By Don Kindred
When George Carlin hosted the first Saturday Night Live episode in 1975, I was there to laugh my way through it. It was funny, it was different, but I never realized how iconic and timeless the characters would become. What a capsule of pop culture it was. At the time I was just graduating high school, so the year is time-stamped on my lifeline, and now the memories have turned to gold.
Watching their 40th Anniversary Special this year brought all those high school memories to life ... hair was long, sideburns were in, ties were fat and colors were loud.
It was the time of landlines and pay phones. If I couldn’t get my mom to type my homework, I would have to write it out by hand, in cursive, and write it over if I had too many changes.
We were happy to get five or six channels on a round-screened TV set that we had to get up to change. We wrote down directions to places, we had to be home to catch a call. The closest thing to Facebook was the kitchen fridge, where pictures, schedules and announcements were posted with creative little magnets for the family. I guess the Polaroid was our Instagram.
It was, arguably, the greatest decade in rock history, and we listened to it on vinyl. The mobile medium of 8-track tapes were being overtaken by the upgraded and smaller cassette. Taped movies were new, as VHS and Betamax battled it out, but they were never as fun as the drive-in.
The only computer experience we had was an electronic board game named Pong that started showing up at pinball arcades and pizza parlors. Two people paid two bits to hit a little ball of light back and forth between two paddles.
None of my friends were into the computer hobby, but the Altair 8800, the first computer available for home use, came out in 1975. “Micro” and “Soft” were first mentioned in the same sentence, in a letter from Bill Gates to Paul Allen. Steve Jobs became partners with Steve Wozniak, in a little venture named Apple. There were dramatic changes happening that we didn’t even know about.
We witnessed Russian and American astronauts that had linked-up on a man-made metal can out in space somewhere between here and the moon, they parked, shook hands and flew their rocket ships back to Earth. Cool stuff. (Which begs the question. How did a people bright enough for space exploration, ever think the leisure suit was a good idea?)
The real question for me is, how has all the technology changed us? Or has it? I imagine not much. I can look back across four decades and see it like it was yesterday. I remember the music, more than the music player.
There were bullies, there were nerds. Good kids and bad kids. There were shy kids and loudmouths and people wanting to be popular. All of us wanting to be accepted. We broke rules, we changed traditions, we questioned authority, we were kids, I doubt if that has changed much.
Now we have the Dick Tracy watch, and we can ask our car for directions. We can write letters just by speaking and have an up-to-date, worldwide-encyclopedia the size of a wallet in our
pockets. It has changed naught but time.
Knowing how many steps I take in a day doesn’t make me healthier. Having all my friends
in my phone doesn’t make me a better friend. Having Siri answer my questions on command, doesn’t make me any smarter. But they are all tools that can make our lives easier, maybe better. We’ll have to see.
My advice to graduating seniors is this, get a couple of buddies and watch Saturday Night Live, I’ll guarantee you all one thing ... It will be a whole lot funnier in 40 years.