Not many people these days have heard of Hedy Lamarr, but I have heard of her, because she was an actress in my parents’ era. It goes without saying that Hedy Lamarr was beautiful…by any standard. Hedy Lamarr was a star in the 1930s and 1940s, starring in some well known movies including Boom Town with Clark Gable and Samson and Delilah with Victor Mature. While she’s certainly famous because of her acting career, she didn’t make any big world changes because she starred in some old movies. Instead, Hedy Lamarr had a pastime that did change the world. You wouldn’t know it…or certainly you wouldn’t expect it…but in her spare time Hedy Lamarr liked to work on her inventions. Seriously, who would have thought that?
World War II began in 1939, but after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States entered the war. By 1942, Lamarr was at the height of her acting career. Still, like many patriotic Americans, she wanted to help in the war effort. She could have gone in as a nurse, or something, but she had something else in mind. Hedy Lamarr wanted to help the Allies come up with a communications system that couldn’t be intercepted by enemies. Now, I can only imagine how that would have gone over in an era where woman were thought not to understand the ways of war. So she and her friend, composer George Antheil, patented an idea for something they called the “Secret Communications System.” It was a system that would change radio frequencies in a per-programmed method. I hadn’t heard of such a method, although I suppose others have. If someone was listening…and the enemy was always trying to listen, they would only hear snippets before it changed to a different frequency. It sounds logical, but ultimately, the military didn’t end up using the system.
Flash forward a few decades, and you will find that Lamarr and Antheil’s patent became really important because it was a cheap and effective way to create security in new emerging technologies like military communication, cellular phones, and WiFi. What the military couldn’t use effectively in World War II, became important part of modern-day communication, and something most of us couldn’t do without…especially in the an middle of a global pandemic. To look at her, Hedy Lamarr would have instantly been classified as a pretty girl, but most likely with out a head for mathematics or science…especially not in the field of electronics, but that classification would have proved very wrong. Hedy Lamarr had it all…looks and brains. Her contributions to modern-day technology prove that. As for Lamarr, her film career cooled down in the 1950s and her last movie was released in 1958. She became reclusive in her later life and passed away on January 19, 2000. She was 86.
Since I became a great grandmother a little over a year ago, I can say that I can relate to just how excited my husband’s grandmother, Nettie Knox felt when she became a great grandmother. Of course, for her, becoming a great grandmother was also a birthday present. It was a gift she was very pleased with. That birthday present was one that I gave her, and I didn’t even know I was doing it…her first great grandchild.
After my daughter, Corrie Petersen was born, Bob’s parents and grandparents came to the hospital to visit. The very first words spoken as they walked in the door were from Grandma Knox when she said, “She was born on my birthday!!” She was literally floating on air, and that was just the beginning of an amazing bond that would last until Grandma’s passing, and for Corrie, it has continued in her heart and will always be a part of her. I’m sure that Grandma feels the same way too in Heaven, because a bond like that continues on forever. They shared far more than just a birthday.
Becoming a grandmother is a wonderful experience, as any grandmother knows, so when your grandchild has a child, and you find yourself a great grandmother, you realize that your legacy has gone to the next level. Your line will continue on into the future, and the next generation will no doubt witness even greater things than your generation, or that of your children or even your grandchildren. The future will find things common place that this generation thought were science fiction. Grandma Knox saw many changes in her years of life. Airplanes were very new then…just 5 years since the first flight. The first Ford Model T was produced that year. I wonder what she would think today, knowing that we have cars that have actually driving by themselves. Telephones, for most of us anyway, were still attached to the house. Cell phones came out in 1973, but they were something only rich businessmen had for a long time. Grandma passed away on July 29, 1990, having witness many changes in this world, but there are many that have happened since that would be completely shocking to her. Those things are for her descendants to experience. That is a part of what has become her legacy as a mom, grandmother, great grandmother, 2nd great grandmother, and now a 3rd great grandmother. I think she would be pleased with her family. Today would have been Grandma Knox’s 111th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Grandma. We love and miss you very much.
One of the more primitive forms of communication in modern times, was the telegraph. Most of us think of the wild west, and the lone operator sitting in his little office, tapping away on his little telegraph machine. We are also kind of interested in the whole thing, because he was able to write in a language the rest of us do not know, unless we are trained in Morse Code. And most of us think that with modern forms of communication, the telegraph has long been gone from history, but that isn’t so…at least not until January 27, 2006. That was the day when Western Union sent its final telegram. For many, at least for history lovers, that was a sad day. The end of another era. Gone forever.
While it is a sad day, we must move forward. Technology was rapidly advancing, and we couldn’t drag our feet. In the time it took to prepare a message, go to the telegraph office, take care of the business of payment, have the message sent, and then wait for it to be delivered, we could have made dozens of phone calls of our cell phones. The telegraph was simply a waste of our precious time. So, after 145 years, telegrams were simply gone…no fanfare, no “retirement” party, nothing…just gone. Nothing, but a small announcement on Western Union’s website prior to the ending. It’s like somehow, such a vital form of communication for 145 years…meant nothing at all.
I’m sure that many people really don’t see why the end of the telegraph was so significant, but for me, there is a nostalgic side to it. I love history, and I am amazed at the innovation of mankind. Over the centuries many amazing inventions have come about, and many discoveries too. Humans really do have a rich history, and when apart of it is over, it is somewhat sad to me. When something that was a mainstay of our society, and just like that, it’s gone, It’s as if we have punished the technology that got us to the place we are. The telegram was just that. For many years, messages from far away…of joy and of sorrow, came to us by telegraph. And in small towns, the person delivering the message knew what it said before the receiver, because he had written it up when it came in.
We all know that Samuel Morse invented the telegraph, and then had to sell the idea, before he could get the money to build what was only a dream in his head before that. Nevertheless, after showing what his machine could do, Samuel Morse was given $30,000 to build his line. The dream became a reality that would continue for 145 years. More than a year later, the first message was sent on May 24, 1844 and the country was convinced. In a partnership with several other men, Morse began the building of more and more lines, expanding the availability of the new-fangled invention. Eventually, they even had field telegraph office. I’m sure it all seemed impossible, but once Morse proved his machine, everyone was on board…at least until the next new thing came alone. That’s typical, but for the telegraph, the next big thing was a ways down the road.
Many people today believe that we, as a people, spend far too much time online, on the phone, and otherwise technologically engaged. They believe that the world would be better off without all the technology. I think they have not given enough thought to their idea. We can say. “Let’s get rid of the internet”, but then we would lose the ability to run most businesses. We can say, “Let’s get rid of the telephone”, but again most businesses rely on the phone. Yes, things like television, the internet, radio, and even cell phones are a source of entertainment, but that is not all they are. They keep us informed with important news and weather warnings. They keep us in touch with loved ones, they allow us to place orders for supplies to be brought to our stores, they allow us to provide care for our loved ones who are ill, and to be available to them and to nursing staff at the drop of a hat. So, let’s really explore what it might be like if all technology was gone.
On September 1, 1859, amateur astronomer Richard Carrington went up into his private observatory, which was attached to his country estate outside London. After cranking open the dome’s shutter to reveal the clear blue sky, he pointed his brass telescope toward the sun and began to sketch a cluster of enormous dark spots that freckled its surface. Remember that he couldn’t look online for pictures of what he was seeing, nor could he look online for an explanation of it. Nevertheless, he would soon know more about what he saw than he would ever have wanted to know. Suddenly, Carrington spotted what he described as “two patches of intensely bright and white light” erupting from the sunspots. Five minutes later the fireballs vanished, but within hours their impact would be felt across the globe.
There was not a lot of technology in existence when the largest solar storm on record, dubbed The Carrington Event occurred, but by that evening the ensuing anomaly would be know worldwide. It was not technology that would bring the world to a standstill…but rather the lack of technology. At that time, the greatest form of technology the world had was the telegraph. Other than letters, it was the world’s communication. And now it was gone. Sparks flew from the machines, and caught paper on fire that happened to be nearby. All over the planet, colorful auroras illuminated the nighttime skies, glowing so brightly that birds began to chirp and laborers started their daily chores, believing the sun had begun rising. Some thought the end of the world was upon them. In reality, it was a very large solar storm, and it could happen again. In fact, the Earth has had several close calls in 2012, 2013, and 2014. If one of these solar storms had made a direct hit on the Earth, electrical transformers would have burst into flames, power grids would have gone down and much of our technology would have been fried. Life as we know it would cease to exist…and we would be in that state for quite some time. Earth would be instantly plunged into the dark ages. These kinds of solar storms have hit the Earth many times before, and experts tell us that it will happen again someday.
I realize that many people disagree with my views on technology, and by the way I believe it is vital, including Facebook. Nevertheless, it really is impossible to have some technology without having the social media. People are just naturally inventive. It you invent one thing, someone will invent another. So the next time you decide that we should just get rid of technology, think about what it has done for the medical world, the information highway, and national security. And if that doesn’t make you change your mind, imagine not being able to fill up your car, and the fact that it wouldn’t run if you did. Imagine having no electricity, and no way to get the fuel to run a generator. Yes, there are people who are preparing for just such an event, but there really is no way to prepare for all that would be needed if every system known to man was fried. I believe that instead of doing away with technology, we each need to decide how much time we want to spend on things like Facebook, cell phone games, and television, and stick to our decisions. That part really is up to you.
Communications have come a long way over the years. Still, most of us give little thought to how difficult it used to be in the not so distant past. Of course, letters were originally the only form of distant communications, and I suppose that some people, like my Uncle Bill, still think that is the best form of communication there ever was. These days, I would have to agree with them in many ways, but there are times when a letter is not quick enough. When the telegraph was invented in the 1830s and 1840s, it revolutionized communication. No longer did it take months to get an important message to family members. Prior to that time, a loved on might be dead for months before the family found out. I’m sure that in most cases, people still relied on letters for most things, so receiving an unexpected telegraph was probably a little scary.
While telegraph made communications easier in our own country, trying to get an important message to someone from the homeland…not so much. Not until 1866, that is. Early attempts were made to lay Transatlantic cable for the telegraph in the late 1850s, but those failed, and the confidence of the people was lost, taking with it investors willing to fork out the funds to undertake the next attempt. The first project began in 1854 and was completed in 1858. The cable functioned for only three weeks, but it was the first such project to yield practical results, so progress was being made. The first official telegram to pass between two continents was a letter of congratulation from Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom to the President of the United States James Buchanan on August 16, 1858. Signal quality quickly declined, slowing transmission to an almost unusable speed. The cable was destroyed the following month when Wildman Whitehouse applied excessive voltage to it while trying to achieve faster operation. The cable’s rapid failure undermined public and investor confidence and delayed efforts to restore a connection. A second attempt was undertaken in 1865 with much better materials, and following some setbacks, a connection was completed and put into service on July 28, 1866. This cable proved more durable.
At that point, telegraph communications with the homeland of our nation’s immigrants became possible. While I’m sure it wasn’t inexpensive to send a telegraph…by the standards of the day, it did give the ability to keep in touch with family back home, and really, that was what it was all about. A letter from New York to England took ten days…provided nothing happened to the ship it set sail on. And it still had to get from out west, if that was where you lived to the east coast. I don’t think a month was far off on this. But then how good was the mail service in Europe? It could still easily take another several weeks for the letter to arrive. Primitive communications for sure. Of course, very few people use telegraph these days. I believe it can still be used to wire money, but electronic transfers are much faster, and often free, so why use it? That is the funny thing about inventions. They are only good until the next big thing that is invented makes the old ones obsolete. That is what things like the cell phone, the internet, and electronic transfers have done to things like letter writing and telegraph.
While I was at our family Christmas party Saturday night, I noticed all the people using electronic devices for entertainment. I know this is a subject that has been beaten to death by a lot of people, but I guess I have a little different view of it. I know that people may not socialize as much with those around them, and I suppose that is a problem, but it is the way things are these days…and in all reality, I am one of those people who gets on their phone a lot. I try not to get on it too much when I’m with my husband or kids, but the reality is that it’s hard not to. I have had to learn to be available…mostly for my kids and the family members that I am caregiver for. There are no other options. You are needed at all hours of the day and night, and so you keep your cell phone close.
With texting, you can send the message and then get back to your conversation, so it leaves you with less time that you are ignoring the person you are with, but not everything involves texting. I have moments when I get an idea for my writing…even in the middle of the night, and if I don’t put it down somewhere, I find myself thinking, “What was that idea again?” And believe me, that is frustrating. I have used my phone to Google something that those I’m with and I are talking about, such as parts some actor played in some show, or what day a battle took place in World War II, which usually is something I am quite interested in. A smart phone is truly an unlimited source of information, and I must say that I seem much smarter when I use it.
Yes, we live in a world of everything at our fingertips, and that is not always a bad thing. I have placed orders from my phone, transferred funds from my phone, emailed from my phone, and I can even get my proof of insurance for license plates from my phone now. The smart phone is simply a time and even sanity saver. How can it save your sanity you ask. Well, tell me, what three year old can’t play a game on a smart phone. When you child is crying, and you are in public, that can be a definite sanity saver. And when you older child is in a situation whereby they need to sit still, and they really don’t want to, a smart phone is a great form of entertainment that will keep them out of trouble and save you from embarrassment. And when you are in a public place and your kid is one of the ones who is sitting quietly and entertaining himself, that is a good thing. You get to look like the awesome mom or dad.
I can think of lots of reasons that we should try to be aware of those around us , and limit our time on the cell phone or other electronics, as a show of respect, and I can think of lots of reasons that the smart phone is not such a bad idea. I guess it is a matter of trying not to abuse it, and trying to be respectful and understanding of those who aren’t using it. Of course one other thing I have noticed, and that I have tried to do myself, is to include others in what you are doing with your smart phone. I usually try to show Bob some of the things I find of Facebook, because he loves a good bit of humor. And it lets him be a part of what I’m doing even if he doesn’t smart phone…because not everybody does, you know. And here I was just thinking, “Everybody does it!!” Ok, almost everybody does it. Admit it…you do it too.
When it comes to being spacey, kids take the cake. As a child, I remember telling my mom that I couldn’t find something, such as shoes, books, and homework, to name a few. Mom would always say that we needed to go look for it, and “Don’t walk around looking at the ceiling!” Her point was that it obviously wouldn’t be up there, or where ever else we were scanning in such a manner, and it was time to really look. It was really a laziness way to look for something, hoping that if Mom thought we had tried, she would come and really look for it. It seldom worked, and when she found it quickly by really looking, you could bet the next time she helped was a long way off.
One of the funniest things kids do is to look for something that they already have on, or in their hand. We have all done this one…and it is one of the spaciest things to do. It’s like saying, “Where is my cell phone?” only to be told that it is in your hand. Now, that’s embarrassing!! This one happened to my daughter, Amy when she was a little girl. She was getting dressed, and started looking all around for something. I asked her what she was looking for, and she told me her shirt. When I said that she had it on, she was totally surprised, and I laughed for quite a while about that one. It still makes me laugh.
Of course, kids aren’t the only spacey people around. How many times have you seen someone looking for their keys or their glasses only to find that they are carrying the keys in their hand, and their glasses are sitting on top of their head, or hanging on a lanyard around their neck. Of course, when that is pointed out, they are always embarrassed, because that makes them as spacey as the kids. For the adults, I suppose it is just because we have our minds on so many other things, but it still feels like we should be a little more organized. And speaking of organization…don’t get me started. How many times have you put something important in a safe place so it doesn’t get lost…only to find that you can’t remember just where that safe place was. You search and search, and finally find a way to replace it. Then you remember where you put it…of course.
I think that as people get busier they forget things more often, and by the time the retire and aren’t so busy anymore…then for many, the memory isn’t so great, so the whole problem gets worse…my mother-in-law, for example. We had the worst time with her glasses for a while, only to find out that she was giving them away to “help” one of the other residents. It was a nice gesture, but a little pricey. So we had to get her a lanyard, so she couldn’t take them off so easy. It just goes to show you that when it comes to spacey…kids don’t corner the market. Everyone has the opportunity to do this at any time.
My sister, Allyn and I were texting the other day. She used the slang comment…for real. I understood exactly what she was talking about, thereby aging both of us as children of the 70’s. It’s something that happens to everyone no matter how young or how old. Each generation has it’s own slang, and the other generations might, or more like probably, will not understand it. And even if they do, they would probably laugh at you for using such old fashioned slang!!
There is also, another type of slang that can place you in a certain group, and I suppose it can be just as funny. Again, in the 70’s and early 80’s, a lot of people had CB radios. I suppose it was the cell phone of that era, since no one had even heard of cell phones back then. Most CBers had a base unit at home, and smaller units in the cars. It was a great way for family members to keep in touch, let parents know they were running late for curfew, had car trouble, or were on their way home for supper. It left little excuses for kids to say, “I had no way of letting you know!” The kids might not have liked it, but it worked.
Not everyone had a CB radio, of course, but my husband, Bob’s family had several truckers or ex-truckers in it, so it was considered the normal for us. If you have ever had a CB radio, you would know that everyone had a handle…the name they used so people knew who they were talking to. My father-in-law was the Wrenchbender, my mother-in-law was the Lady Wrenchbender. My brother-in-law, Lynn was the Sparrow, my sister-in-law, Debbie was Lady Bird. Bob was the Slingshot, I was the Lady Slingshot. My sister-in-law, Jennifer was the Patchwork Girl, my sister-in-law Brenda was Slipstitch, and my brother-in-law, Ron was Grape Ape, and my sister-in-law, Marlyce was…well, her handle has escaped all of us, and is now driving us crazy, trying to think of it, but she did have one. Even our girls had a handle…although they never used the CB…Corrie was Little Slingshot and Amy was Tiny Slingshot. It was a lot to remember, but just like your friends’ names, you did it.
And then there was the CB jargon. Things like Smokey, Hammer Down, Bubblegum Machine, Go Juice, Choke and Puke, Negatory…Cop, go really fast, patrol car, drink, roadside diner, and no, respectively, and all of which you may have heard, if you have ever watched “Smokey and the Bandit” before. These were common terms…but, only if you used a CB radio…or saw the movie. Of course, there were many others too, and I could go on and on, but you would undoubtedly get bored with that.
These are all terms that I haven’t used for a very, very long time. Nevertheless, the other morning when I was on my way to pick up my daughter, Amy for work, since her son, Caalab has her car while his is being repaired. I called her to let her know I was on my way. As I was ending the call, I found myself saying…out of the blue and for no reason I could think of…”I’ll see you in a short“, which is CB slang for a minute or so. I haven’t said that in so long, and Amy obviously missed the comment, because she didn’t say a word, but it sure brought back memories for me.
When the automobile first came out, very few people had one. Like most things when they first come out, they were first thought of as frivolous. If people could have seen the world as we see it today, they would not only have been shocked, but they would have understood the need to have one of those new fangled contraptions. Nevertheless, like any new invention, they soon caught on, and more people traded off their wagon for the automobile. It was a slow process, however, and many people thought the ones who had the first automobiles were a bit snooty, or that they were using the automobile as a status symbol…and maybe to a degree they were. It’s like that today too. First it was the computer, then the laptop, then the cell phone, then the smart phone, then the iPad…and the list goes on, depending on what you are into.
When the automobile came out, they scared the horses, who had to use the same roads, and they scared the people too, because the seemed to have no controls. They weren’t sure the machine could be stopped. They thought it might be a death trap. And it can be, if it is misused, but as we all know, it can also be a very useful tool in our everyday lives. The problem the people of those early years had was that it was an unknown. That made it much more scary. They also felt that what they had was good enough, which is the same as many people today think too.
As the years went by though, the car became a common thing. Everyone has one these days…or almost. We are so used to cars that we think nothing of our 16 year old children driving them. We know how they work…in fact, most 15 year olds know how they work. As commonplace as they are, I think most people still feel like they are a status symbol, and we try to have one that reflects who we are. Nevertheless, when you look at the old pictures of people with those older cars, you could see that they really knew the value of that machine, and they didn’t take it for granted like we do today. Status symbol…yes, then and now, but maybe it meant a little more to them then.
In any family, it seems that the younger children are treated differently than the older ones. They seem to get away with more, and probably get to do things earlier than the older kids. I think the main reason for this is that the parents got used to being parents. The things you worry about as new parents, like crawling around on a floor that isn’t totally sanitized, a bottle that fell on the floor going right back into the mouth, or eating dirt…for pity sakes, are just things a new parent would never allow.
Then, as the child gets a little older, and the parents see them eating worms, along with that dirt, it just gets to a point where they know the kid won’t break. Then when the younger kids come along…well, veteran parents know the ropes, and they know that you can’t control everything that happens in your kids lives. Things are just different.
Suddenly, spending the night with grandparents is ok at 2, instead of 4, and in this day and age, they get their first cell phone in kindergarten or first grade. Of course, when you think about it, these kids know more about the computer by 3 than a lot of their parents do, so I suppose it seems like they are really just little adults.
This change in the rules isn’t really their parents fault, it is just a fact of life. It has been going on for years. I think I might have been one of the last of the parents to make my girls do things by ages, but then they were only eleven months apart. Amy didn’t have to wait very long anyway.
When there are a few years between the kids, it seems like the lines of fairness and ages get blurred some, and unless the older child is right there to remind them that their younger sibling isn’t supposed to get to do stuff earlier than they did, things just slip past them, and before they realize it those younger ones are doing things two years ahead of their older siblings. And when they do realize it, the now veteran parent shrugs their shoulders and calmly remarks, “Oh well, these things happen.” I guess being the youngest ones has its perks, in some ways anyway.