch speaker, but the wood cabinet gives it a notably good sound. Note that this one has a sailboat stitched into the speaker cover. Pearl Harbor was in December of 1941, and beginning in January of 1942, the sailboat was replaced by a 4-engine bomber, which continued until April of '42, when Zenith went into fulltime war production, and stopped offering radios to the public. I have a number of tube-type radios, AM and shortwave, to which I need to pay more attention, as well as my other hobby activities. I am working on it...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Back after a little break

So, it has been a while, but you get what you pay for, and this blog is free, so there. I have been a bit disturbed by things lately, so I will take this opportunity to explain, and to complain a bit. Bear with me.
I am pleased that spring seems to be in full bloom here, which gives me open license to ride scooters, one of my favorite things. I am not pleased that yard work season is also revving up, with random and various plant life rising up outside, taking a deep breath, and stretching in anticipation of making me a yard slave for the next several months.
I addition, my mobility is becoming more limited. I am a DBK, a Double Below Knee amputee, missing both my lower legs from about 5 inches below the knee. This in itself in not a tradegy - prosthetics have come a long way in these recent years, and the ones I have, while needing an update, do allow me to stagger perilously around with a cane. The "additional factor" is that for the last several years, arthritis has been slowly but surely setting into my already crippled and ungainly body, in the last couple of years, more quickly and more surely, and it is beginning to be a pain, literally. My hands will not make a proper fist. I type two-fingered, with the left index finger, and the right middle finger. My guitar playing has lost its verve. What is left of my legs is developing stiffness and pain in the joints I have left (hips and knees). When and to what extent this will happen is apparently random, though I am sure it is not, but I have not yet connected it to a cause-effect pattern. It is always there, but gets better and worse. I will get a better handle on it as it goes along.