I was just reading a magazine article called “Aught to Be a Great Decade” in Fast Company. I get Fast Company because I used to get Computer Shopper and that magazine went the way of the dodo so they send me Fast Company instead. Anyway the article was opening a time capsule from 1999 – yes people we have come ten years since Y2K and all the hub bub that went with that “New Millennium” advent.
Reading about the things like Wonderful new car from Chrysler – the PT Cruiser was going to rescue the Big Three – oops that worked out different didn’t it! Or how Al Gore was set to be the next President – well almost only counts in horseshoes. Remember the MP3 player that would hold two whole albums with a whopping 64megs of storage? Well that is in the same place as floppy disks (and Zip disks for that matter.)
Looking at those things, going back to 1959 (I was eleven years old) might be fun just to see what fifty years have done. Let’s see minimum wage was $1.00 by the time I started working in 1964 it was $1.25. 1959 was the year that Castro took over Cuba – he was like the energizer bunny – he kept going for almost 50 years – just stepping down February of last year, during that same time we have had 10 presidents come and go and the 11th is there in the White House now. Computers – well the closest thing to a “personal computer” would be the IBM Electronic Typewriter that was released in 1956 – this is the line from the press release – “The first electronic typewriter, an IBM electric typewriter which “reads” business forms and does all the tabulation setting for the typist electronically.” pretty neat! In two years, IBM would get rid of the little striker keys and replace them with a Ball and typing would never be the same.
Cars in 1959 were much bigger than what we drive now but just one year later the Valiant, Falcon and Corvair (Ralph Nader’s favorite) would appear as the answer to the invasion of VW’s, Datsun’s and Toyota’s to our shores. They were bigger than most of the off-shore competition but that was the american way. Our cars today require computers to make them run, in 1959, the radios still had tubes in them and the battery was charged with a generator not an alternator. Interestingly though, fuel injection was tried, in fact DeSoto had an electronic version in 1958 – that did not work out but a lot was learned. Mechanical fuel injection was used on many sport cars including the Corvette.
Houses were simple then – but people still build the basic box house that was popular in 1959 – they called them “Ramblers” then – they have other names but they are still basic protection from the elements.
We ate a lot of animals and animal by-products – Lard was what most people fried things in. If you asked someone what Tofu was they would not know what you were talking about. The only decaf coffee we had was “Sanka” and that was an instant power that really did not taste a lot like coffee, more like dirty, gritty water. My own family ate a lot of “hot dishes” made from hamburger and macaroni because it was easy and cheap. Diet beverages were still a way off so Sugar was king in everything. The only artificial sweetener was Saccharine which came in little pills that worked in Coffee and Tea.
Oh, we did not have the Sesame Street gang untill later in 1959, up to that time we had to make do with Howdy Doody and Captian Kangaroo. Of course that was on a Black and White small screen TV without anything like Cable or Satellite. Funny though the new digital antennas remind me of the old rabbit ears we used to have to get any TV and at times we had to attach tin foil to them to get better reception. Cell phones were something Dick Tracy would use but not real life. Telephones still used the round dial and went clickity clickity click when you turned them. Oh and the Zip code was one digit then not the nine we use now.
Let’s see Computers, yes there were Computers in 1959 in fact our town of Duluth just had a new Computer installed in building near the Air Base – SAGE or Semi Automatic Ground Environment – this computer was a block building made of two foot thick concrete walls with a huge air conditioner along side the building. It was about as powerful as a new Netbook but took enough power to run a small town. It was floor after floor of tubes and relays all hard wired together to make what today we would call a large scale integrated processor chip – that was the building. There may have been other computers around but that was the one we in Duluth knew about. Check out SAGE – WIKI There were a few other computers around but the common theme was Huge, Power Hungry, Hand Wired monsters. Personal and Computer was waaaaaaaayyyy off in the future.
Fifty years is not much time in the whole picture of our planet. But is is a better part of my life and I would not want to go back to 1959, I know better, been there done that!