Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What's new?

I asked my friends what is new in their lives.  I wanted to know what was new besides uses of computers.  They didn't protest that there is nothing besides computers.  I appreciate their overlooking for the sake of talk the fact that there is just about literally nothing in my daily life that is totally untouched by computer use of one kind or another.  But aside of ubiquitous mechanical, electronic presence, what is new and different since childhood and early adulthood?

The first answer was grocery shopping, with the newfangled supermarkets over just the last 100 years and some of us are still just getting used to it.  In case you are interested, here is Wikipedia, which is looking for donations, BTW:

In the early days of retailing, all products generally were fetched by an assistant from shelves behind the merchant's counter while customers waited in front of the counter and indicated the items they wanted. Also, most foods and merchandise did not come in individually wrapped consumer-sized packages, so an assistant had to measure out and wrap the precise amount desired by the consumer. This also offered opportunities for social interaction: many regarded this style of shopping as "a social occasion" and would often "pause for conversations with the staff or other customers."[1] These practices were by nature very labor-intensive and therefore also quite expensive. The shopping process was slow, as the number of customers who could be attended to at one time was limited by the number of staff employed in the store.

The concept of an inexpensive food market relying on large economies of scale was developed by Vincent Astor. He founded the Astor Market in 1915, investing $750,000 ($18 million in 2015 currency) of his fortune into a 165' by 125' corner of 95th and Broadway, Manhattan, creating, in effect, an open air mini-mall that sold meat, fruit, produce and flowers. The expectation was that customers would come from great distances ("miles around"), but in the end even attracting people from ten blocks away was difficult, and the market folded in 1917.[2][3][4]

The concept of a self-service grocery store was developed by entrepreneur Clarence Saunders and his Piggly Wiggly stores. His first store opened in 1916...

What else is new?  Streaming.  With broadband internet, we watch movies and shows that are sent in a stream.  After it is over, we have no copy of what was seen but we have a large selection of items we can watch.

Government and big business snooping has reached new heights and new sophistication.  I think that J. Edgar Hoover would be very interested in the ability of businesses to listen to conversations, to read messages, to collect security tapes from tiny, hard-to-notice cameras placed here and there.  

It may be harder to notice what is no longer here: milkmen!  What's a milkman?  Well, boys and girls, he delivers bottles of milk to your front door, glass bottles, not waxed cartons and usually quarts, not gallons. We don't have newsreels.  What's a newsreel?  A short movie showing the latest world news to a movie theater audience before the main feature is shown.  In the days before television and internet, that was often the best way to see pictures related to recent world events and sports.  Party lines are missing.  Many people had a telephone setup that allowed a few lines to be connected to several homes.  When anyone anywhere on the line had a conversation, anyone else also on that party line could pick up the handset (look it up) and listen in on the conversation.  They could comment too, and the talkers could hear them, welcome or not.

Also new are some types of cloth, such as permanent press and polyester.  Drones are new, especially military drones and the idea of delivery of purchased goods by drone.

Depending on the time frame and the definition of "new", there are probably many other things I haven't mentioned.

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