When I was a kid, and something broke around the house – things were different. And when I say, “kid”, we’re talking about 35 years ago.
I remember once that a hinge on the back fence broke. If it broke on a Saturday after 5 o’clock, that hinge wasn’t getting fixed until Monday night – at the earliest, if Dad got home from work before the hardware store closed (there were no Lowes or Home Depots). More often than not, Dad would measure the hinge and look for scrap metal at the machine shop he was managing…and make up a new hinge over time…replacing it the following weekend with a beer next to his tool bag. He’d go slow, and methodically. A neighbor would walk up to the fence. There was talking, and the passing over of another beer.
Car repairs were titanic time voyages. There were trips to the library. Copies of a book called the “Chilton’s Manual” were made. Quarters were deposited into ancient machines called “Xerox” copiers (that’s pronounced “ZEE-ROCKS” if you’ve never heard of them). Trips were made to a NAPA store. Parts were ordered from a warehouse somewhere in Idaho, or Wyoming or a state you saw colored on a map somewhere in school. It took weeks. There were sheets in the driveway for parts to be laid – in order of disassembly – so as to insure they were put back in the correct order. There were bottles of beer. And more neighbors. And nothing happened on Sundays.
Today – we discovered the clips that hold the valence on top of our horizontal blinds in the kitchen broke, or got lost during cleaning. I walked upstairs to my personal-computer (PC) and browsed to a website named, “Thingiverse”. There are millions of pre-loaded 3D printer files stored in the “Cloud” (I believe the Cloud is in Idaho, or near it at the very least). I typed the words, “HORIZONTAL BLINDS” and found an image of the clip I needed. In 16 minutes, I had 2 parts printed that fit. 36 minutes later, the parts were installed and the valence was hanging back in place.
The Nissan Sentra I own made a bad light come on my dashboard. The word “soon” was emphasized with the flashing yellow light. Plugging a ‘code reader’ into the car’s “computer” revealed that the fuel mixture going into the engine was too lean. My mechanic (in no fewer than 5 minutes) told me it was a broken vacuum line. We Googled “Sentra Broken Vacuum Line” and 5 minutes later, were staring at the part in the engine compartment…..a one inch break in the manifold. 5 minutes after that, I had the part displayed on my Galaxy S7 “smartphone” on a website called “Amazon.com”. 2 days later, the mail lady brought me a box with the part in it. 5 minutes after that, I watched a video on how to uninstall the old broken part, and put in the new broken part. The new part cost about one fifth what it would have cost to buy at the dealer….about $40.00. Total fix time, including analysis, about 30 minutes.
I have a “smart” TV. Or rather, a “smart” TV “receiver”. (that’s the thing that makes the noisy sounds come out of the speakers). We don’t watch “one show” anymore. We’re currently watching all, of one show. I’ve seen every episode of the comedy series, “Scrubs”. I’ve watched each one, in sequence, 2,3,5 shows at a time. We’re currently watching every episode of the TV show, “LOST”. I am convinced this show is better than most of the new shows made today – but back when, it sucked. Because you had to wait. A week. Or months after each season conclusion. Last night after season three concluded, I “Googled”, ‘who is Jacob’, into my “smart phone”, when I felt a little lost in the plot. We’ll be done with the series in the time it took one season to come out years go. We’ll watch about 100% more actual “show” because there are no commercials on NetFlix – or YouTube – which I now watch like TV. Which is weird.
The “wi-fi” that drives the signal from my cable router to my “smart” receiver is spotty. So I went back to “Amazon.com” and found something called a “ethernet-over-power” adapter. It plugs into a 3 prong wall outlet near your TV….and has a twin that plugs into the wall by your cable modem wherever it is on the other side of the house. It “transmits” the “world wide web” at “gigabit speeds” through the copper power lines of my house. When I watch “LOST” now, it doesn’t lock up or stall anymore where I have to reboot something, or turn something on and off.
When I first got married, we “splurged” and bought a service for $9 a month called, “Netflix”. You would ‘dial up’ “Netflix.com” on your 486 computer, using a 56K modulator-demodulator (that’s modem for you young folks). It called a computer in Riverhead, NY. That phone in Riverhead was connected to a computer that I could tell what movies I wanted to see. A week later, I’d get 2 DVD’s in the mail. We’d watch one, and mail it back. 3 days later, we’d watch another movie. Today – Netflix accounts for about 30% of the entire traffic on the web. And I can watch as many movies as I want – as long as I want- as fast as I want. On vacation, we logged into our account on the rental’s TV. All the shows and account settings followed us there. . . no spending time with a ‘TV Guide’ necessary.
This morning, all the WiFi in my house stopped working correctly. The Android devices stayed connected, but the Apple phones and Pads didn’t connect. My son, who plays online games with friends in different states (at the same time) stayed connected via his X-Box. In 30 minutes, I was browsing 3 different support forums searching, “ANDROID CONNECTS TO WIFI BUT NOT APPLE”. It took me about 5 hours to figure out that adding my “POWER OVER ETHERNET” device had corrupted the internal settings of the Linksys wireless router, and it needed to be reset to factory default settings. I went from device to device and changed connections. Everyone was relieved….(no WiFi for several hours, that’s almost like no air or water now.). No repairman was called. No services rendered or received. No invoices or credit card swipe machines. It’s expected now – if something isn’t working – the solution is just inside your curved HD screen….
For 15 years in my prior professional life, we made video tape demonstrations and copied them from one VCR to another VCR. We made 10 copies at a time, and a customer wanting more information would wait 3-5 days for theirs to come in the mail. If they were an important customer, it took 24 hours and we sent the tape UPS RED, EARLY AM. I now have a job that lets me work from home. I connect with customers via Skype, GoToWebinar, our website, cellular phones with international plans, TeamViewer, Gmail and email. Those customers contact me real time via a “TALK TO US NOW” page on the website that is always up, and sends chats to my phone wherever I am, whenever I am wherever I am. 3 customers said they were purchasing after my webinar on Friday, and only 1 did. I am sending the other 2 notes via email and skype in an attempt to close sales before Monday, on Labor Day Weekend, using a program called, “JING” to capture screenshots of my software that they can see via one ‘click’ instantly. Sick days for me now mean, “Can I sit in this chair and do I have the strength to push these keys on this keyboard?”. 98% of the time, the answer is yes.
Time is getting faster. In the past year, using the resources we all have access to, I taught myself how to build and maintain a hydroponic greenhouse across an entire year – using 3 different methods to grow hundreds of tomatoes and lettuce heads and pounds of basil. I used YouTube to teach myself how to can and preserve jars of tomato sauce using the produce I’d grown. My best friend and I taught ourselves how to make our own wind generators and solar powered houses….using Google and Amazon for 90% of the journey. I learned how to prospect for Gold, and together we built a Gold Dredge like the ones they use on the TV – and we dredged an actual creek 3 miles from one of the original goldmines in North Carolina. We taught ourselves to make “air conditioner-misting-systems’ that increase the inefficiencies of our home’s outdoor heat exchanger. According to the power company, it has saved my friend somewhere between $500 and $1000 in electric bills this year alone. In my pre-internet-library world – this would not have been possible.
Everything we want to know – everything we want, is 1 second to 1 or 2 days away. Not weeks, or months, or years. I’m thinking – right now – I can put a headset on right now, and tour any museum in the world, in Virtual Reality. Or, I can research 10 career fields with my oldest son whose a Junior in High School, and schedule a college campus tour online having taken a virtual “walk around” via YouTube with him in our living room. I can connect with alumni via email and skype or Facebook chat to guide his decision about a Major. In minutes.
Life, is getting faster. I don’t know what the lesson here is, but acknowledging the speed from my ancient reference frame is, I guess, a good start.