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Ulmer: Reflecting on a simpler time

Ulmer: Reflecting on a simpler time


Outside of all the things that the aging process brings I really don’t have much to complain about this week. So I’m gonna just set my fingertips on my keyboard and see what appears.

I’m presently waiting for my every other week 5 p.m. Saturday sibling conference call. My sister Bee thought it would be a good idea, and my brother and I agreed. So we’ve been using FaceTime on our phones and it’s been fun. Now that I’ve set the scene I gotta take a call.

OK so the call ended and as usual it was great to chat with my siblings. Once we can see each other we hoist our beers in a toast, pick up somewhere close to where we left off and then head onto wherever we get to. This week we went back to family life back in the days of memory lane.

Back in those days our internet consisted of black and white television with two channels, 5 and 12, and remotes hadn’t been invented yet so someone actually had to walk across the room to change the channel. Color television hadn’t been invented yet so everything was in black and white and there was no such thing as a 24-hour broadcast.

The TV went off a bit after midnight, came back on somewhere around 6 a.m. with the downtime filled with a test pattern or snow. It was not unusual for us to get up and watch the test pattern for hours before Captain Kangaroo came on.

Our other outside world connection was AM radio; FM didn’t become available until we were teenagers. Our choices were limited to 550 KFYR and 1270 KBOM. On a good evening we could get KOMA out of Oklahoma but that depended on what type of radio you had and how far out in the country you were. At some point transistor radios came along so we could carry it in our pocket, but the reception depended on the obstacles between your radio and the radio station as well as how long your battery would last.

Telephones were different then too; most folks had party lines because private lines were too expensive. Party lines were kinda similar to Zoom where a whole bunch of people could be on the line at the same time. The problem was that most folks frowned upon someone else listening into their private chats. Sometimes folks could tell if someone else was listening in and they’d resent the intrusion and request their removal.

We had a private line with three corded phones in the house, so listening in was easy but still considered an intrusion, especially if we were upstairs trying to have one of those secret calls that might involve creating trouble and such. Privacy back then was dependent on how long your phone cord was.

So here we are today and our connections to anywhere in the world are a click or finger tap away. Our phones have become our constant companions, test patterns have disappeared and the future we used to wonder about has become something that most of us never imagined possible.

Back in the day was a simpler time: life seemed to be more personal than it is today where the latest gadgets and innovations have more to do with a computer than face-to-face interactions. Whether or not this is a good thing will be decided long after I’m gone, but for now that’s what came out of my keyboard and that’s all I got to say about that. 

Dan Ulmer is a parent, grandparent, as well as a retired teacher, counselor, politician, lobbyist, public employee, nonprofit executive and opinionated citizen who believes that we need to do what we can to leave the world better off than we found it.


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