For countless centuries mankind has struggled with communication and language. Several thousand years ago humans used various methods of conveying their thoughts to each other. I’m sure that history will record what is happening to language and speech today as a revolutionary transformation. In the span of several thousand years humans went from grunting and the use of signs to crude speech for communicating to one another. Then eventually the time came when there were actually written languages being used by different peoples around the world. This represented a major leap forward in people being able to hand down knowledge and exchange ideas, improving our education and skills dramatically at the same time.
Over time we reached the modern age. The telegraph came along and instantly changed forever the way people communicated with each other. Now it was possible to send messages and important information across the country in seconds. This had a very profound effect on social development across the country and around the world. We grew our industrial base by leaps and bounds and cities began to modernize and enlarge themselves in ever faster ways. More education meant more improvement in the Field of technology again. But now our scientists and researchers were coming up with new and better ways to communicate and spread our knowledge even faster than before. It became like a giant snowball of technological advancements in which the faster it rolled the larger it grew. Humans had jumped further into the future in the last 100 years than they had in the previous 5,000 years before. We were indeed now on the fast track to somewhere.I think the question is did we grow too fast too quick for our own good? Or did we lose something very important along the way to where we are now?
Fast forward to the mid 20th century. It’s 1950 and then in thing is rock and roll music being played on either AM radio or a record player. What an amazing time in America! Progress had brought us many wonderful and exciting new things that had a large and positive effect on our everyday lives. We had a television in most homes, (Black and White for the most part). A telephone that you could dial a number and talk with your relative on the other side of the country instantly. Of course it was wall mounted or sitting on the telephone table in the hallway and required you to physically dial the number with your own finger. But that was cool, it was a giant leap forward from the telegraph office or mailing a letter. Most homes only had one of each (television and telephone) which was all they needed and for the most part, all they wanted. We had one car in our family as my Mother did not work like most families at that time. The Father worked and the Mother stayed at home and ran the family affairs. She would take Dad to work then drive the car for grocery shopping errands, whatever, and pick Dad up from work at the end of the day. Only rich people, as we called them, would own more than one car.
We had it made, life was good. Telephones for communication, TV for our entertainment, and a car in the driveway to take us where we needed to go, what could ever be better? It would not be long before that question would be answered, and answered in a big way at that. Not too much changed during the rest of the fifties and throughout the sixties. Oh there were some minor improvements, push button phones instead of dials, color televisions with remote control. It was such a treat for us to no longer have to get out of our chair, walk across the room and change the channel on the set. You could actually change the station right from your chair, and even had more than three channels to watch, With cable we now had up to 10 or 12 choices to view. And with the coming of the cordless telephone you could walk all the way out on the porch to talk with your friends. Even prepare a meal or wash laundry without having to hang up the phone. How good could life be?, we thought. And TV dinners, who could ever forget the convenience of the TV dinner? Just throw it in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes and you were ready to eat.
But it is what happened over the next several decades that has really flipped my lid. I started hearing people talk about things such as computers and something named the world wide web. The next thing I knew there they were in the stores. Deck top computers had become affordable for a lot of us. The world was changing fast, faster than ever before. Technology had taken another huge step forward and the communication age had began to look a lot like those Dick Tracey comic books we read as kids. He had a wrist watch, that could send messages, and pictures without wires. Science fiction is a strange thought when it begins to be reality right before your eyes. Next thing I knew I began to see people using pagers and cell phones which were mounted in their car or carried in a large bag. I had one myself that was bolted into my truck and would blow the horn when someone called me. That was about the most fantastic advancement I had ever seen, so wonderful to actually be able to call someone without hunting down a phone booth and finding a quarter to place the call with. We used to make sure we carried some spare change with us in those days to use for the phone and the vending machines throughout the day. Those days were so much better than when you left home some years earlier in your car. Once you pulled off on your trip you were instantly out of touch with the rest of the world until you stopped at a pay phone or reached your destination. There was no constant communication 24 hours a day back then. And we aren’t talking about too many years ago either, as late as the eighties and nineties many folks did not own a cell phone or a computer.
It simply blows me away to try and comprehend just how far our technology has come in the past 20 years or so. If some one had told me back in high school that I would actually be able to talk with another person on the phone while driving my car I would call them crazy, or a dreamer. I remember how wonderful it was just to have a cordless telephone that allowed me to actually talk on the phone out in my yard. I don’t have to elaborate on just where we have come to with regards to that development.
One thing that does concern me a lot though is how much I have seen the decline in face to face communication today. It appears that sending text messages and emaills have all but totally replaced voice communication between people now. I have always had a personal distaste for this form of messaging as I feel there is a lack of emotion and personal reaction to conversation that can’t be conveyed with symbols and letters on a screen. There is just something special about receiving a hand written letter from someone or listening to a real voice come over the phone. People seem to have given in to the temptation to just not look at one another when they talk. Much easier to simply blow them off with text or email than to actually have to explain what you mean in voice of facial expression. It just seems so sad to me to watch our language skills evolve themselves right into obsolescence. Can technology advance too much? I think so, If we are not careful we may live to see the day when live voice communication actually disappears or is no longer a part of our lives, And won’t that be a sad day.
I can still recall hearing my grandfather telling about his life back when I was young. He said, “I have lived a full and eventful life, I’ve seen the first airplanes fly and I’ve seen man land on the moon.” That statement has stayed within my memories for forty years. But what I have witnessed since then has also had an enormous and profound effect on me. I hope that mankind will manage to hold on to the dignity and compassion we have developed over the past centuries of growth. I also will choose to think that we will as a race of people on this earth one day use all this technology for more and more good and less evil. Maybe mankind will manage to use these advanced skills to really make the world a better place. And hopefully they will not lose the ability or desire to speak to one another in the process. Might be time for us to just slow down a little and enjoy the ride.