Column: Writing on the Wall

I lived in the world B.C.

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Thank you, everyone, for your congratulatory calls and emails to me for this column taking first place in its category of “Best Column Writing” in the Suburban Newspapers of America contest for 2010. This week, I’m re-running one of my favorite columns that ran in March, 2009.

Yes, that’s right — I have lived most of my life — the first 43 years of it, in fact — in the time B.C. — that’s Before Computers.

Back then, information at one’s fingertips meant trudging to the library where the books were listed using the Dewey Decimal System. Biographies? “Last row, in the back, make a left, top three shelves,” said the librarian. She was the one who told us where to find what we wanted. She was our “Google.”

At home,we had volumes of encyclopedias, A-Z, to help us with our homework. Rain forests, rabbit habitats, the Revolutionary War? Just pick up “R.” Need a good meatball recipe? Phone the neighbors, or ask Aunt Alice. This was a time, just a heartbeat before ditigal cameras,when we would take a roll of 24 (36 if we could afford it) and send it away in the pre-addressed envelope — “FREE DOUBLE PRINTS!” — then wait a week for the pictures to come in the mail. How excting! The closest thing we had to instant photographic gratification were Polaroids, or photo booths that would pop out strips of four black and whites in about three mintues. I now have 10,000 photographs on my computer, many of them not-so-exciting (or flattering.)

If we wanted to know the words to a song, we would call everyone we knew, and, oftentimes, they would know the same wrong words as everyone else. Or we would go buy the record and play it on slow speed. Lyrics.com? Not on the top 40 yet.

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