Watching the Kid With One F grow up is magical, and by that we mean that it is both miraculous and horrifying. It's miraculous because watching something that used to be able to scream and poop become able to say, "Daddy! Zombies say, 'BRAIINNNNNS!'" On the other hand, it's horrifying to realize that this is a person who will instinctively know a world that we will be baffled by.
The skills that we spent many years perfecting to a ninja edge have more or less become completely obsolete, and before we give up all thoughts of being relevant, we figured it would be nice to toot our horn one final time in regards to the abilities we have that our daughter never will. Such as...
Video game systems today are sleek machines that all look like they were designed by SkyMall, and their games either come in disc form or are downloaded directly into the system's memory. Only the 3DS still uses cartridge-based technology, but they're so much more advanced than what we had back in the NES days it's like saying a scooter and a Lamborghini are the same thing because they both have wheels.
When the NES was the standard household gaming system, you quickly learned three things that were necessary to keep your games working. Dust had a tendency to build up on the connectors so you had to clean them. The first step was blowing into the cartridge. You wanted a quick, powerful blast to shock loose the dust, not a prolonged expulsion.
If that didn't work, the next step was using a tissue soaked with rubbing alcohol on the connectors. Now, Nintendo sold a cartridge cleaner and warned that using anything else was sure to eat away your game like acid. We were terrified of using anything else until our dad pointed out that the ingredients on the back of the bottle were the same as in rubbing alcohol. This is when we learned that nothing makes a company more erect than finding a way to make you spend the change you just got back from your purchase on useless, overpriced crap.
Finally, if all else failed, you took the ultimate step. You inserted the game almost all the way into the NES and pushed down quickly. Leaving just the right, tiny amount exposed would catch the edge of the game on the shelf of the slot while simultaneously engaging the connectors, creating a shift in grimy build-up just enough to make contact. We spent many hours perfecting this technique, and now the only way we'll get to use it is if we drop some cash at Game Over to revisit the glory days of gaming.
People may say they switched to CDs because of a better quality of sound, but we all know the real reason was simply so you could skip crappy songs more easily. We take that luxury for granted now, but even when that revolutionary feature came out, there were problems.
We're guessing that a lot of the adults reading the blog didn't start out with a CD player in your first car. In our case we utilized a portable CD player and an adapter that allowed you to run the music through your tape player. That was a lovely solution with an annoying caveat.
See, CD players, or at least the crappy ones that we could afford, had to be more or less perfectly level to operate successfully. This is a problem in the car, where five minutes with a level will show you there's not a single even surface in the vehicle. This necessitated painstakingly acquiring or cobbling together props to achieve the perfect setup to play your CDs, as well as the ability to quickly recraft it on the move when a sudden stop or a bump in the road disturbed the setup. Speaking of music...
Personally, we still love cassettes. The whole concept looks and feels very steampunk to us now. There is just something about watching gears turn and having music come out that actually feels more futuristic than the phone/iPod/Web browser/magic box that most of us use now.
Like CDs, there was a problem with the cassettes, the same one we came into contact with when we were a professional projectionist. If you're going to run tape through a mechanism, it's going to get caught occasionally. Cassette tape was amazingly elastic and resilient, though, and if you were careful you could retrieve your music with little or no damage.
Of course the first step was getting the damned thing out of the player. Depending on the model, this was as simple as carefully removing the tape or as annoying as taking your player apart for a bit. Once the extraction was completed, the next thing you reached for was a pencil to manually rewind the tape to its normal position. Weird as this sounds, kid, this was actually a lot of fun to do. Don't judge us, okay? We didn't have Portal to occupy us.
We joked recently that phone booths are actually habitats to protect the endangered, tailed ancestors of the iPhone. In a way, though, it's true. More and more people don't have landlines at all, and even those who do rarely have corded phones.
But there was a time when talking on the phone meant to be more or less rooted to one spot. Even a long cord usually restricted you to one room, and if you were trying to pull the trick of cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder, it needed only a single drop of sweat for the coiled cord to whip your phone back across the room to smash against the wall.
That was annoying, but for the CDO among us (That's OCD in the correct alphabetic order as God intended), the real annoyance was when the neat series of spirals in the cord became sullied by one untwisted segment. There it sat, a blight in an otherwise symmetrical perfection. For the beginners among us, it was necessary to unplug one end of the cord and work the whole length to restore it to its normal form. If you'd reached the more advanced level, though, you might actually possess the dexterity to undo the snarl with a simple-looking but highly complicated twisting motion.
Now...hell, even if iPhones had cords there'd probably be an app to untangle them.
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Once upon a time it was really hard to get to pornography. People didn't go to sticky movie theaters and sit in the dark masturbating in a room full of strangers because they wanted to... at least most of them didn't. No, they went because that was your only venue. Later we had video stores, but they're pretty good about spotting the underaged and hurling them back into the parking lot like a horny, screaming Frisbee.
Then of course there was the invention of pay per view, but they put that stuff on the bill specifically to get you in trouble with your parents if you tried to purchase it. What you were left with was a scrambled image that you knew was sex, and it was all the sex you were going to get. Plus, they usually left the audio unscrambled, so the amazing thing that is the human brain was able to take a glob of peach and pink and pair it up with the audio expressions of lust to enable you to see boobies in the swirl like Neo was able to see through the code in the Matrix.
Now? Hell, porn is so easy to get to that we can't believe they're still paying people to make it. We turned off the filters on Google and typed "octopus" into the image search. Do you know what came up? DO YOU? Of all the skills lost on this list, we feel that this one may actually damage the world of the future. Isn't our ability to see patterns in what appears to be chaos the foundation of discovery? How else can we recognize the order in the night sky or within the walls of a cell?
By connecting development of that all-important ability to something as urgent as the human sex drive, we created an entire generation of people who can see things no other generation can see. What will we do when that generation is gone?