Twenty Year Old Me from 1983

Sometimes I think of my phone as my best friend.

Five years ago, I wrote an essay called Time Travel. I dismissed our current technological acuity as lightweight, more focused on entertaining ourselves with our cell phones than fixing the actual problems that plague society. Mostly, I focused on the severe diseases left unsolved from the past couple of centuries—cancer, Aids, Alzheimer’s.

When I wrote Time Travel, I didn’t have a cell phone. I wouldn’t have one. I thought of people glued to their phones as sheep, or maybe mind controlled—more attached to their vaporous Facebook friendships than the people standing next to them. More likely to stare at their tiny screen than the trees lining the street. The whole cell phone revolution disgusted me. I felt above it.

This certainty faded a few years ago along with several other indisputable beliefs when I successfully medicated my OCD. Now I see the utility of my cell phone, it’s a mind-boggling tool, although I still work hard to avoid giving the impression that I’m addicted to it.

I thought about Time Travel—the post, not the activity—several times throughout the pandemic. As we developed treatments and vaccines for Covid, I wondered if I should revisit the topic. We still haven’t cured Aids, but we did an admirable job with the coronavirus.

Since my stepmother died a month ago, I feel like I’ve lived in my car. My father lives an hour and a half away, and I drove this trip many times over the past few weeks. My cell phone made that running around bearable. I stayed in contact with Susan and my kids, my brothers and even my dad (he got his first smartphone last year). I always had great music to listen to, and my ability to open apps like email and Facebook created the illusion that I never left town.

During my many trips driving back and forth to DC, I tried to put myself in the mindset of twenty-year-old me. What would I think about a 2022 smartphone in 1983?  

~ ~ ~

What’s that in your hand?

This? It’s my phone.

Phone? It looks like a little TV.

Well, it can be that too.

What are you talking about?

Pick a memorable scene from a TV show.

Um, the WKRP turkey drop.

<Fiddle, fiddle> This is Les Nessman, your man at the scene here at the Pinedale Shopping Center where the excitement is mounting…

It has every TV show ever made?

Sort of. Lots of them. Movies too.

Why do you carry a TV around with you?

I don’t actually watch TV on it. It does other stuff. I can read the news.

Like a newspaper? It’s too small.

All the newspapers. You get used to the size. Ask me about the music.

It plays music?

I can listen to almost any song ever recorded.

Cowgirl in the Sand?

Except Neil Young.  

Why, what happened to Neil Young?

Long story.

Something by The Creatures then?

Obscure. Let me see.

<Fiddle, fiddle> Giant sized flowers, giant sized bugs, giant sized gecko is making his path…

Whoa. Does that song get popular or something?

No, you and I are the only ones who know it. I don’t have a music collection any more, just my phone.

Why is it called a phone?

People make calls with them, but only when it’s absolutely necessary. Usually, we talk to each other by typing short messages.

That sounds stupid. What else does it do?

It has a camera.

Where does the film go?

No film, everything’s digital.

What does that mean?

Never mind. It has books in it too.

Really? How many?

As many as you want. Books don’t take up much space.

How is that possible? I have shelves and shelves of them in my house.

Oh, and it can navigate. It has maps for everywhere in the world. They talk to you; they tell you when to turn. No more getting lost.

This is just like Star Trek. What else in the world has changed?

Not a thing. Oh, and Jeff?


Buy Apple stock. Buy a lot.

24 thoughts on “Twenty Year Old Me from 1983

  1. That’s really clever and puts a fine point on it. Would have been fun too to try to explain the cloud, right? Glad you got the Neil Young in there. Thanks Jeff, all this in my two hands, too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It took me years to understand the cloud when I was living in it. I think defining it to someone with zero context would be almost impossible. It just shows how much things have changed in 40 years (completely nullifying my premise of the Time Trave piece). I just can’t let Neil go. Pretty pissed at him.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Neil is just one of those unique individuals for sure. I’m grateful for him but glad for the distance too. Yeah on the cloud. In my line of work, I write marketing for tech companies so I’m constantly trying to translate what things like the cloud mean. This past week, it’s been 5G: helping developers understand why it’s not an upgrade but more a game-changer for the future of applications. And that’s mind-boggling and kind of cool, and all kind of maps back to the cloud. And I’m still not sure myself exactly what that means either. But man, taking your theme of 1983, imagine for a moment what 2044 is going to look like. Shit is crazy. I think David Kronenburg has a new film coming out on it and I’m horrified to look. It’s the scary part of the future we’ve always feared maybe. Enough on that. Back to Neil, “I am a child.”

        Liked by 1 person

        • Once part of my job included writing marketing collateral for an IT company working in the International Development industry. I didn’t really speak either language. Made it hard. Have I ever recommended the book ‘The Feed’ by Nick Windo. It’s a pretty cool story and a well written book. Takes place after the internet is embedded in our heads.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I still have never used the GPS to get me where I’m going. I’m pretty lucky that I seem to have been born with an innate sense of direction, plus I worked in the Emergency Road Service department of Auto Club Of So Cal for 15 years. The “T-Guide” (Thomas Brothers Maps) was our “bible”

    You could’ve gotten Neil on another app, but point taken😂😂

    ’83 us would understand a smart phone I think. Totally Star Trek, or video chatting like 2001:Space Odyssey…

    It does seem that western society stopped making forward progress. Smart phones got smarter, but all it has done is allowed complacency, created entitlement and echo chambers… and made a few people obscenely wealthy.

    Would 83 us believe that we were headed backwards in our laws?
    🤐 off topic, no ranting from my soap box today 🙊

    It would be interesting to see if a signal was possible 🤔 and what would that mean? And WHO or WHAT was providing that connectivity?? 🤓

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t Angie. In 1983, I still hadn’t even seen a CD yet. I had boxes of albums (purchased at $5 each with my pizza slinging money). I don’t think I would have been able to fathom the digital world we live in today. In 1983, today’s overt racism wouldn’t have surprised me at all. Going to school in Lynchburg VA opened my eyes to some unbelievable stuff… like people still in the Klan. You’re right, there was probably already a signal… gov’t

      Liked by 2 people

      • Maybe having a computer guy (and avid Trekie) for a step dad, helped expose me to more technology. We had an Apple II home computer when I was like 12 or 13… ’80 or ’81.
        Overt racism was NOT okay in my 80s world. But I grew up seeing mixed couples, gay couples… I guess Geography and nurture add layers to whatever time period we’re in.

        Big difference between Lynchburg and San Diego!

        Liked by 1 person

        • My neighborhood was a white monoculture. There may have been racism, but no place obvious to direct it so I never heard about it. I’m not sure I really knew racism existed before I went to Lynchburg.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. This post really got me thinking. I do that sometimes!! What would I do without my smartphone? I like to think I’m not addicted to it, but then have to wonder, if I have to leave it in the hands of a phone shop assistant for a minor repair or adjustment, why I panic so much and feel that my umbilical cord has been cut. I’m worse with my laptop – absolutely, totally addicted to it. It’s the first thing I do when I get up and the last thing I do before going to bed (not very conducive to sleep, I know). And if I can’t for some reason, or god forbid, it breaks down, I panic, and you’d think my left hand had been cut off!

    Believe it or not, I hadn’t heard of Neil Young! What’ve I been missing? I hopped over to your WTF, Neil? post to have a listen to him, but for some reason, the song isn’t available anymore on there. I did Google him, so I now know a tad more about him. He was so young when he had that aneurysm – how sad. I’ll look him up on YouTube later – any particular song you’d recommend?

    As for sat navs, I wish I could get one for Alfie (new wheelchair) as I have zero sense of direction! I even get lost in my own town, and I’ve lived here for more than 30 years. And as for the Cloud. I haven’t got a clue. I know my phone backs up to it, but where is it? I dread losing my information and then not having a clue where in Outer Space it’s gone too. Panic stations!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Answer #1 (more later): His things is to play folk-type music solo, and then scrapy, grunge-like music with his band Crazy Horse. If you like folk, you might listen to Thrasher, the Needle and the Damage Done, or Comes a Time. For his rock sound, maybe Cinnamon Girl, Powder Finger, or Like a Hurricane (these last three should be off of the album ‘Live Rust’ for the best example).

      Liked by 1 person

    • A sense of direction is an interesting thing. I have none. I do OK in my town because it’s tiny, and I did OK in DC because I understood the grid, but those were two places I lived for years and years. When Eli and I are mountain biking, he always knows exactly where we are and can always point towards the car. I have no idea. Before I had a backwoods gps mapping system, I rarely strayed from trails I already knew. I don’t like being so reliant on my phone but without it, I need to keep the parking lot in sight.


      • I’m glad I’m not alone in having no sense of direction, not that this helps either of us. I really do think someone should invent a sat. nav. for wheelchairs, though. I tried using Google Maps once, when I had to go to a part of London I didn’t know, but found it too difficult to drive Alfie and watch Google Maps at the same time. I ended up getting lost and having to stop frequently to ask passers-by which way I should go. I dread anyone asking me for directions in my town because I feel such a fool not knowing after all these years of living here! I usually tell a fib and say that I’m sorry I can’t help them because I’m new to this area. *Nose lengthens considerably!* 😁

        Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Jim, Great to see you back on line. I loved that book. Maybe I need to revisit it soon. I’m not going to join you in the ‘greatest invention ever’ assessment, but I’ve really moved away from my earlier belief that they are just toys. They simplify life and complicate life and for that reason alone they deserve consideration. Knowing who I was in 1983, Spotify would be the most impressive thing about an iPhone to me. I would have thought texting as ridiculous, as I did until my daughter went away to college. Now I very much appreciate it.

      Liked by 2 people

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