Changing Gears

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You know, I’m always surprised when I talk to anyone about how things have changed in the last 20 to 30 years and get something like “sure, we have computers, but that doesn’t make a big difference. It’s not like the introduction of the automobile, or flight.  Now if we had flying cars…”  It happens every time we’re talking about how technology has changed life, and yet it still puzzles me, because it’s a form of willful blindness.

I yield to no one in my disappointment that there are no flying cars, honeymoons on the moon, or even the long-sleep, Heinlein style.  Because yeah, that future would be shiny.

But in terms of the actual change, except perhaps for long sleep, I want to submit to you what is happening is as significant as the invention and widespread use of the automobile.  It’s just less… visible.

On the other hand it touches more intimate forms of the human life. In a way it touches everything, permeates everything, changes the way we think, live, experience relationships, or even have fun.

Cars? Sure, they changed how fast people could get somewhere, and how much work it took to keep your means of transportation (even permanently cranky cars don’t need to be fed or have their stalls mucked out every day [makes note for biological car stories.]) More people have cars than ever could keep a horse and carriage.  It made it possible for dating young people to get away from their families, and thus changed our dating and relationships (sociologists say. I think they’re full of flies. Same change happened at the same time in Portugal where no one had automobiles. I think it comes from other sources.)  The fact that it made distances shorter (in time to get there) also changed the character of manufacturing, which could now serve a greater area. Also, by allowing young people to range a greater distance around, it made the concept of moving for work or just because you want to more plausible.

In fact, as the only person here (I think) raised in a pre-automobile frame of mind (yes, there were trains and buses, but trains have been around a long time) I’m probably the only person who realizes how much cars, highways and ubiquitous driving changed our perception of the possible.

Before people think of doing something, that thing must be so obvious in their minds as to be in the realm of possibility.  All of us have things we know are perfectly possible, but which would never occur to us in every day life.  Usually because of money.  Say, Dan and I have some time off coming up (maybe in the end of the year), we can think “hey, we have a few days off, what will we do?”

Things occur to us that wouldn’t occur to my parents (who might think of driving or in the old days taking the bus to the beach all of 10 miles away.  And the fact I didn’t grow up on the seaside, and only went there for a month a year, and it was a major endeavor tells you how different things were.)  Like for instance we might think of going to our favorite hotel in downtown Denver and hitting all the museums.  Or we might think of staying at home and hitting various interesting exhibits all around a 200 mile range.

That 200 mile range still, for my parents, requires major planning and is considered a great endeavor, not something you’ll do every day.

Because they didn’t grow up with cars.

On the other hand, it would never occur to Dan and I in those circumstances to go “Hey, we could fly to–” mostly because we haven’t had that kind of money most time in our marriage. Even if it were possible now (it isn’t, but we have great hopes in one or two days) it’s not in the range of things we think about, unless someone reminds us/tells us.

In the same way moving out of your area (say the nearest 10 miles) didn’t use to be a thing.  People wouldn’t even think about it.  Trust me, growing up we knew that them foreigners five miles away lived in unspeakable ways, and who wants to live near them.

Automobiles and jaunts of 50 miles or so, made it possible for people to think of living elsewhere, and to know that over the hill the people are probably not unspeakable barbarians.

Some of that change is for the better, some for the worse and some is just change.  And even the better and worse is impossible to fully correlate until probably a century from now.  Because humans live in a world of unintended consequences.

So, what has changed in the last 20 to 30 years?  Sure, everyone has personal computers, but mostly we just use them as glorified typewriters and phones, right?

Ah, you sweet summer child.

Sure, mostly I use my computer as a glorified typewriter.  In fact, if you look up “uses computer like glorified typewriter” I believe they have a picture of me.

But even I…

Look, I usually start my day by checking in with my assistant… who lives in another state, in another city.

Depending on what I’m doing that day, I might also check in with a couple of friends who either want me to do something for them or want to work on something together.  One of those friends lives on the other side of the world, in Australia.  During possibly the worst time in my career (well, mostly because it was the first really bad time. After a while it only hurts when you laugh) that friend was one of the people who kept me going/kept me sane.  We’ve met three times in real life, but we are close friends.

That’s very personal and right there, and it has good and bad consequences.  I have a large, distributed and frankly loud circle on line. It’s easy to forget that I mostly worked locked in my office and see no one.

On the one hand having friends is better than not and the internet allows Odds and people in weird professions to have a circle “of their peers” perhaps for the first time in human history.  On the other hand, the monkey brain interprets not seeing people in the flesh as “we’re all alone. Our band cast us off, and we’re going to die.” So you’ll get very depressed and have NO idea it’s because you need to see people, interact with people, and let the monkey brain know everything is okay.  I need to consciously keep track of it, or I start spiraling into despondency and don’t even know why.

Next up, it’s changed the way we learn and work.

No, really. This was just starting up when I was homeschooling younger son (for a year) and even then it was really useful to be able to buy him a Latin course and a Greek course.  I took them along with him. I could never teach it.

Now I understand the options are infinite.

I realized how much this changes things, in the personal sphere, when I fixed my vacuum last year after looking the problem up on line, then watching a few youtube videos on fixing it.

From how to install wood floor to how to solve highly abstract problem, there’s a video that teaches it. Or various videos and wars over the best method.

Even in little things, like where to grab dinner, our old method of going through the yellow pages is vastly inferior to just hitting the net.  When we moved here, we used to work till  8 pm unboxing things, and then we had to figure out where to eat that was still open.  In a suburb, this is harder than it seems, and without the net, we’d probably have wandered around getting hungry and angry.

But it goes beyond that.  I have a bunch of friends who work remotely.  Which means the “gig economy” both good and bad is accessible to a wide range of people who before would need to contract and work in their employers building.

This is good and bad.  The good part is that all sorts of people whose options would otherwise be limited: people who can’t drive for some reasons, mothers of small children, the disabled, etc. can now have jobs remotely.

The gig part is good and bad, though I’ll note there are also several traditional jobs now, where you work most of the time remotely.  And “gig” doesn’t mean long down times provided you have a wide set of in-demand skills.

The real downside is that this opens our job market to the world.

Now, I understand in true third world countries most of the workers, even educated ones, won’t be as reliable, so not as desirable as Americans.  To an extent.  Because when you can pay someone in Elbownia $2 an hour and for the same skill you pay people in the US $50, how much better do Americans have to be to earn that? (The weird thing is they often are.)

But the ramifications from this will shake the world in the next century.  How? I don’t know.

Property values will change. How? I don’t know.  I know people that think cities will disappear. I don’t think so.  in fact, the drive towards more remote working has come with growth of cities.  Honestly, this doesn’t surprise me, because I’ve worked from home a long time. I can see if I worked in an office every day I would prefer a more remote location to live in. It would be more restful.  But that monkey brain thing?  Frankly where we live now, and my eyes being still too weird for me to drive, we live TOO remotely.  I can’t be sure of seeing someone I’m not related to in about a mile (the neighbors don’t walk much.)  We’ve lived in downtown areas most of our life, because I could go out the door, walk around the block and see enough people to appease that “must see human beings.” drive.  Also, if you work at home all the time, your entertainment moves outside the home. You want to be able to go out to eat, or to a museum, or a park, or whatever you do.  So…. will cities shrink or grow? I don’t know.

Will people move to more remote and cheaper cities, though? since they can telecommute to the big city and get the bigger salaries?  Probably. Some of them.

What about countries? Would we, for instance, consider buying a farm in Portugal and working remotely, so that our money went much further?

Well, no. Mostly because I know Portugal. Looking over the blogs of American expatriates in Portugal, I went “duh”.  Yes, it’s cheap, but you’ll have to work with a bunch of things that, like hiring dirt cheap labor in another country, might not be fully compensated for by the lower cost.  In Portugal’s case (and I’m not picking on Portugal. It’s just the place I know really well) the things that usually drive expatriates screaming back home are: insularity — you can move to a village there, but you’ll never be fully accepted except as a curiosity — unpredictable services like electricity and water or disaster preparation/mitigation; medical care; ability to get products and things we’ve come to expect in the US.

Will all this stuff equalize in time? Will the cost of living in the developed countries come down, other countries come up, and will — in general — the world become more unified in lifestyle and abilities.  Will it — say in my grandkids time — be trivial to say “We’ve been looking for houses, and we think instead of California, we’re buying a house in Sri Lanka?”

Possible.  Maybe even probable.  Though I don’t know that I buy it in that short a time.

But “the poor will always be with us” also applies to countries. There will always be a cheaper place to hire workers from.  This means the workforce and get very weird, very insecure.

Is this good or bad? I think in the longer term good.  Getting there, though, is going to be nothing short of horrendous.

And then there is my very specialized area, where I work and where I study and where I also amuse myself.

This morning Dan and I were talking about how the way we watch TV series, or read has changed drastically.

I like to look at these things every few months, because figuring all the details of how our experience has changed helps me figure out how to market.

One of the obvious things is the ability to “binge” be it in a tv series or a book series.

In fact, we’ve changed almost entirely to binge-watching.  I was always a binge-reader, but now more people are, and that changes things too.

Binge watching: for the last two/three months, we’ve been watching Midsommer Murders.  Not every night, because we often can’t take the night out. On the other hand on a lazy Friday or Saturday night, we might watch two or three episodes.

Why? why not pick a different series every day of the week? Because there’s comfort in a series, and it’s easier to go to a place you “know.”

How does that change things? Well, obviously we privilege long-running series. There are a lot of British mysteries, but most of them have one or two seasons. This doesn’t allow us to settle in for the long run.

It’s much the same with books. Every indie will tell you you need to bring the books out close together and you only start making real money after ten in a series.

Note that traditional still hasn’t realized this, and are continuing their old game of one or two books — or at most three — and you’re out.  And they don’t understand why their bottom is falling out. They also haven’t realized that bringing books out more than six months (and that’s pushing it) apart is a killing blow unless you’re going to promote the writer to a fare-thee-well.  Why? Because readers have a lot more options, and with the best will in the world, they’re not going to be aware when your next book comes out, or they’re going to be riding off on something else by then.  Traditional simply isn’t made to cope with this, which is why they look much like the dinosaurs staring at the asteroid and unable to figure out what to do.

Which means I need to re-learn the way I used to be and write faster.  Not as easy as it seems, after 20 years of being trained to one book a year.

As a reader, though, indie has changed my life even more.  I almost don’t re-read, unless you’re really an extraordinary favorite. I have too many options for new books. And instead of having five or six authors I check obsessively to see if anything new is out, I usually search by name until I find, yeah, a series. Then plunge into that series for a week and move on.  I might come back, but unless you hit really high on my personal tastes, I’m not going to personally look for you. Too many other options.  I’m more likely to look at a suggestion and go “oh, I like that series. Let’s see the new one.”

There are other things.  You know the trick many long-running authors got away with in trad, of writing essentially the same book?  Yeah. It doesn’t work so well when I’m binge-reading.  By book three I’m going “oh, good lord. I’m bored. Let’s find something else.”

The other thing — and I really need better and more detailed story bibles — is that glaring inconsistencies between books are more visible when binge reading.

In my field, things are in wild flux. The one time I was legitimately approached by a real movie company, it was on my facebook PM.  Used to be you had to have agents for them to find you. Now? Meh, they’ll figure it out.

But I bet they’re in as much turmoil everywhere.  I know some things like online shopping and ‘just in time’ supplies are changing everything down to every day retail.

What does it all mean? I don’t know.  I know that the revolution of instant worldwide communication and of private access to the public sphere (you don’t need to work for a newspaper to be read by thousands of people) is not done with us.

It’s more invisible a change than the automobile, but it might very well be more pervasive and more fundamental.

I won’t see the end of its second, third and tenth order effects. My grandkids might not.

We’re also all jumpy, because this is a very large, very unpredictable, and in historic terms very fast change.

It’s like walking through wild terrain that changes constantly.

Keep your eyes open. Only by being aware of how things change can you find your way.

 

 

248 responses to “Changing Gears

  1. It is absurd to look at the kerfuffle over Russian bots in the 2016 election and not understand how much the internet has changed our culture. Trump (and AOC) used Twitter to leverage candidacies that seriously out-performed expectations (Trump by winning in spite of being outspent, AOC winning such a high profile.) It has completely changed the dynamic of elections in an amazingly short time.

    Add in the effect of streaming television programs on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu and the reach of alternate news sources online and the internet’s effect on social interaction is deep and profound.

  2. If I ever figure out how to teleport, I’ll be more than happy to let a hand to friends all around the world, or even on other worlds.

  3. When I think back to the books I wrote in the 90’s, there are all sorts of things I should have researched better and didn’t because of the difficulty/expense of getting up-to-date information. I’m very happy that now a few minutes of typing and clicking can get me a quick overview of anything from drug busts in Austin to the current state of virtual reality.

    • Yes. And you get dinged on them NOW. Like I had to dance like mad around not having a clue what the police force in paris under Louis XIII was. Now it’s trivially easy to find. So people will ding me on it now, because they don’t know when it was written.

      • Well that’s not fair. It’s like dinging Jules Verne for not understanding quantum tunneling.

        • Yes, but people reading this stuff on Amazon don’t KNOW.

          • Ah, now this is something we might be able to pin on Amazon.

            Used to be that when I was trying out some new (to me) writer, I’d be picking up one of their books in the used bookstore. The age of the book was then pretty obvious – if it had a cover price of $1.75, and I took a chance on it at ninety cents, it was written many, many years ago.

            Now, Doc Smith’s Skylark of Space (for an example) collection of electrons looks just as bright and shiny as the book that someone released just yesterday. No obvious clues as to its age. (Skylark was seriously aged when I first bought it, sometime in the early 70s. I still bought all the rest in the series as I could find them.)

            • Yes. I’m aware of this. Don’t know about Amazon, but B&N shows the publish date. Granted once you download it you have to look at the information or in the book itself. But at least when purchasing it I know the era it was written.

              • Alas, all to often today, one could preface the first paragraph of every chapter with:
                “This book was written way back in XXXX and was researched to the best ability of a very poor author, who only had the local library and limited data to rely on, and then later discoveries showed much of that information to be in error”
                and still people would not get that it wasn’t a shiny new work.

              • Do they (B&N) show the first publication date?

                Forex, Amazon shows one of the various “Skylark” novel offerings with a publication date of last Wednesday (2/20/2019).

      • I blame a lot of that on the abysmal lack of history in our American education system. It’s at least partially responsible for the current practice of judging everything by today’s standards. There seems to be absolutely no concept in current philosophy that there are significant changes to the societal rules every couple of generations. Modern folk, youngsters in particular, have no problem judging their ancestors by today’s standards.
        And thereby doing both themselves and those ancestors grave injustice.

        • Concur with all. I’ve been seriously considering writing a book on How People Used To Live. Mostly because I’m convinced that half of the Generation Gap is merely the shift in reference points – that that Old Guy (me) remembers stuff that the Young Whippersnappers (30-year-old professionals) only read of in books.

          • Do it. Even us Ancient Creatures might do with a bit of a reminder, or an additional perspective.

            • Oh, yes. My father would talk about a “Clem Cladiddlehopper”…and I’d wonder just what in the world he was talking about. Turns out that was a character on the Red Skelton Show. Red Skelton being a comedian from the late 1950s and early 1960s. Before I was born.

              It’s at the point where I’m starting to put together briefs on some of the programs (often abortive) that I worked on in my misspent youth.

              • My folks grew up using spoonerisms from…some comedian, he was a really good stand-up/improv guy, who did iirc a lot of fairytale retellings like Cindertella, where she “slipped her dripper”– dropped her slipper– and another where it was something about the “whole fan damily”– don’t htink I need to translate that one.

                “Whole fan damily” now means “everything.”

                • My folks grew up using spoonerisms from…some comedian,

                  Sounds like Norm Crosby, who made a career out of butchering the English Language. And unlike the topical comedy of so many performers, his stuff still stands up after all these years.

                • Coworker was wondering when I would “run out” of spoonerisms, seemingly unaware is quite possible to produce them “on the fly” as it were.

              • I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s watching Red Skelton, Jack Benny, Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball, and a host of others. All on a huge console 13 inch black and white TV set, with tubes that kept burning out and the worst possible time. It was a time of transition from touring vaudeville performers jumping into the world of radio and television, and just about all of it live, no tape or laugh tracks or delays. Wonderful time.

                • Yes. 13″ Black & White. Remote control for mom & dad were one of 3 little girls laying on the floor in front of the TV. Granted choice of 2 channels. Maybe. Usually.

                  • It was a truly glorious day when a nearby city got an ABC affiliate station and our channel selection increased by 50% from two channels to a whopping three.

              • Skelton was a somewhat popular film and radio performer

                The son of a former circus clown turned grocer and a cleaning woman, Red Skelton was introduced to show business at the age of seven by Ed Wynn, at a vaudeville show in Vincennes. At age 10, he left home to travel with a medicine show through the Midwest, and joined the vaudeville circuit at age 15. At age 18, he married Edna Marie Stilwell, an usher who became his vaudeville partner and later his chief writer and manager. He debuted on Broadway and radio in 1937 and on film in 1938. His ex-wife/manager negotiated a seven-year Hollywood contract for him in 1951, the same year The Red Skelton Hour (1951) premiered on NBC. For two decades, until 1971, his show consistently stayed in the top twenty, both on NBC and CBS.
                IMDb

                having his greatest film success in early Forties lead roles opposite such as Lucille Ball (Du Barry Was a Lady, 1943), Eleanor Powell (I Dood It, 1943), and Esther Williams (Neptune’s Daughter*, 1949). In Three Little Words (1950) he played songwriter Harry Ruby opposite Fred Astaire’s portrayal of Bert Kalmar in this biopic of the Tin Pan Alley songwriting team (the film also features a cameo of a young Debbie Reynolds.)

                In many of Skelton’s films performed slapstick stunts written by gagman Buster Keaton, adapting bits first performed by Keaton in silent films. Skelton’s Jumiior, the Mean Widdle Kid was likely derived from vaudevillian Fanny Brice’s “Baby Snooks” — as was one of Lily Tomlin’s best known characters, Edith Ann. Which just goes to demonstrate the deep antecedents of many comedy bits.


                Perhaps the single best known of Skelton’s performances.

                *The film is now best known infamous for introducing the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” performed by Ricardo Montalban with Esther Williams, reprised by Skelton with Betty Garrett

                • We were doing a Cub Scout citizenship unit last month and played Skelton’s “Pledge” routine for the kids — on a mobile phone.
                  Gotta love changing gears!

                  (and, yeah, we watched his TV show every week)

          • Of course, there’s a sliding scale. I remember when you had to get up to change the TV channel, but not before space flight.

            • The order of things can jar people. Many do not realize that the moonshot succeeded before the microprocessor existed, or that the transistor came about a couple years after WWII. And then there is, depending how you classify the V2, the matter of the order spacecraft and nuclear weapons.

              • UMMM admittedly the first acknowledge microprocessor is the Intel 4004 (best known for ending up in hordes of early video games 🙂 ) and shows up in 1970. But Fairchild and its integrated circuits had been in use since the early 60’s and you could make a (admittedly crude) cpu out of a bunch of them, and of course the memory is core memory (2K Bytes mind you for the LEM Module https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Guidance_Computer) . That kind of hardware was in the LEM and Apollo capsule. I think the moon race and ballistic missiles (especially sub launched due to complex inertial navigation required) drove the need for lighter, more dependable hardware (although the Apollo guidance computer did weigh in at 70 lbs I imagine a period PDP 8 or PDP 12 was 5-10 times that )

                • Oh, the microcircuit was certainly around and well-employed, but the single chip CPU which is what people think of as a microprocessor was that little bit later.

        • A central conceit of the Progressive movement is that it’s not an ideology, it’s just a pragmatic assessment of the way things actually are.
          It would be difficult to introduce the concept without also undermining the assumptions of the movement. And since the public education system was founded by a leader of the Progressive movement, with the specific intention of indoctrinating children into this “secular religion”…
          There’s a reason it’s not taught.

          • “A central conceit of the Progressive movement is that it’s not an ideology, it’s just a pragmatic assessment of the way things actually are.”

            Funny, my experience of the Progressives has been that whatever they say is the way things actually AREN’T, so often as makes no odds.

    • No kidding – and I am forever grateful for Google Street View, which lets me “walk along” a street in a foreign country (one which I only visited twice and the last time more than four decades ago) and extrapolate from that what someone would have seen in a carriage ride along that same street a hundred years before that…
      Among other research things…

      • I love street view! I used it to look at all my locations in Amsterdam. Can Alice land a 10 foot tall Mobile Infantry combat suit on the Keisersgracht canal right in front of the fancy church? I can look and find out! (Yes she can. And does.)

        Can Alice shoot that guy in the alley on the other side of the canal with a pistol? I can measure the distance. 50 yards, no problem!

        What’s inside that cafe there? I can literally go inside and find out.

        What’s the longest houseboat that can make it through all the canals? I can look it up in a couple minutes.

        So cool!

    • I have been watching old episodes of Lois and Clark, because I like having things on in the background while i’m working, that I don’t have to watch closely in order to follow the background. Lois recently was lamenting the lack of a “Research demon” to assist her. Contrast that with the ten years later Smallville, which had one of Clark’s friends as a hacker who could get him all the information he needed at the drop of a key. That’s the power of the internet.

  4. “The way we read…” really hits close to home. I remember being in high school, and being so excited when the yearly drop of “insert fantasy series” would roll around, and I’d re-read the entire series in anticipation.

    Lately? I only re-read for comfort, when I’m so far gone that I need to know that the story has a happy ending before I start. And besides one or two favorites, I’ve basically abandoned series that take more than a year between books. I thought that I was being a spoiled brat about it, but perhaps that’s just the way of things now.

    • Not spoiled brat. It’s the way things are now. Which is why unless you get a BIG release push by the publisher (and that’s only for top performers) your career will die on trad-only.

      • Carrington Dixon

        The unofficial record for mid-series hiatus is the 31 years between the third and fourth Skylark books. Asimov managed a similar gap between the third and fourth Foundation books. I cannot think of any living authors who could do something similar today.

        • And it’s unfortunate that Smith picked up the Skylark series again. The first three books were really good space opera, with science behind it (even if some of the science was bogus — it felt like science). But Skylark Duquesne went all new-age-magic into the plot, and it just didn’t feel like it matched the earlier three.

          • You’re correct, and it wasn’t my favorite book. But Marc DuQuesne got his girl and they went off to set up their own civilization, and Dick Seaton was stuck with Ditzy Dottie, the kids, and mountains of bureaucratic paperwork.

            Yeah, DuQuesne was a criminal by the standards of his society, but
            Seaton did everything DuQuesne did and more, and he was supposed to be the “good guy”…

            • DuQuesne did what he did for his personal benefit, Seaton did not benefit (except generally) from his actions. Motive matters.

              • Well, after he set himself up as Overlord of Osnome and dictator of Earth, how much more benefit did Seaton need? Entire planetary systems bowed to his whims.

                DuQuesne wanted to be a god-emperor, but at least his plan involved building from scratch with volunteers.

                Actions speak louder than motives…

                • Seaton never sought power, which is why it sought him. He acted without intent to accrue power, thus no mens rea and (unlike DuQuesne) no criminality. Actions taken in self defense are of a different order even though their effect may be comparable.

          • It didn’t…but Smith did more with replicator technology’s social implications in about three pages than the Star Trek franchise did in three entire SERIES. The man was a master of Zen writing technique – implying a great deal with a few deft brush strokes.

            • He threw out concepts at a rate so fast that you didn’t even notice them until they pulled together a plot. And now, they’re all tropes of the field.

              I just wish that someone would reprint the Lensmen books the way they were first written — without the reader knowing what’s unfolding (even if the characters don’t). It only took a few hundreds of words of changes to the existing text in the four original books to cover things — but it means that a modern reader can’t be as surprised as the readers of the 30s/40s/50s when the next novel comes out and, in an opening paragraph or so, the readers (as well as the characters) discover that there’s much more going on than they thought.

              But Fantasy Press (actually, Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, who ran it) thought that a six book series would be more of a sucess, especially since (I suspect) he thought that most of his buyers would have already read the magazine versions, and would want something new. And, while he was right, and commercially successful, it does mean that the original versions are only available if you have the Astoundings.

              • I haven’t made it back to the 1930s yet, but archive.org has the Astoundings with Second Stage Lensman (1941) and Children of the Lens (1947).

                https://archive.org/details/Astounding_v28n03_1941-11_cape1736
                https://archive.org/stream/Astounding_v40n03_1947-11_AK#page/n3/mode/2up

                The others might be there…

              • yeah. I used to feel that way about Van Vogt. But even Clifford Simak threw novel-worthy concepts into unconsidered paragraphs I’ve considered mining supposing the ideas ever stop just clobbering me.

                • The original magazine publications of many of van Vogt’s shorts are excellent, even by my jaded standards.

                  I gues he kept rights to them somehow; he kept twiddling and recycling them, combining them in various ways to make longer stories or books, and they lost coherency with each cycle. Even the reprint collections are usually different from the (better!) originals.

                  van Vogt didn’t lack for imagination, and he had proved himself in the short form, but I suspect his imagination overwhelmed his ability in the long form. The only novels he wrote that were worthwhile IMHO weren’t SF. (The Violent Man and The House That Stood Still)

        • Oh, we can, but we’d better bring ten out immediately afterwards.

        • Since I read the series so long after the first books were written I didn’t know about the gap. If you had asked me before this I would have suspected the record holder was Phillip Jose Farmer and the Riverworld series.

  5. The late (sadness) Jerry Pournelle once predicted that sometime in the early 21st century the average person in the “civilized” world would be able to relatively quickly find the answer to any question that actually has a known answer.

    Thanks to computers and the Internet we are pretty much there. Mind you, I’m not sure if he anticipated how much crap you have to wade through to find the actual answers (there’s lots of information on the Internet–some of it is even true).

    • Yes. The problem is, for every question you search for the answer on the Internet for, you have a multi-universe of answers for, only one or some of which are true.

      • And in addition to answers that are false because of mistakes, bias, and plain old lies, there are also the answers that are wrong because they’re dated, or have limited applicability.

        It is especially bad in the technology arena. I often find that the top results from searches lead to dated information. For instance, the top hits may be articles and blog posts from a decade ago, speaking about how software X doesn’t support Y, so you must also purchase Z or employ workaround W – whereas the announcement from the vendor of X that it now supports Y out of the box, and here’s how to enable it, is on page 7 of the search results. Or the outdated product review that mentions feature A on some piece of hardware B (electronics, power tools, cars, whatever) and how wonderful it is – only to discover that the currently-available version of B no longer has feature A. Or the formulation of product C changed, so the advice to use product C for purpose D that it is not labeled for is now useless or (rarely) outright dangerous. Or awesome product E you’ve just read raving reviews of, that is a perfect fit for need F, is no longer available and can’t be had for love or money.

    • Well, the data is already there. It’s the development of intelligent filters that’s been lagging. Or rather filters that one can depend upon to be trustworthy.

  6. I think internet, more than computers, has radically changed world. I am old enough to well remember computers before internet was created, and they were glorified typewriters, but now with internet connection society has been changed radically. With internet, you have access to accumulated knowledge of humanity and you can also communicate cheaply with anyone in world.

    Internal combustion engine also transformed world because it was now possible to move large distances. I remember reading article a few years ago about how the average person before 1900, for their entire life, did not travel more than eight miles from their place of birth but now with reliable transportation humans are not wedded to their home.

    • Computers sped up data processing (words, numbers, lists, some mechanical decision making). Data access via the internet “feels” different, as JWL says. Is it really? Something is sorting data, just in a somewhat different way.

      But yes, computers and all the they things that they make possible are, in my opinion, a bigger leap than personal cars. The internal combustion engine didn’t change medicine the ways computer technology has, for example.

    • I’ve become suspicious of that “did not travel more than eight miles” statistic in recent years.
      People often do like to get out and see new things, especially young people.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Different times, different cultures.

        There may always been some young people wanting to see “what’s on the other side of that hill”, but the majority didn’t leave their villages unless they had strong practical reasons to do so.

      • In fact there seems to be an inverse relationship with ease of travel.

        https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-462091/How-children-lost-right-roam-generations.html

      • To this day most Germans stay within 50 km of their homes to live and work. The idea of someone from Hamburg moving to Bavaria just because they want a change of job and scenery is… Odd. Really, really Odd. Or so I’ve been assured by Germans of my acquaintance.

        • If there’s any genetic component to this, America is one big self-selected sample of Oddness.

        • I did some consulting in Bavaria in 2001-2, and socialized with the Bavarian engineers and families. One guy’s wife was from Northern Germany, and (after a BBQ) she suggested the party go skinny dipping at a nearby lake. We (the Americans) politely declined (I’m not inflicting the sight of my nekkid body on anybody not related to me; the world isn’t ready for such), while the Bavarians were mildly scandalized. Further discussion came out that the North is a whole lot looser in mores than Bavaria. Not sure the discussion would have happened without some really good Bier.

          I have to remember at times that Germany is still a collection of city-states welded into a country. (If “welded” is appropriate. Maybe “glued” is better.)

      • I don’t know Joe. I have 2 grandmothers at the extremes. My maternal Grandmother (born 1901) probably traveled no further than 20 miles in one trip until she and my Grandfather went with us (via car a 1963 SAAB 95) to visit relatives that had moved to Georgia in the early 60’s. My paternal Grandmother was born in upstate New York, moved to Hartford CT in the late 20’s, and on the death of her husband in the early 30’s moved to Waterford CT. From which place she traveled less than 10 miles until moved to Utah to be in a nursing home near my paternal uncle her eldest son in the early 90’s.

        Certainly Connecticut’s road system made travel tough. Until the Merritt Parkway is added in the 30’s there are no 4 lane roads and few state 2 lane roads of consequence. The 50’s add the Eisenhower Interstate system and that combined with more dependable vehicles seems to be when rural towns like my home of Clinton start to grow rapidly.
        And Connecticut was a fairly industrialized state.

    • There’s the average person- then there’s my direct ancestors.. I have to go back 7 generations to find one in North America who died within 50 miles of where they were born. And then there’s the fact that they were only a generation or so removed from someone who spent weeks to months crossing an ocean to get here.

      But I have distant relatives with my mother’s surname living the house my 4G-grandfather built. The land has been continuously owned by the same family since the late 1700s.

  7. Before internet we here were – apart from the very few translations which came out yearly, and we are talking about something like way less than ten per year – totally at the mercy of the few bookstores in the country which had a few shelves, and I mean a few, of English language science fiction and fantasy for sale. And those were picked by something like one person per store, so depended completely on whatever that one person happened to either prefer or thought might sell here. Fortunately one of them had a tendency to pick classics, so I did find writers like H. Beam Piper.

    Compare that to now when I can find everything, or close to it.

    • I am now into the second book in his “The Complete Fuzzy.”

      • Note that, because of Piper’s death, neither he, nor Ace Books (who owned the copyrights which they bought from the estate) renewed their copyrights, so everything except Lord Kalvan fell into public domain, and is available at Project Gutenberg. And some small press publishers have done reprints of some of his work, for those who want physical books.

        • There was a third Fuzzy book, “Fuzzies and Other People” written by Piper and published long posthumously that I think is still under copyright. I found it in the mid 80’s in the base bookstore. And it led me into the first two. Very much worth reading.

  8. Me and my partner greatly enjoy Midsomer Murders but we don’t understand why anyone would move to that village with high murder rate of residents.

    • jwl, Midsomer is not a village – it’s an entire rural County with towns and villages, all different and with different ways of buming off the unloved.

    • It’s like accepting a teaching position at one of the colleges of Oxford when Inspector Morse worked in that area. Talk about cleaning out the faculty lounge!

    • Then there’s the deadliest little town in America, Cabot Cove.

    • About that murder rate, I remember one show where they played with the idea with one young officer saying he picked Midsomer for the excitement and chance to work lots of murders.
      Similarly watch the great Patrick McGoohan eviscerate Jessica Fletcher on the stand about the “coincidence” of all those murders happening to everyone she knows and meets.

      • There’s a scene where Joyce mentions the peaceful nature of Midsomer, then Tom spends about 5 minutes listing the murders in the various towns. I loved it.

        (WP is acting up again. Sigh.)

    • They probably use a British version of CompStat to show that Midsomer County is actually the safest place in England…

      New York’s precipitous drop in crime rate was entirely due to telling CompStat to ignore enough crimes to make the stats look good…

  9. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    I was reading some older books and realized how the “cell phone” changed things.

    In one book, the main character had gotten off the bus in a remote area and her friend wasn’t there to met her. My first thought was “call her on your cell phone”. 👿

    In another book, the main characters spot a wanted person and decide to “spy” on him. Of course, in today’s world they could have taken a picture of him and sent the picture to the police detective that they had talked with earlier. In addition, they could have easily called the police to have them come and arrest the wanted person. Again, this was a book written before “cell phones” and apparently before regular phones were common in small town England. 😀

    • I have read that this is why Sue Grafton kept to an 80s and 90s timeline in the Kinsey Milhone Alphabet Mystery series – because cellphones and the internet would have blown up too many plot twists!

      • There are near countless old mysteries and thrillers where one of the characters – usually the love interest or best pal if the protagonist is an adult male, the protagonists when we are talking about females or teenagers or kids – gets into danger somewhere alone, and all or most of the problem could be solved with one phone call, but because no cell phones we get pages of derring do or waiting to be rescued or the protagonist anxiously searching for the missing love interest or best pal while we get scenes of them getting closer and closer to getting killed.

        Yep. Mysteries, and perhaps thrillers more so were a bit easier to plot in the olden days. You didn’t have to figure why the cell phone is suddenly out of range or dies at just the crucial moment. But then of course you now CAN have the hidden protagonist or victim or love interest who needs to be kidnapped to be found by the bad guys because somebody calls at just the wrong moment. So that balances things out a bit.

        • I thought The Departed did a good job of having a thriller that uses cellphones cleverly instead of just writing a pre-cellphone plot and having their batteries die or reception be bad.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      The plot of Commando would have been very different if the bad guys could have reached into their pockets and pulled out their phones to tell their boss that Arnie wasn’t on the plane.

    • The urban fantasy trope of magic screwing up reception is a fave of mine.

      • Which brings up the matter of mechanism (which, I suspect is Carefully Avoided so belief can stay suspended). I can see a few ways.

        1. Classic interference – old fashioned jamming.
        2. Space-time is being used in some magic-propagating vibration mode that means e-m can’t do its thing with space-time.
        3. Magic messes with probabilities and quantum-mechanics dependent things (such as semiconductors) get messed up by that. (Hrm, do tube sets still work? Can a message be sent by arc or spark?)
        4. The ultimate catch-all of “something else, even more inexplicable.”

        • Now I wanna mess with it being old-fashion jamming, since we know that hauntings (and demons) are known to screw with simple temperature and sounds, why not electric and radio spectrum?

          • Which suggests that magic sources could be detected by triangulation, and magic might not work near very powerful transmitters. Maybe the average AM station couldn’t knock it out, but UHF TV or, a LongWave transmitter (it might be history now, but when you look at a mind-boggling power rating and then read that was just to heat the huge tube filaments – which might have been also the cathodes, well, now.)

            • I know that being cooked by Navy transmissions on a ship is still A Thing, as of ten years ago.

              …I am totally stealing the triangulation idea, it works for the werewolf suburban fantasy I’m playing with. ^.^ (Probably just drop a mention of it in the initial infodump, as a checkov’s gun for how there’s such a big support system in an area– they triangulated the magical outbreaks!)

            • Oh golly, now I am seeing FDR’s rural electrification project as not an effort to bring modern conveniences to rural homes but as part of the genocide of the elven creatures — those high voltage transmission lines being as inimical to Faery as barbed wire was to the Buffalo.

              • That is an interesting take on things. And I find myself wondering a bit about ‘mutant’ Fae becoming gremlins as in the Leslie Fish tune.

                (I find myself grumbling at one ‘pop’ tune played on the PA Muzak.. with the line “Fairy tales don’t always have a happy ending.” Well, they are Fairy (Or Faerie is you prefer) tails – of course they don’t!)

              • Oh golly, now I am seeing FDR’s rural electrification project as not an effort to bring modern conveniences to rural homes but as part of the genocide of the elven creatures — those high voltage transmission lines being as inimical to Faery as barbed wire was to the Buffalo.

                *pushes glasses up nose*

                Well, actually to the magic they deploy.

                Which, given their traditional interactions with humans, is a distinction without a difference. It SUCKS to try to ambush someone who not only knows you’re there, but has a rocket launcher aimed at your nose.

              • Then they most likely have enclaves in West Virginia and other such places where the utilities strangely didn’t take hold for a very long time.

    • I’ve read a few modern books where problems were created because people (in)conveniently seemed to forget that cell phones were a thing.

      • I had a gal have her car stolen. “Ha! It’s got an anti-theft . . . all I have to do is . . . ” patting pockets . . . “Find my phone and call the . . . &^%$!!! I left my phone in the car!”

        It can be fun, getting around these awkward bits of tech. Or using them. By the time my lady borrowed a phone and got her car remotely turned off, it was far enough away to give the car thief the time he needed to do something clever.

        • Actual sequence.

          Put dog in car. Dog locks car, with keys in ignition. We were at friends in the country. Yes, I had the spare keys. In my purse. In the car … Where were both cell phones … in the car. We had OnStar so we only had to call that to get the truck unlocked. After we found the 800 number for OnStar. For whatever reason their internet & cells were being flaky. The easy way to contact OnStar are in the (locked) car. Took us something like 45 minutes to get someone on the phone; not OnStars fault. Then, not hot, so not an emergency. In fact we were standing around next to the truck in sleet (had to read off the vehicle VIN), properly identify ourselves, before they’d unlock the car. Stupid dog. She was fine. We were cold & wet.

          Can not make this up … So yes. There are a lot of ways to plot around “but … cell phone!”

          FWIW. There are a lot of places where OnStar &/or your cell are not going to bail you out.

          • There was a report on comp.risks in (early 1990s?) of a guy who stopped somewhere in AZ/NM to do some high altitude quick winter photography. He was walking back to his rental car when all the door lock buttons snapped down as it sat there idling… and he was a *long* way from civilization. His coat was in the car, of course.

            Auto-locking systems of all sorts are works of the devil. And why do so many of them automatically lock the door, but when you have to manually unlock them before you can get out?

            I’d be a lot more worried about being trapped in a burning or sinking car than carjacking or nonexistent children escaping…

            • Hadn’t thought of auto locking. Keys were in the ignition but vehicle wasn’t on. Stupid dog stepped on the locking section of the toggle button on the arm. Could we get her to step on it to accidentally unlock them? No. Silly dog.

              Newer car has same locks but the keys don’t get left in the ignition. There isn’t one*. Situation you detailed wouldn’t happen. Even with the engine running, When put in park the auto locks disengage, at least on the driver’s door, & don’t reengage until put into gear again. In theory the computer could screw up, but if that happens I am going to be worried about other things.

              Newer car, if engine isn’t on, won’t let you lock the keys in the car or trunk. That is nice. So the situation that occurred before won’t happen. Again, presuming the sensors are working correctly. But if those are broken the car won’t start; a w.hole different detail of fun*.

              OTOH. Learned my lesson. Don’t leave keys in purse if I’m leaving it in the car. Period.

              * There is a back up method. But would have to look it up in the book.

              FWIW. If you have an app on your phone that lets you unlock/lock your car, or like OnStar, BlueLink, etc. Given the “quick wilderness photo” stop, you describe, lets say he used his phone for the photo op. Still in trouble. Those apps depend on cell coverage … They are not use the extra annual cost beyond the “free” year or two you get when you purchase the new car. I mean, they are cool & neat & all.

              • sounds great unless you’re in the car and someone is trying to get to you.

              • Funny, my 2001 Nissan Frontier won’t allow the doors to lock if the keys are in the ignition. You can still lock yourself out if you take them out and then put them on the seat to pick up something else…..

                • 2010 Chevy Pickup. Definitely can lock keys in vehicle, in ignition or not. Sure, the truck beeps at you if the keys are in the ignition & you open the door. But you can ignore that. Guessing the newer ones with key fobs that don’t go into ignition are the same as the Sonata.

                  2015 Hyundai Sonata can not lock key fob (doesn’t go in ignition) in vehicle unless vehicle is in drive. Can’t use app if key fob is within X feet of the vehicle either; or if not in cell coverage, but that is a different issue.

                  • Current car behaves as described for the Sonata.

                    Previous car, I was in the habit of starting it to get warm/cool and loading stuff in stages, locking in between from outside with the remote. The new one is nice, but I miss that.

                    • Yes. Me too.

                      Sonata OTOH has seat & steering wheel heaters. Seat has air coolers too. You can get in & start it, get out with the key fob & lock it (presume, haven’t done it, our neighborhood not needed), & keep it running to heat or cool it. Truck fob has an auto start. Sonata’s doesn’t – Auto start only works with the App, which requires $$$ & Cell coverage.

                      We have double set of keys too. We each carry a set when we are traveling (VS around town). Problem with locking BOTH sets of keys in the vehicle has happened to us twice in 40 years … Second time it was the dogs fault & I’m sticking to my story.

                  • Wait – you can’t lock the doors if the car is in park, but you are still inside? Stay the hell out of bad neighborhoods, then, and make sure you don’t make a wrong turn and wind up in one by accident.

  10. Heinlein was *truly* a visionary: In _Expanded Universe_, in his article with predictions written in 1950, 1965, and 1980, he gives one prediction that the introduction of contraception and other sexual medicine advances would change courting and marriage behaviors as much as the introduction of the car. In 1965, he then went on to add:

    “There is some new gadget in existence today which will prove to be equally revolutionary in some other way equally unexpected. You and I both know of this gadget, by name and by function—but we don’t know which one it is nor what its unexpected effect will be. This is why science fiction is not prophecy—and why fictional speculation can be so much fun both to read and to write.

    1980 (No, I still don’t know what that revolutionary gadget is—unless it is the computer chip.) The sexual revolution: it continues apace—FemLib, GayLib, single women with progeny and never a lifted eyebrow, staid old universities and colleges that permit unmarried couples to room together on campus, group marriages, “open” marriages, miles and miles of “liberated” beaches. Most of this can be covered by one sentence: What used to be concealed is now done openly. But sexual attitudes are in flux; the new ones not yet cultural mores.”

    So, from the viewpoint of 2019, almost time for his fifth set of updates (if he’d managed to live, dammit!), we can, I think, definitively say that yes – it was the computer chip.

    • I would say rather that the advances in computing expanded by many orders of magnitude the speed and quantity of information we can manipulate.
      On the one hand I can now hold the entire Library of Congress in the palm of my hand.
      On the other, we are approaching the day when an artificial intelligence algorithm can monitor and report on every aspect of our daily lives.

      • Except one could equally says that cars “just” vastly accelerated our speed of travel. And that they didn’t really come into their own until the full infrastructure became built out, culminating in the Interstate Highway system – in fact, the analogy with the microcomputer and the Internet is fairly exact. BBSs might correspond to the earlier period of car usage, with Fidonet and similar networks serving the purpose of the railways, save that the railways came before the cars.

        At some point, a quantitative change *becomes* a qualitative change. So, yeah – three big changes that have changed our sexual mores *hugely* – automobiles, chemical contraception, and microcomputers. Simply increasing the speed of communication doesn’t account for Tinder, FB, speed dating, and the growth of groups like furries and bronies.

        • Network effects are potent.

          Or, as I once saw it put, “A good writer might predict the automobile. A great writer is needed to predict the traffic jam.” (And yes, I know that flash-crowds as random unplanned things were predicted as a possible consequence of teleportation.)

  11. Ok, I’m gonna out myself as a geezer.

    Changes I’ve noticed;

    The cost of a phone call. I’m old enough to remember when calling another State wasa big friggin deal. When calling California from the East Coast was something one budgeted for. That wasn’t changed by cell phones, although they accelerated it. That was changed when microwave relay towers meant that phone calls no longer had to go through physical wires and fibre optic lines meant that physical lines could transmit a much higher levelof traffic. The phone company’s monopoly had been tolerated because the alternative was a vast multiplication of physical lines cluttering up the landscape. When that was no longer necessary, the monoply was called into question and the breakup became inevitable. No, nobody worries much about distance or duration of a phone call, with the consequence that everybody and his cousin Freddy feels entitled to contact you at any time. We are, slowly, developing customs to keep this in check. Slowly.

    Spreadsheets used to be done on chalkboards, maybe once a quarter. Maybe less. Now they are done at the drop of a hat.

    The unremarked flip side of ‘the obesity epidemic’ is that the primary dietary problem of the poor in the West is that they are too fat. If that has happened before, I wasn’t aware of it.

    We have routine access to foods nobody but world travelers and gourmets had even HEARD of a few decades ago.

    When I was in High School the fountain pen was a curiosity. As computers made a borderline perfect letter much easier, a handwritten one became that much more meaningful…and the fountain pen business boomed. I predicted as much back when a fancy computer printer was a NINE pin dot-matrix. Sadly, I had no idea how to capitalize on the insight.

    I have noticed that GOOD art and craft supplies are much easier to come by, even without counting the internet. Art and high Craft used to be the occupation of the wealthy. They still are, but nearly everyone is that wealthy now.

    • DANG, you’re old! I had an inexpensive Sheaffer pen when I was in HS. Later, I got a Parker.

      • Wanna clue HOW old? The first printer we bought cost in the neighborhood of $900. It used a ribbon.

        • I learned BASIC on a VAX. ~:D

          • First computer class was BASIC using teletype input, state of the art VS Fortran & cards. Don’t remember what the computer was (probably VAX). Our first computer was a $2700 Apple IIe with dot matrix printer, & two 5.5″ drives … Hey, used that Apple for 8 years, before gave it to mom, who used it for another 5. Donated it to the grade school in the late ’90s. I think it was still working when they retired it at 20 years old.

          • The first program I wrote in 1977 (high school) was on paper punch tape.

            Yes I have been doing this too damn long.

            • Mine was also 1977 but we had teletype terminals on the “big” mainframe. Luxury!!! ~:D

              • Mine was a decade earlier — punched cards on an IBM 1620. First “mainframe” was an IBM 7040 a few years later. Didn’t get punched paper tape for another few years, when I was working on a PDP-8.

                That doesn’t count stuff on a programmable calculator, which was a bit earlier. The first one was done by punching (manually) holes in a punch out card which got put into a card reader.

              • That might have been what my first class was on. Teletype attached to a VAX. Winter ’75. Despised the class. I can’t emphasis enough how much I hated it & computers. It was required for my then degree.

                Got forced to take another computer class when I went back to school for retraining due to the Spotted Owl. I was looking at accounting, under “If I can’t do what I wanted to do, I’ll do something that comes easy to me.” This was ’83. Oh the difference of 8 years … A 35 year career was born. Not only was I good at application programming (not a savant, but very good), but I had the knack of translating what the user* needed (VS wanted), & they were thrilled. It was FUN. It wasn’t the work that decided I needed to pull the retirement trigger. Guess it is still “have” as I’m not dead yet, just haven’t done any programming for 3 years now.

                *Believe it or not, there are programmers who can not make the connection between the user & their product, then are surprised when the user isn’t over awed by their brilliance.

                • *Believe it or not, there are programmers who can not make the connection between the user & their product, then are surprised when the user isn’t over awed by their brilliance.

                  I knew this a long time before the new head of the IT dept. at the Aluminum foundry where I was working came in and started trying to make everything conform to the way that they had done it at his previous job at the flavor mixing plant. Different industries do things in different ways, who knew?

                  They were fortunate that I was there, so I could translate to the oh-so-superior IT head how things had to be done differently than what he was used to. I probably saved them two weeks of arguing with him.

      • Sheaffer pens were common in grade school (there was a table where students could buy minor supplies). IIRC, I was using a Sheaffer in the early ’60s before the Bic ballpoint pen hit the market, to great fanfare.

        We used to wait until after 9PM to do long distance calls, ’cause the rates dropped then.

    • Telecommunications monopolies did not yield position easily, MCI has been called “a law firm with antennae”

    • Yeah, also outing myself as a geezer. Officially – I turned 65, yesterday. Long-distance telephone calls? Oh, yeah – major expense, when you were stationed several hundred miles, a couple of states, continents and time zones away from family. I have memories of only calling my family once a week after 6PM to get the cheap rate. Now? Pish-tush, my good man.
      Odd and curious foreign cuisine? Been there: stationed in Japan (urp 40 years ago!), we all grew to love a local dish called ‘katsudon’ – like a hamburger, available everywhere: breaded pork cutlet, with poached scrambled eggs and onions in a little bit of broth, served on rice. Came back to the States – yeah-no, never heard of it. Now have recipes for it on Yummily…

      • Oh yes. Remember party lines? We lived in the sticks and had an 8 party line. Pick up the phone and make sure no one is talking on it. Also different rings meant it was for you or somebody else.

        • I barely remember staying in a house that had a party line. It was the family (Mother’s, extended) summerhouse, and the party line went away before I was old enough to have phone privileges.

          I also remember milk, delivered in glass bottles, with the cream on top. Then the bottles went away, and then the delivery…although an attempt was made to revive it in Cleveland Hights, of all places. That lasted less than a year, as I recall.

          • Timothy E. Harris

            I grew up in Cleveland Heights and I don’t find it all that surprising. Nearly every house there had a “milk chute” built into it somewhere in or near the kitchen so the milk could be delivered and brought in without anyone in the home having to answer the door or go outside.
            Since we didn’t move there until 1967, delivery had already ceased but some of my paper route customers had me put the paper in their milk chutes…

            • Tract homes in Saint Clair Shores (by Detroit) had airlock doors for milk delivery in the ’50s.

            • Did you know that the mascot of Roxboro Elementary was designed by local artist and general renaissance man Viktor Schreckengost? My folks liked his work, and so I was reading about him on the internet and came across that little fact-nugget from severl sources.

        • The party line I was on didn’t have different rings to tell who the call was for, it rang individual phones. But when I was determined to be old enough to come home by myself after school, I was expected to call my mother at work to let her know. Frequently I had to wait for the two gossiping old bats to finish before I could call. And oh, my, how they would bitch if I forgot to listen before I started dialing!

      • My first couple of overseas tours, in Spain and Greece 2000-2004, I’d call home once a month or so. One euro a minute on a calling card. Now, I can skype with my family for free any weekend I want, as long as I keep an eye on time differences. Which, at current distances, are just “Your evening and my morning”, and you’ve got several hours to talk.

        You wouldn’t be interested in some Coco’s, would you? Apparently you can buy it a store now.

      • And, even in the 80s when we were building BITNET, the connectivity looked a little strange. Universities would connect to ones a lot further away, and then run lines back towards closer ones. But the reason was simple — different regulators meant that a line from New York City to upstate (regulated by New York State) would cost a lot more than a line to an out-of-state University and, from there, back into New York (regulated by the Feds).

    • Heh. About those letters back in those olden days of the middle of last century and before that, but when cars were already common: what now sounds rather weird when reading old mysteries is the idea that the characters in neighboring villages or towns may communicate by writing a letter today and getting the answer tomorrow. And sometimes the answering letter might come in the same day, if they had send it in the “morning post”. Now, at least where I live, it can take three days or more for a letter to get from sender to recipient inside the same fricking small city.

    • Microwave relay towers went up in the 80s, and long distance was still pricey then. I couldn’t call my friends in high school, when we lived in a rural area and he lived in a nearby rural area, because it was long distance. IT was largely the high bandwidth allowed by fiber and the ubiquity of the internet that caused long distance prices to drop and then disappear.

      • Mom broke her rule of only calling after 6 PM or weekends, no collect charges to home phone. Had to use a pay phone to charge to their home phone … why the expensive call … well they were at the Oregon coast on May 18, 1980 … we were in Longview, WA. Which according to the news was over ran by the ash cloud down the Cougar river, & the mud flows down the Tuttle.

        Far as that goes we, or the folks (after all Longview was “gone” per news), got calls the following week from Inlaws (Bend), siblings, & other family (all over).

        Mud flows did reach the Columbia blocking ship traffic at the Tuttle, but didn’t overflow the banks that far down.

    • Donald Stephens

      “We have routine access to foods nobody but world travelers and gourmets had even HEARD of a few decades ago.”

      I have in my fridge a one-pound package with at least nine different varieties of salad tomatoes. Price: one dollar.

      • I have a treat-shelf with candy and treat instant drinks on it– Thai 3-in-1 coffee, Japanese instant rose milk tea from Korea (…), Japanese kitkat bars, a bunch of Mexican candy, Japanese ramune gummy candy, some sort of sort of guava hard candies with Chinese writing on it, nothing really odd but without modern supply lines, it’d be impossible.
        The pantry has Japanese curry blocks, Korean instant ramen, some sweet chili sauce that’s almost like chunky ketchup from the Philippines, Japanese udon and instant miso, Greek wine, Canadian whiskey and a ton of very inexpensive canned food that went from an American field to the can in less than six hours.

        Freaking miracle world.

        • > sweet chili sauce that’s almost like chunky ketchup from the Philippines

          We buy some Korean chili sauce that’s much like that. It is to die for with roasted chicken… nom nom nom.

          Hm. I think today’s dinner menu just got decided.

  12. A couple years back, I was wandering around a Renaissance Festival and chatting with one of the vendors (who was in costume and playing the role). I used my iPhone to look up something on the Web, and for a moment I wondered how I would explain a smartphone to a real person from Renaissance times.

    The best analogy I could think of: It’s a magic mirror.

  13. On the “gig economy”, this is how humans worked until the industrial revolution – a little farming, a little livestock, carding and spinning wool in the black months, piece work jobs, etc. The same time they’re selling paleo and other “natural” diets, they’re carping about working to man’s traditional patterns. Shift work is the high carb/ processed sugar of labor.

  14. Having a personal library of old books helps. I was just looking at a 1911 Physics text used at UC Berkeley. A relative of mine studied there.

    They knew of radiation, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, but no idea of their danger. No mention of Einstein or relativity. No idea that quantum mechanics was unfolding. Knew there was energy in the atom but knew no way to get at it. They did not know what they didn’t know.

    When you only see the “now” you miss knowing the changes. In school, they taught us Jupiter had 12 moons, Saturn 9. Now they don’t bother teaching the number, knowing it will change. So no one knows how many there are. We still don’t know what we don’t know.

    • It has been said that “There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.”

  15. As tech changes, culture changes… but basic human nature really doesn’t.
    A lot of proggies miss that part.

    • The Progressives’ fundamental assumption is that humans beings don’t -have- a “nature.” We are all blank slates, waiting to be written on and slotted into out place in Society.

      That being the case, anyone who resists being written on or gets out of their place is defective and should be removed from society [killed] immediately, lest they spread their defect by contagion.

      Because if you’re a blank slate, anybody can write anything on there, any old time at all.

      That this notion is not only false but clearly insane seems not to make any impression on your usual Proggie. I suppose that’s why Lenin called them Useful Idiots.

  16. I keep finding all these good new books that are decades old!

    Australian people, you never told me about Upfield! And he wrote so many series mysteries! And they have all these cool Outback settings!

    OTOH, he clearly had the worst writer focus group ever, and I cannot understand why the Murchison Murders were not covered in Murder Ink or any of the other mystery/true crime reference books I have encountered.

  17. People like to whimper about how Lincoln destroyed Federalism…I think a stronger case can be made for Henry Ford and Dwight Eisenhower. The automobile made it possible for the common man to readily cross state lines, the Interstate Highways made it pathetically easy.

    WRT computers, I would argue that there have been four distinct revolutions. First was the GUI for the Mac, from 1984. The second was the advent of a truly portable computer circa 1992. The third was the Internet, which really started to get traction around 1995. The fourth was wi-fi.

    The Mac GUI was a breakthrough. It really WAS a computer for the common man, not a specially trained programmer. A quantum jump. Apple followed it up with the first Powerbook in late ’91/early ’92. Before then, a “portable” computer was a briefcase-sized contraption. No, it didn’t go IN the briefcase…it WAS the case.

    The Internet? Another quantum jump. In particular, it made possible transnational small business. Small firms could now advertise their wares to a global audience, sell to just about anyone. I was one of the first customers to use those systems…and the idea of ordering stuff DIRECT from Japan or Europe without a lot of fuss and bother was revolutionary.

    Wi-fi? It put it all at your fingertips. Which was convenient…but people become dependent on it. Which is not a good thing. Folks are realizing that carrying a robo-snitch everywhere you go is not the best thing to do.

    • There was a great early Mac commercial that showed people happily working away on Macs, and glowering at PCs (in a large office-type area). Two management-types are wandering through, and one asked why Macs were so much more popular. The other guy said, ‘Well, sir, people like using them.” First manager type said, “No, that can’t be it.”

      Early Mac vs Dos PC? Mac won for the average user who didn’t want to have to understand what made the computer work. The Mac just worked.

      • Otto-corrupt, that is DOS, not Dos as in two.

      • I recall one TV commercial with a DOS machine and a great pile of manuals slamming down next to it. And a Mac, with a rather thin booklet settling down next to it. I suspect that sold a lot of Macs, or at least got them considered.

        • Which is a rather exact analogy between Windows and Linux for the home user. People don’t want a second career as a Unix admin in order to play games and use e-mail.

    • Railroads were an underappreciated cause of the ACW.
      It was not lost on the more far-sighted planters what sorts of impacts a glut of immigrant labor in the North and ready mobility were about to have on their society.
      And there are reasons why the states of the Confederacy chose to their trains on different gauge tracks than the industrializing North.

      • The Confederacy’s unwillingness to use common gauge for their railroads was a factor in their inability to move troops in sufficient time to counter Union attacks, whereas the Union’s ability to use railroads to move troops (most famously with Gen Hooker’s deployment to the Western Theater to counter Confederate advances in Tennessee) directly led to Union victories. No matter how brilliant the Confederacy’s plans were, they couldn’t the Union’s superior logistics.

    • Danny Hamilton

      “The Mac GUI was a breakthrough. It really WAS a computer for the common man, not a specially trained programmer.”
      I was at Baylor when the Mac came out. Everybody was waiting for it.
      It came out and the people said it was Great BUT. It didn’t have a hard disk, it didn’t have the memory it needed to really work, the screen was SMALL and B/W. They were told by Apple that the memory would be solved when the new memory board came out. The Mac would have the 1 Meg of memory it needed instead of the 0.5 Meg it had. There were a LOT of pissed people when they found that the memory board would cost $1000!

      Then the IBM PC came out. 180K one sided floppy disks, 256K memory, what were these idiots thinking. DEC had a PC out CPM and DOS operating systems, 640K one sided floppies, with 256K Memory, Color screens. A much better deal. Also the DEC was 24 lines on the screen like ALL Computer Monitors had, not like the IBM PC with 25. I also got the UP GRADE to 324K of memory that came with the 10Meg Hard Drive rather than the standard 5Meg. At the time unheard of for a MAC or a IBM PC.

      But IBM won because at the time NOBODY EVER got FIRED for buying IBM.

      DEC ALWAYS had hardware and operating systems that made IBM and Apple LOOK BAD. Too bad their Management could not market for *&WER^TY&TERE%WE!!!!

  18. “People like to whimper about how Lincoln destroyed Federalism…I think a stronger case can be made for Henry Ford and Dwight Eisenhower.”

    Former confederate general Porter Alexander, who was Lee’s artillery commander at Gettysburg, became a railroad president after the war and made some interesting remarks about transportation & communications in connection with federalism and states rights:

    “Well that (state’s rights) was the issue of the war; & as we were defeated that right was surrendered & a limit put on state sovereignty. And the South is now entirely satisfied with that result. And the reason of it is very simple. State sovereignty was doubtless a wise political instution for the condition of this vast country in the last century. But the railroad, and the steamboat & the telegraph began to transform things early in this century & have gradually made what may almost be called a new planet of it… Our political institutions have had to change… Briefly we had the right to fight, but our fight was against what might be called a Darwinian development – or an adaptation to changed & changing conditions – so we need not greatly regret defeat.”

    What Are the Limits of the Alexander Analysis?

    https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/54565.html

  19. Lately my laptop spends less time as a glorified typewriter, and more as a tiny portable photolab.

    • Back in HS I was (among other things) a school paper/yearbook photographer, Spent most of my shutterbug time in the darkroom developing pictures. Nowadays, photographers can spend the bulk of their time *taking pictures*.

      And at the dawn of digital, if you wanted some really creative effects you still had to go to the darkroom to produce them. With the advance of software AFAIK that is no longer the case.

      • Not to mention the shear number of pictures you can take digitally than before. Even if you were a serious photographer. We have boxes of slides & photos. Always have taken more than one snap shot of whatever, just to be sure to get the “best picture” (hubby is going to get those scanned in anytime now … for the last 15 years, or so …). Honestly we don’t take many more than we did before. Just the medium for taking (SD VS film), & viewing (didn’t have darkroom), is a LOT less expensive.

      • I know a lady who supports a historic building basically on the money made from “fix people’s photos.”

        Both scanned, and digital– she adjusts them, then hands the person a CD, for a pretty decent price.

        Only thing she doesn’t like is that the building is a long way from her grandkids…anybody want to move to Lakeview, Oregon?

      • Once had to point out to a youngster that a certain image didn’t need photoshop — only a double exposure. (Though you certainly could do it in photoshop by joining two photos.)

  20. One simple example of how the internet can induce changes in society would be in the realm of sexual experimentation. Now that [rhymes with horn] is ubiquitous and discreetly available, people’s expectations of what constitutes “normal” or even “acceptable” acts has drastically changed. It is also much easier for fetish groups to coordinate communications, facilitating the normalization of their kinks. As deviant behaviours become more normal, those seeking the extreme are pushed further out. Shocking the bourgeoisie is increasingly difficult these days.

    One simple example ought suffice: the “expectation” that people’s genitals will be kept clean-shaven, something necessary for the camera to show what is happening but a serious problem (and health concern) for people who have real lives.

  21. The simple act of following sports has been irretrievably altered by the advent of the computer and internet. Using baseball as an example, games are fully available in a variety of formats, from radio broadcast to television to online to streaming video. Where once statistics were simple and largely unchanging, the last twenty-five years have seen a bewildering expansion as teams now pursue “moneyball” and are using advanced metrics to evaluate, develop and deploy talent. NO modern MLB team is without an analytics department and several teams employ as many as twenty people in that function.

    Managers and coaches are recruited and rewarded based on their ability to convey analytical information to players and get them to use it in their training and strategies. High-speed cameras have resulted in analysing pitchers’ “spin rates” rather than the less precise “he has a sharp-breaking curve” or “his fastball has a hop to it.” Fans can run blogs where in the past they could only argue in bars or call-in radio programs, which has opened the sport to more input from disparate sources. A night watchman at a Kansas City Campbell’s soup plant* can radically change the nature of the game without ever playing because the internet allows dissemination of ideas and discussions once limited to mimeographed newsletter.

    Other sports have faced similar changes, affecting them in similar ways.

    *See: Bill James

    • Decades ago, I wrote the story, “The Man Who Saved Baseball”. Of course I’d have to scan it in now to share it 😉

    • My folks and I joke about “And another number from the statistically useless department of useless statistics” when the sports commen-taters announce something like “He has the highest ERA of any left-handed player under five foot eight,” and the like.

  22. Reading this on my phone, after spending the day (after a school day’s worth of lessons at LEAST a year too old for them was finished in under an hour, including poem recitals.) at a fast food play area. Because we needed to see people. Bonus: at least one family CAME BACK because my kids were there, and several ordered another drink because the kid(s) were happy.

  23. As to cars and the changes they brought about: In my lifetime I find the interstate highway system was a huge change more than just the almost universal access to cars. My parents (and those of many of my peers) moved away from places with many relatives to places with none. Then they didn’t understand why we grew up differently from them.

    I once considered writing a story where Ray Bradbury is given a time machine, and goes back in time to assassinate President Eisenhower in order to prevent the Interstate Highway System from destroying small town life. Actually, of course, Ray would do no such thing and always knew that Greentown was a nostalgia trip that shouldn’t be lost. He celebrated American freedom and wanted us to sell cars to the USSR rather than wheat, so they could be infected by the freedom virus. He thought a country that had more than a million people with pilot’s licenses was too entrenched in the ideal of freedom to ever be despotized.

    • My wife grew up around many aunts, uncles, and cousins. I didn’t. She also lived in the same house for 21 years before marrying my. The longest I had ever lived in one town was 4 years. After 40 years of marriage, she’s still amazed that I can strike up conversations with perfect strangers without giving it a moment’s thought.

  24. As one of the people who telecommutes/works remotely because of disability, I for one am very happy that modern computer technology allows me full access to work, and to even have a phone that is on the company phone system. The ability to work remotely is the only thing that is keeping me actively in the work force.

  25. I’ll add one more major shift, particularly in the last 40 years or so. Urban provincialism.

    It used to be that city dwellers were considered urbane, exposed to many different things…as opposed to the rural hicks who knew nothing but the farm. Today, it’s the opposite. The city slicker is the one who lives in his urban enclave, the country folk who are well-traveled. And it makes a massive difference in worldview.

    • Ooh, I’d not thought of it that way. But you’re right. It’s now a rare country person who isn’t used to traveling relatively long distances.

      *Wry grin* When I was doing research for my dissertation, I was amused that the regional ag newspaper in the late 1800s had what I jokingly called “the society pages.” The editor kept a careful tally of who was going where and which ranchers had just come back from England, or Back East. The ranchers got around a lot more than I’d imagined.

    • I was at a party in the Poconos where one of the attendees had lived in Los Angeles all her life. She’d done some domestic and international travel, but all of it had been of the “fly to another big city” variety. She was probably around 50 years old and she’d literally never been out of an urban environment. The party was taking place on a second-floor deck, and when a deer wandered by and started munching on some shrubbery down below she asked if it was OK to be sitting so close to it, or if we needed to move inside for our safety. We were about 60 horizontal and a dozen vertical feet away! Once she was reassured it was safe to stay outside, she watched it with the kind of enraptured attention you’d expect from a child, and then went on to take dozens of photos of it.

      • Reminds of me of Thanksgiving on year in the Poconos (my parents had a house there in the higher elevations) and a young bear decided to try to climb a tree to get at the bird feeder that was suspended on a rope between trees; while we were eating dinner! It was rather entertaining as the bear put one foot on the rope, put the second foot on, and then tried to figure out how to let go of the tree without falling 7 or see feet to the ground! Eventually it gave up.

      • Ancient Joke time (is joke – cannot see this really happening).

        A visitor to the country is standing, looking out at the animals grazing in a pasture. The farmer/rancher stops to talk and finally the visiting fellow admits a bit of ignorance and asks, “I’d heard cattle had horns, but these have none. Was I misinformed?”

        And the explanation follows that why, yes, some breeds do have horns. And some breeds only the bulls, the males, have horns, and some breeds lack horns completely, and sometimes for various reasons horns are removed. “But the reason these particular animals do not have horns, is that they are horses.”

        • What? You haven’t heard the one about the wealthy city slicker who went hunting for elk? Shot one. But got into an argument with a local. Finally the local sighed & said “Yes, you can have your damn ‘elk’, but let me get my saddle off first.”

          Implication is not that the local is riding an elk, but that the city slicker is too stupid to tell the difference between horses & elk, even with a saddle on it (also implied local wasn’t actually riding said horse, but even that is up to interpretation of individual listening.)

          • I might have heard that one, once upon a time.

            And then there’s this one (many variants):

            https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110805085036AAczzCE

            • Yes. Heard that one too.

              Also heard the variation where the auditor is off the count by the number of dogs handling the flock. Then is upset, & rants about it, only to have the Sheppard state “you can’t count my dogs as a sheep.”

              What is really sad. Now days a lot of hunting areas require stopping by check stations with the animal, or at minimum retrieving a tooth & turning that in with where the animal was taken. Been awhile, but the stories of the animal not being what they thought are, um, interesting.

              I’m not counting the got a doe/cow, yearling or forked, because they thought they saw horns, or larger ones, through the trees; or shot at the correct animal type, but missed & got the illegal one standing behind, near, the legal one. But bringing in horses, goats, sheep, cattle, etc.

              There are areas where both “Yea, it’s hunting season.” And. “Oh, crap, it is hunting season.” is uttered by the same individuals.

              • I work in financial software. One of our geniuses came to our Oklahoma office. He and I were riding in the backseat going to lunch. He was looking out the window and I saw him turn to keep looking at something. Finally he turned to me and said, “Are those brown things … cows?” They were. He had never seen an actual cow before.

        • One of my co-students at aircraft mechanic school worked summers at a dude-lite ranch in North Dakota. Several times he heard, after driving a small herd of horses from one paddock to another, comments along the lines of. “I never thought I’d ever actually see a real live cattle drive . . .”.

      • I’ve encountered people from other parts of the country who were horrified by… catfish. I mean, there are all kinds of fish, and there are lots of fish with skin instead of scales. Maybe it’s the whiskers that freak them out.

        Every now and then I wonder what they’d do it they went to Florida and saw a catfish crossing the street…

    • WPDE. I wrote a reply to this, and WordPress ate it. Short version: I encountered a 50-ish year old woman who’d traveled the world but never set foot outside a city before I ran into her at a small outdoor party in the Poconos. When she spotted a deer munching on shrubbery about sixty feet away, she asked if we needed to retreat indoors for your safety.

    • One of the most characteristic aspects of modern urban liberals is just how parochial they are. They’ve rarely interacted with anybody from a different social environment and, frankly, do not care to.

      When you already know everything worth knowing you have no inclination to listen to any deplorable person.

      I am betting Hillary’s interactions with Arkansas natives were highly limited and didn’t involve much actual listening.

    • Or the urbanites who think they’re well-traveled – they know they way around varous urban hives and the airports connecting them. To them, the whole world is high rises and mass transit systems.

      • A fellow visiting from Australia was glad to be shown stuff well off the Interstate, as it wasn’t the usual “generica” one tends to find along the Interstate(s). A friend of his had visited the USA a few years earlier and complain about how everything was the same – but he never left sight of the Interstate and went from large city to large city.

        • Even that depends on area.

          I was shocked driving from El Paso to San Diego, because everything was the same.

          I’ve driven from NorCal to Kansas through all the states ABOVE Kansas to Washington and all through Nevada and Cali, and never run into that before.

          …. I think it’s because that area is pretty empty. There weren’t a lot of good stagecoach stops to work on, so single chains COULD pick up that big route.

  26. Regarding expectations of what is possible, along with changes in technology:

    My daughter’s family moved back from several States away last summer. There was a delay of almost three months between moving out of one house and the new house being ready. Part of that time was spent staying with and/or house sitting for various relatives.

    That was not enough to cover the whole time without wearing out their welcome everywhere. So, air travel being possibly the cheapest transportation that has ever existed, modern internet tech offering Airbnb anywhere, and the fact that they were going to spend at least part of the summer paying for accommodations. They decided to travel to Athens, Santorini, Florence, and Rome with their one year old son in tow.

    I’m not sure that my daughter would have thought of this trip as possible if her own first intercontinental flight had not been at three months, with five more ocean crossing flights before she was old enough to remember any of them. Growing up hearing about places she had been, but having no memory of those places probably set her up to consider most places on the planet as potential travel destinations.

  27. i dunno about buying property in Sri Lanka tho, they have some nasty laws.

  28. Think of all the man-hours that have been freed up by computers to allow for ever more productivity. As few as 50 years ago, my mother worked in an office that processed orders for a GE Lamp Division (Light Bulbs, Fluorescent light ballasts, etc) warehouse. There were about a dozen people in the office, which was one of 20-something (22, IIRC) nationwide. They had to take calls from their customers for orders, write the down, type them up for the warehouse, file them in physical file cabinets, etc. Now, the customer probably has automated inventory tracking that places orders based on current inventory and previous demand for the time of year, with maybe half a dozen people monitoring the demand for the whole country.

    They have also created work that we probably couldn’t have predicted 40 years ago. I’m on a team that pulls data and produces reports on hundreds of millions of website visits, and billions of advertisement placements every month.

    Computers can tell grocery stores which cashiers to watch to see if they are contributing to theft, by analyzing the patterns of their checkout receipts. While weather prediction is still not completely accurate, it’s immensely better than it was when I was in school. New things can be designed in a fraction of the time it took in the past, with fewer mistakes.

    I’m sure there’s a lot more, but I’ve run out of things for the moment.

    • Yet with all this, and lots more (CNC machine tools, automated teller machines and gas pumps, self-reading electric meters, etc etc), overall labor productivity has stagnated. Why?

      My thought is that huge improvements in productivity in some activities have been pulled down by extreme waste motion in other activities, driven by internal bureaucratic behavior and mismanagement as well as by government regulatory overreach.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Welfare and malfunctions in the educational system are probably also a portion.

      • Yet with all this, and lots more (CNC machine tools, automated teller machines and gas pumps, self-reading electric meters, etc etc), overall labor productivity has stagnated. Why?

        To the extent that it has, I suspect administrative and regulatory overhead is a large part of that. From something I saw before, if the regulatory costs in the US were the GDP of a country, it would be the fourth largest economy in the world. Regulatory compliance eats up about a fifth of our GDP every year.

        But how much has it, really? There are a lot of improvements that slip in unnoticed. Take cars. The features and amenities that come standard on even “Entry level” cars would have been found, if at all, on high end luxury cars in the past. I remember the first house I lived in that had central air conditioning and, believe me, that was pretty swank. (And we did without for quite a while after my mother finally divorced that abusive bastard.) Nowadays? It’s common enough to be standard in even some of the cheapest apartments here in Indianapolis.

        The “increased productivity” isn’t going into building more skyscrapers and bridges. It’s going into a plethora of other things that don’t really draw a lot of attention but have extraordinary effects. (A computer in my pocket that connects me to a worldwide network of communications and information, and yes, even cat photos.) Which brings us right back to the OP. 😉

        • The BLS measurements of inflation (which are a primary input to the productivity calculations) use a “hedonic adjustment” which attempts to correct for improvements in the quality of various items. They explain it here:

          https://www.bls.gov/cpi/quality-adjustment/questions-and-answers.htm

          In the example, they estimate that if a 27-inch television with CRT display is replaced by a 42-inch television with plasma display and HDTV…and the respective prices are $250 and $1250…then the “true” price increase actually negative: a drop from $1345 to $1250.

          The validity of these adjustments, though, really depends on what particular individuals value.

          • The validity of these adjustments, though, really depends on what particular individuals value.

            I’m still waiting for the MLS system to catch on to “people care about internet speed.”

        • It’s common enough to be standard

          Pffft. Absent or non-functioning air conditioning is now taken as evidence of sub-standard housing and a violation of basic human rights.

        • . The features and amenities that come standard on even “Entry level” cars would have been found, if at all, on high end luxury cars in the past.

          Mildly funny story:
          We scandalized my folks by buying a vehicle that doesn’t have electric locks, or electric windows.

          When I graduated, NONE of our vehicles had those! Ten years later, only one did–now? “Oh, how will my grandbabies survive?!?”

          (Actually got it BECAUSE of the flash flood issue of having to break a window AND get kids out of their car seats AND get them all ready to get out of a water-crash.)

          • Second-to-last car I bought I told the salesman that I wanted four wheels, an engine, and enough metal to keep them in reasonable proximity with each other and traveling in the same general direction. Got just what I asked for, though not in my preferred color. Standard transmission*, no power anything, no AC, no cruise control, no radio, roll-up windows.

            Last car I bought had all the bell and whistles mentioned (I couldn’t *find* a new car without them; I looked, hard) and paid half again what the previous one cost me for the ‘convenience’. 😦

            *When shopping for my latest automobile, I asked the attendant to bring me a car with a standard transmission. He showed up with (you guessed it) an automatic. I suppose automatics are ‘standard’ now.

      • or you could just say ‘unions’ and use shorthand for the whole thing.

        • I just heard this via the Wall Street Journal Editorial Report’s “Hits & Misses”:

          The NY City Housing Authority spent $1,973 to replace incandescent light bulbs with LED lights in apartments, paying $130 to union plumbers to do this. Meanwhile, residents lack heat, have lead paint peeling off the walls and black mold.

    • Now they have two dozen clerks in 22 offices to keep up with the government required forms……. such a productivity increase……

      And I’m really only half joking; someone is going to have to prove that most of the “productivity” gains from computers hasn’t been sopped up that way.

  29. My grandparents lived from the horse and buggy era through to the first Gulf War. My grandmother was born in the back of a wagon on the way to her mother’s house because they wanted the baby to get born with Mom around (babies have their own schedule). Along the way, they witnessed both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, etc. Their oldest child worked at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Lots of changes. One time they flew out to visit us. The flight was a bit turbulent. We asked how it was. Grandpa said it felt like riding in an old Model T again.

    • My grandparents too lived from horse & buggy days to see vehicle & air travel to watching the moon landings.

      Maternal grandmother talked of riding her horse to school, & the horse sleigh rides to school in the winter (Montana interior). 1913 – 2006.

      Paternal grandmother talked of walking the farm lane without her shoes on to meet with school buggy ran by her cousins who were further out of town. She didn’t wear her shoes because she needed (wanted?) to keep her shoes clean for school. When she got to school she’d use a rag from home to clean her feet & legs of the mud (Oregon), & put on her socks & shoes. 1908 – 1987.

      My in laws were only 4 or 5 years younger than my maternal grandparents. He worked on rockets that were sent into space.

  30. Will it — say in my grandkids time — be trivial to say “We’ve been looking for houses, and we think instead of California, we’re buying a house in Sri Lanka?”

    I remember reading Spock’s World and one of the prologue sections matches that, which I deeply enjoyed:

    Technology has made Earth smaller than it had ever been, but you could still get pretty lost if you worked at it. It had been a matter of only three hours of travel, and Jim did it the tourist’s way, on purpose – after all, there was no point in beaming down to where you were going on Earth, as if it was any other world you had business with on your tour of duty.

    In fact the travel was really only two hours’ worth: Most of that last hour of the three had been spent sitting caught between annoyance and bemusement on an abeyance apron at Luton, waiting for launch clearance. Jim had been a little careless about his timing and got caught in the commuter rush hour, all the businessmen heading home to Europe and Asia from the City.

    Which I recall, made me a bit amused at the time. Europe and Asia, in the novel, are futuristic versions of our suburbia.

  31. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    On locking keys in the car, won’t say that it Never Happened to me but I have always had two sets of car keys.

    One set was for driving and the other set was with my “house keys”.

    I’d have to forget to put my “house keys” in my pants pockets while going to the car to drive somewhere in order to have problems “getting back into the car”.

    Again, not saying that it Never Happened. 😉

    • *pats hip* House key, van key and “if lost drop this off at (store)” flob for them to call me if it’s lost, all in a pretty little girl knife sheath.