Last updated: July 28. 2014 2:03PM - 199 Views
Dwight Williamson Contributing Columnist

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Technology has transformed our world tremendously. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that life is getting easier for most people. And, greatly due to modern medicine, life expectancy has increased significantly from around the turn of the 20th century when the average person lived to be about 50 years old. Sure, there were those who, despite difficult lives of working the fields, hunting, trapping, timbering or even working in unsafe coal mining conditions that existed in the day, still lived to a ripe old age.

My own great-grandmother Elizabeth (Lizzie) Williamson lived to be over 100 years old and reared a bunch of children in the process. I cannot say whether or not she would have lived longer had she not both smoked and chewed tobacco. I recall the brand, Warren County Twist. It looked like giant twisted licorice and came in a clear package. Tobacco usage was not that unusual in these parts of the country for women in the days of yesteryear.

It seems to me that major technological advances have become almost an everyday thing anymore. Heck, those smart phones become smarter every day. And to think, I majored in electronics for three years at Logan High School; why, I don’t know. It was supposed to be a special class consisting of just 16 students. I was not destined to become the Bill Gates of society. In fact, I hated the necessary tools it took to plan an engineering career or even back then just to be a television repairman. Those tools consisted of algebra I and II, geometry I and II and trigonometry. The highest grade I ever made in any of those classes was a “C.” Obviously, I was not going to be much help on any future moon mission.

I predicted I would never need any of that mathematical stuff for any of my future life’s endeavors, and I was right. It turned out that it did not matter. You see, I graduated in 1971 learning all the necessary things that had to do with diodes, amps and ohms as they related to glass tubes which were in all televisions and radios back then. Well, the very same year I got my diploma was the same year in which the microchip was invented. Gone were the tubes and my electronic education. Seems to me, there was a rash of dramatic changes that took place in the 1970’s.

You probably know that anybody can now purchase a calculator for as cheap as a dollar at many store locations. However, the year 1972 when it was invented a calculator cost $2,500.

At the tender age of 17 on my first day as a freshman at Marshall University the year following the Thundering Herd’s plane crash, I was amazed that you could get a cup of chili or other soups from a vending machine that would serve it up steaming hot in about a minute. I didn’t know the microwave oven had been invented one year earlier. Those things, I suppose, had not yet made it to Logan. Some restaurants soon started using what was called “radar ranges”. What ever happened to those monstrosities?

One invention from 1972 remains a much valued component in nearly all homes even today — the “Mr. Coffee” coffee maker. Remember former New York Yankee great Jo DiMaggio doing the TV commercials? It is till the No. 1 ranked such product in the land.

How about those LED watches that were popular in my heyday? Too bad you couldn’t even tell time in daylight, but they looked “cool” in total darkness. Then there was the “instant camera”. One could take the photo and get an instant print in just a matter of minutes, if you were lucky. The camera’s price started out at $200 each.

While the watch and camera may not have lasted long, there were roaring machines which did. Take, for instance, the Trans Am, the Camaro, the Dodge Charger and the Mustang; now those were muscle vehicles you could count on, but they only got about 10 miles per gallon. The gas shortage of the 1970s meant the decline of those valiant stallions and the beginning of such smaller cars like the Ford Pinto, the Gremlin, the Chevette and the Pacer. Remember the Plymouth Duster? That vehicle always sounded like it didn’t want to start up, but always did.

I realize the younger folks might not have a clue as to my ramblings this day, but they should know that their generation is not the first to have their fancy cell phones. Yep, my generation had them first and the persons using them even had nicknames. The nicknames, which actually were referred to as “handles”, usually were interesting. Examples of a few would be “Big Hot Mamma,” “Harts Creek Heartache,” “Ramblin’ Man,” “Mountain Man” and hundreds of others locally. Citizens band radios, commonly called CB’s, are what I’m referring to and they were abundant, especially in commercial trucks. These devices were the cell phones of yesteryear. Surely, you remember the movie “Smokey and the Bandit”?

“Breaker, breaker, this is the Mud Fork Maniac, anybody out there?”

Trust me on this one, please! I promise, I had no mood rings or pet rocks.

This column previously appeared in the Logan Banner, West Virginia.

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