I was born in '59, that’s right all you young whipper-snappers out there, in the fifties (but barely). It means I’m fifty one but context can only provide a vision of how old that really is. In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states (in honor of my birth), Barbie dolls were introduced by Mattel (the start of negative body images among women), Weird Al Yankovic, Magic Johnson, Kevin Spacey, and Val Kilmer were born while Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens died (Bye Bye American Pie). Bobby Darrin's "Mack the Knife" was the #1 song and the Beatles had not even invaded yet. A lot has certainly transpired in the past 51 years.
Technology has continuously challenged me to keep up. Technology I remember in my house as a kid can be inventoried as: 1) a black rotary telephone (the ones with a round dial you used to put your finger in and actually dial), 2) a black and white television; 3) a toaster that burned the toast every morning, and 4) a hifi with radio and turntable. (I still get nostalgic when I hear someone scraping toast). Our black and white TV was replaced by a color model when I was in third grade. Television programs ended at around 10 or 11 and a test pattern with an Indian in the center was all you saw until around six the next morning.
Transistor radios came out in the early sixties and I recall getting one for Christmas one year. These relied on a one-ear headphone that broke easily so we all learned how to strip wires and twist them back together which never worked. Digital calculators began making their way into the schools during the time I was in high school and these were an expensive novelty and only good for spelling words upside down since I never did my math homework anyway. Digital watches followed soon after.
Computers were obscure things back then. My Dad worked in programming at Paramount Pictures on the IBM UniVac and my Mom was a keypunch operator for a couple of years. But we had no idea about the computer age that was coming our way. I think only Bill Gates and a few of his pals were that omniscient in those years (drat our lack of vision).
Video games entered my life in my senior year of high school in1976 when we were given a Pong game that played on the television. We enjoyed it but there were claims that the game damaged the television screens so I think we got rid of it. Sometime after Pong, Pac Man games were introduced and the pinball machine never recovered its former glory.
I paid little attention to technology in college, all I needed was my portable Remington typewriter for writing papers. My post-college room mate owned an Apple IIe computer which was useful for writing my Masters thesis. I think during the process he upgraded to a MacIntosh computer which was a giant leap forward in technology and it actually used 3.5 inch disks rather than the 6 inchers that the IIe required.
I first used the Internet during my Masters work when I used an online database for research at a local university, the only place it was accessible. I would not even have an email address for another four years or so and would not really begin to use the technology for several after that.
My first cell phone was a Motorola bag phone that weighed about three or four pounds. I remember the first two times that I was really impressed with the cell phone technology. The first was when I was travelling by car in Ontario, Canada and the phone rang. It was my secretary in California calling me. Here I was about 2,500 miles away, wireless, and the phone rang nonetheless! The second time was when some teenagers were acting like fools in a car. I was mad so I placed the phone on my dashboard and picked up the receiver and waved it at the driver who quickly sped away.
Grant writing jobs have emerged from the technological dark ages along with everything else. My first grants were written on computer so I never suffered the task of writing a grant on a typewriter. I consider those old-time grant writers to be a bunch of tough old birds, like the pioneers who came to California across the Wolfskill Trail in Conestoga Wagons. Grant research in those days surely would have required grueling time in the library searching the stacks for relevant literature to quote, more like my Masters research required. I'm soft and like it that way.
The vast Internet search improvements from Gopher to Google have made my job as a grant writer smoother and easier. It has also raised the bar for research to a whole new level. Grant maker research is also improved and getting notification of RFP’s no longer depends on the post office. Grant submission is increasingly an online process so the entire grant industry is moving inevitably toward a paperless norm, and speaking of paperless...
I arrived at home the other day to find an early Christmas present from a dear friend. The box was labeled Amazon and when I picked it up it rattled, so I thought I’d received a book. A book was inside, but it is more correct to say that I received books, thousands of books; my friend sent me a Kindle! This amazing little piece of technology can even read the books to me aloud! Although I am still learning all of its functions, I know that I can download books anytime and almost anywhere. It is amazing.
I don’t know where technology will take me next but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be more amazing than my new Kindle, Netbook, or laptop. It’s going to do more, cost less, and be more incredible than what I’ve even dreamt of. My main challenge is to adopt and implement new technology before it’s obsolete. I have an little seven year old HP handheld that is so out of date I can’t even give it away even though it’s WIFI enabled.
I look back at my life so far and I’m astounded that technology has progressed from the vacuum tube operating system in our black and white bunny-eared TV (remember those horizontal and vertical hold knobs?), to a black and white, chip-driven, wireless Kindle that can read to me, and all this in a little over 50 years. Mostly I’m grateful that I didn’t start writing grants when the writing wasn’t the hardest part of the process.