April 15, 2014
It's easy to overlook the impact modern technology is having on our lives until something special happens. A wedding, a death in the family, a niece making the high school softball varsity in her freshman year. For me, one of those events came yesterday in the form of a birthday. Our capability for talking with one another instantaneously, and doing it sometimes across the world, is, at least for me, a relatively new experience. Part of me still lives in a world in which most personal contact is limited to people who live in the immediate area, or to phone calls. Or even writing stuff down on paper and dropping it into a mailbox. I had no idea of the number of people who would take advantage of one of those special occasions to remind me they were there.
There'd been a substantial number of messages over the past few years, but they tended to arrive as periodic emails and an occasional posting on a Facebook page. Recently, maybe five or six weeks ago, I finally figured out how my Facebook page worked. And I know how that sounds. But I came from a family that, back around 1950, suspected that television would not last long and radio was the entertainment medium of the future.
I receive invitations to speak to different sorts of audiences, high school kids, science fiction readers, Elks societies, writers' groups, and so on. The biggest laugh I get when talking with a senior citizens' group inevitably comes when I describe walking into a Radio Shack and having no idea what half the stuff on the shelves does.
Not exactly what you'd expect from a science fiction writer.
Yesterday's special occasion was my birthday. April 14. It was the anniversary of the Lincoln assassination, the Titanic, and Black Sunday, when a giant storm all but swallowed the Midwest. I was born on that latter day, in 1935, and my father later commented that it seemed to be a special date for catastrophes.
Approaching that birthday, I'd realized that, for the first time in my life, I was older than the reigning pope. And I wasn't approaching the event in a celebratory mood. But then the avalanche of greetings started coming in. Turns out it was the most upbeat birthday I can recall.