Sunday, January 1, 2017

You've got years. And mail.

           Since July is my birthday month, I tend to feel my age more than usual. But a recent line of questions had me feeling pretty ancient and nearly laughing my dentures out.
            Our family lives in Orrville and while discussing famous people from this town, one of the names that came up was Elwood Edwards. He wasn’t born here, but lived here for a bit of time. His name might not be well known, but his voice might be, for some. He supplied the iconic “You’ve Got Mail!” vocals for America Online, and for those of us creeping up on 40 and thinking back to when we would hope our college boyfriends would email, those were three very important words.
            Of course, my kids have no idea what America Online is. Not as popular as it once was, I had to explain that it is another version of Gmail.
            “So did it he talk all the time?”
            Sigh. Then I had to explain how checking your email wasn’t an automatic thing, that it actually was an act that took time. I searched quickly on my phone for a video clip of the process that your computer went through while checking email and played it, effortlessly, with a tap of my finger. While my husband and I sang along to the beeps and crackles, my kids sat slack-jawed at the amount of time it took.
            “And get this,” I said. “It was connected to your phone so that no one could call you while you were online.”
            This new fact completely blew their minds because I also had to explain that not only did the computer have to plug into the wall, but your phone also was required to be attached to a wall. In a special jack. And you needed a cord that was long enough or else you were totally out of luck.
            The following discussion carried on and on because I had to also clarify that you needed multiple jacks around the house if you wanted more phones and this sadly took more time than I would like to admit.
            “Hold on,” one asked. “If someone tried to call you while you were using the computer, what happened? Did it just go to voicemail?”
            With my face shaking in the palm of my hand, I had to break the news to them that there used to be this horrifying sound called a “busy signal” that would plague us as teenagers. Also, there was no voicemail.
            “No messages at all?” they asked, naively.
            From there I schooled them all about an answering machine, that tiny little cassette tape that was housed inside, and having to rewind it and listen, ever so patiently, to see if there were any new messages.
            “Wait. Cassette?”
            “Wait. Rewind?”
            Kids these days, kids these days.
           
Originally 7.17.16

            

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