Wednesday, October 10, 2007


When I think of technology, I first think of washing clothes.

Bear with me for a moment, as I know that's not what you first thought of--or at least I'm guessing it's not!

While the automatic clothes washer had certainly been invented by the time I came along and while my mother owned one (and a dryer as well), I often stayed with my grandparents as a child. My grandparents weren't all that old (my father's grandmother was only 50 years old when I was born). They looked forward and back at the same time. For example, my mother's father made all of us chop cotton every spring for at least a day and pick cotton for at least a day every fall. His logic was that no matter how badly your day had gone at any other job, you could always think back "well, at least I'm not in the cotton field". And I have to tell you, he was right.

Both my grandmothers taught me (and my cousins) to wash with a scrub board. Nope that's not just a decorative object or an instrument in a zydeco band. It's really meant to wash clothes, complete in this picture with the same kind of homemade soap that we learned to make as well. My grandmothers figured, that if there was no electricity (which was often the case), you still had to know how to wash clothes.

After we mastered the scrub board, we moved on the the washing machine. Perhaps you've seen this contraption on Green Acres. Or perhaps you've used one yourself.

Ours was outside and did connect to the power grid directly through the electric pole. Getting water into it involved heating water on the stove and hauling it outside to the washing machine. Believe me, you washed the cleaner clothes first, so that you didn't have to keep changing the water. The rinse water was in a basin on legs.

So, every single time I do laundry by putting the quarters in the machine, pressing "warm" and sitting down to wait, I'm grateful for technology.

When I think of my great-grandmother's mother, who went to visit her sister in Indiana, coming from Oklahoma to do so, in 1898, I'm grateful for technology. She took her eldest daughter, 2 mules, and a wagon. She was gone two years, because by the time she got there, she figured she might as well stay a while. (It took her 9 months to get to Indiana and 6 months to get home; the rest was the visit.) Imagine this: Google estimates that same trip to take 11 hours and 12 minutes (from Roff, Oklahoma, to Terre Haute, Indiana). Now people won't be telling stories about my trips a hundred years from now, but I'm thinking an airplane or even a bus beats two mules and a wagon any day.

I started working in libraries in 1980. The first library I worked in not only typed catalog cards and used the Gaylord Card Charger, but also painted the spine of light colored books with a peculiar black paint and had staff hand-write call numbers with a heated pen, through a white tape.

So, just like using the scrub board or the wringer washing machine, I know how much work it was to operate libraries before computer technology.

Mostly, now, I enjoy learning more and more about computer-based technology. I never wanted to master a computer language or be a programmer, but the user-focused way technology works today makes it very inviting and often satisfying.

Sometimes, it seems as though technology changes too fast. Cell phones, for example. I don't want to get a new one, because I'm quite sure I haven't yet figured out everything my current phone can do! With a new phone, who knows what it might be able to do? Cook dinner?

I enjoyed learning about Flickr and opened a Flickr account to put my picture on this blog.

So, I'll end with a photo from The Encampment, a public art installation on Roosevelt Island last week, exploring the history of that island through art, seen at night in tents:


hood_and_hat said...

I am loving reading everyone's technology posts. I completely agree with this:

The user-focused way technology works today makes it very inviting and often satisfying.

I think, after an initial learning investment, it's necessary to make sure technology works for us and not the other way around.

Stacey said...

Hi there --

I very much enjoyed your thoughts on techonology in general, as well as the previous commenter who may have just summed up my concerns in a nice, neat nutshell (as opposed to the ramblings on my journal).

I'm playing catch-up on 23 Things, but look forward to reading more of your posts. Cheers!