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Three and a half decades after

STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete (The Freeman) - April 13, 2021 - 12:00am

We don’t really appreciate technology that much until we start looking back in time and remember how it was before. People born in the last two decades won’t be able to imagine how it was the previous two decades prior to their existence. And even we, who were born three decades ago, we would have already forgotten how it was then, unless we specifically stop in our tracks and remember…

I think one of the biggest differences or improvements would be in the field of communications. We just take it for granted that we can generally communicate at ease nowadays. I have two sisters who live in other countries – two different continents, actually, and I could send messages to them faster than the blink of an eye. Oh well, there’s a bit of exaggeration there because with the state of internet speeds we have plus the usual network woes, this sometimes extends into plenty of seconds or even minutes. Or even days when major problems occur.

Not just send messages but talk to them directly, too. On video! Gone were the days when only astronauts could talk to NASA Control while navigating to break away from the earth’s gravitational field; or flying around the moon. Video calls are as common as anything else nowadays, subject only to one’s access or ability to pay for the service. And it’s always getting cheaper. Now we have video calls on Facebook, Google Meet, Skype, Zoom, Cisco, and what have you. Some people in this generation could not imagine life without them.

Three and a half decades ago (the only reason for the time element is that that was the first time I went out of the country), we already had telephones, now graphically called “landlines.” We still have those today, but they’re really getting out of vogue. We now have cellphones, but back then we have those big bulky furniture-like oddities with rotary dials on them – y’know, the ones where you insert your finger on the particular number, wind them clockwise to a particular finger stopper and allowing them to wind back to their original position. Then you do that for the next number until you complete the telephone number. And that’s the only time the other end starts to ring.

I mentioned I went abroad three and a half decades ago - I went to Thailand to study, and back then, the only way to communicate to my family back home was through mail. I mean as in regular mail, or what we call now “snail mail.” It takes at least eight days from Cebu to reach Bangkok. Then I can write back which will then again take eight days to reach home. So, at best, it will take at least half a month for a question like “how are you?” to be answered with “I’m fine.” Calling by long-distance telephone is possible but only during emergencies and will cost one quarter of my school stipend! Today, I dial a number and talk to anybody anywhere on the planet. On video! And while I’m taking my daily walk around the neighborhood while my sister is off fishing in Sydney.

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