Nearly two decades ago now, my then pre-teenage younger -- by fourteen years! -- brother and I had a conversation which went like this:-
Him: "Chea (trans., elder sister), did you have any favorite TV shows when you were young(er)?"
Me: "Oh, yeah."
Him: "Were they any good?"
Me: "I thought so."
Him: "If you thought they were good, how come you didn't video them?"
Me: "Um...because, in those days, VCRs didn't exist yet -- or, at least, weren't widely available."
Him (looking at me as though with a new pair of eyes): "Wah, you are so old!"
Seeing that my brother is now actually older now then I was when I had that conversation with him, I wonder what would be the equivalent in a conversation he would have now in which he would have my (older person) role? I suppose it's a reflection of my (relatively) old age that I'm not all that sure! However, if I were to hazard a guess, I'd go for the whole shebang of e-mail, the internet and the world wide web as the answer.
Somewhat understandably, recent events have caused me to reflect on our -- okay, my -- internet use and even dependency. (And while we're on the subject of internet, etc.: No, and alas, internet connectivity still is not back to normal over here in Malaysia despite some optimistic reports to the contrary. Instead, based on the experience I've been having for much of today (e.g., major problems trying to access hotmail), I'm more inclined to agree with the Bangkok Post article that had warned that a second internet slowdown was likely as work and school resumed after the recent holiday period.)
On a related note: This all also has got me wondering whether I could ever live the way I did not all that long ago. That is, not only sans (regular) access to the internet but also TV and video technology, etc. And, in turn, this stream of thought has got me remembering that for what still is the bulk of my life, not only did a lot of the technological devices I now pretty much now take for granted not exist but time was when I wasn't, say, such a movie nut and/or internet junkie and, consequently, lived a life where TV, videos and computers didn't cast such long shadows over me. :S
As many of you might expect, my two years in what's officially called the United Republic of Tanzania involved a degree of technological deprivation that many of you may never have experienced. Put in a nutshell: Although I actually lived and worked in two of the more urban -- and one thus might presume, "modern" -- areas of that East African country, Tanzania's economic poverty (In 1995, one of the years that I was there, it was named as the second poorest country in the world by the World Bank) -- and, for a country whose years come with definite plus regular dry seasons, a marked over-reliance on hydro-electricity -- made it so that regular electricity rationing was the order of the day.
Therefore, even when the houses I lodged in had such as fridges in their kitchen and telephones elsewhere in the building (neither of which always was the case), one couldn't always make use of them whenever one wished! Also, yes, even as late as 1996, such as ATMs -- technological items which the majority of us are so used to these days that we don't even refer to them by their full name of "automated teller machines" anymore -- didn't exist in Tanzania. (And while credit cards were officially accepted by a few expensive hotels and similar establishments, I don't think I ever saw a single individual brandish them in my time there!)
Still, it actually was in the good ol' U.S.A., rather than Tanzania, that I had my most spartan living experience. More specifically, in the summer of 1988, while attending archaeological field school in the American Southwest, I first lived out of a tent and then, after my tent-mate contracted bronchitis and passed it on to me (and it was decided that it would be best for us to not sleep in the same space!), bunked for the remainder of my time there in what would accurately be described as a wooden shack that was virtually as no frills -- for example, bereft of an attached bathroom -- as the tent!
Before anything else though, here's underscoring that all the above were living conditions which I voluntarily accepted. Granted that I didn't go out of my way to live the way I ended up living but I wanted to go out and do what I did in Tanzania (i.e., socio-cultural anthropological research) and the American Southwest (i.e., attend archaeological field school). And, for all of the technological deprivation I underwent there, I did have my share of good times in both places.
Looking back, I recall many hours happily spent playing Scrabble with fellow Scrabble fiends among my fellow students and the faculty out there in Yellow Jacket, the tiny southwestern Colorado town which acted as the archaeological field school's base camp. And Scrabble also came to the rescue some evenings in Tanzania but, more often, I'd hang out and essentially shoot the breeze -- and be privy to often quite colorful local gossip! -- with friends over there in East Africa.
However, it's been a while since I last played a game of Scrabble. And these days, most of my friends live too far away for me to be able to pop over to their place for a chat. Instead, we have to resort to chatting on-line (though more via e-mail and discussion forum postings than actual on-line chatting). Which is where the internet comes (back) in.
So, pondering once more the question as to whether I could live the way I did not so long ago: The answer is probably yes but the truth also is that I wouldn't want to. And this not so much because I've become soft and spoilt but, rather, I'd like to think, because the world has moved on -- and mine has actually become that much bigger (or, at least, more spread out).
Thus, even though I have never thought of myself as particularly technophilic, I'd have to say that I am one of those people whose lives have been radically changed by the internet revolution (and, for all of my being the movie buff that I am, more so than even the video revolution that brought VCRs, then DVD players, into many people's homes). And, when push comes to shove and I'm asked to decide, actually would conclude that it's probably all the better for this being so.