Got to Have It

In his The Big Picture, David Suzuki starts his chapter on the effects of consumer society on the environment, “The True Cost of Gadgets,” with:

Imagine if you decided to throw away your cell phone, close down your Facebook account, disconnect your high speed internet modem, unplug your satellite television receiver, put away your Blackberry, shut down your iPod, turn off your DVD player and abandon your HDTV. Friends might think you’ve lost it. Family members might suggest counseling. “What’s wrong?” they would want to know.

And you could tell them you’re leading a completely modern life, circa 1995.

Boy, does time fly. I was alive in 1995 and can almost remember it. Was I still using dial-up, and wasn’t the big telephone thing what sort of clever or unclever message one put on one’s answering machine. And I would get those big old VHS things at the local video store (there were lots of those and not just one Blockbuster) and stick them in my machine. I thought at the time that was pretty cool, and didn’t feel, since I didn’t know what was coming, that I was missing anything.

Were those the good old days or what?

I had my students–most of them born in 1989 or 90–write about this passage.

A few of them waxed nostalgic, saying it might have been nice to live in simpler times.

Why is the past always a simpler time?

I don’t remember 1995 as having been any simpler than now.

I got my first “Personal Computer” or “PC,” as it came to be known, in 1984. We had a friend who worked with IBM, and they had a family plan where an IBMer could sell a PC to a family member for half price. Our friend claimed we were family and so we got an IBM for half price. It was just a little box that sat on you desk, you put your monitor on top of that tin box, and the screen was green with a little drop down menu. I used word perfect and I don’t think I knew anything about Windows or Microsoft at that time.

At half price the damn thing cost 3500 dollars (in 1984 dollars). Hard to believe I would pay that much for anything back then. Hard to believe I had that much money to spare. I just had to have it.

As my students claim, a cell phone is not something you want or desire as opposed to something you need. No, you absolutely need it. 

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