Lazy Luddite Log

10.2.11

Add A Digit

I was looking at some Twentieth Century detritus recently with a friend and we noticed an old sign with a seven-digit Melbourne landline number on it. I commented that I "vaguely" remembered that addition of an extra digit and she - rightly - expressed surprise at my vague memory because she is younger than I and distinctly remembers the change. An admission - In that moment I was impulsively sensitive to my age. That it mattered to me at all and that I played with the truth concerns me. I am happy that I was prevented from getting away from it. But the intent of this post is to be interesting rather than introspective - so - onwards!

Phone Numbers

The changing over to eight-digit phone numbers is one of those many changes that I remember that are small and mundane and yet are also markers of the passage of time and the inevitability of change. I prefer it - I quickly adapted to the symmetry of having an even-numbered set of numbers to dial (or rather to "punch in"). Two other things I remember that seem trivial and yet have had a big impact on every day life are...

Barcodes

I can remember the introduction of these peculiar patterns onto packaged products. How could a machine "read" this sequence of lines and numbers? Could I read them too just by looking? Nope - it was gibberish to me. But suddenly they were ubiquitous. And they changed our lives. I cannot say for sure but I can only assume that they made the work of a check-out operator quicker and therefore the time we customers spend in queues shorter. Now most recently barcodes have been combined with other technology to allow check-out self-service - something I am still in two minds over.

Blu-Tack

This and other putty-like pressure sensitive adhesives have changed our lives. I recall the absence of Blu-Tac in my life - we actually stuck posters on walls in my family home with - gasp - sticky tape. To this day I can tell the age of a rental property by the nasty faded-yellow residue left behind by sticky tape on plaster walls. Then along came Blu-Tack and life changed forever! Posters on bedroom walls could be located and relocated and swapped from wall-to-wall. Yes there is that issue of removing paint from surfaces but only if you are sloppy. Otherwise it is amazing stuff. And fun too! I made a dinosaur recently with some Plasticine from the game Cranium and friends seemed to approve. Well I have Blue-Tack to thank for that skill as I spent hours in childhood just making things with Blu-Tack (which was always more abundant than Plasticine itself).

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I am sure that everyone has personal recollections of changes like this - things that came into your life that it may be difficult to imagine lacking now. Anybody want to suggest some more to add to the list?

Cross-posted here.

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