Technological change

When I moved into this part of town in 1980 it was only maybe 25 years after the picture. Now it’s been 43 years since I moved here. Everything about my daily life in 1980 was much closer in the banal details to daily life in the 1950s than it is to my life today. You could have plunked the 1980 me onto Vermont Ave in Los Feliz in that picture—we lived about a mile away—and I could have gone about my daily doings with very little adjustment. Technologically it was much the same. The difference between my daily life in 1980 from now, though, is astonishingly different. Plunk the 1980 me down here now (we’re about two miles away now) and I’d be helpless. I’d swear I’d been dropped into a science fiction movie. I would have no idea how to do even the most basic things. The world now is as different from 1980 as the world was of that picture of Los Feliz in the mid fifties was from the world 43 years earlier in 1912. Someone 23 in 1912 (my age in 1980) was about to live through an age of profound technological change. And that 23 year old, dropped into the world of the mid-fifties would be as bewildered then as my 1980 self would be suddenly plunked into 2023. It seems that change doesn’t come gradually. Sometimes it moves slowly, sometimes it absolutely gushes. I spent my first quarter century in a day to day world that was not that different as it was the year I was born. Then beginning in the eighties things began to shift under our feet and by now change comes so fast it’s really impossible to keep up. People really can’t tell what is going on anymore. The last time this happened—from WW1 to the 1950s—all kinds of crazy scary shit went down. I doubt it will get that crazy and scary again. But it likely could get plenty nuts. And stay that way for decades. Anyway, it won’t be boring. Isn’t yet. One of the things I remember so vividly about the 1970s was the boredom. There were times it seemed like nothing was moving at all. We had nothing but time. I remember that now and try to remember what that sort of boredom felt like, and I can’t. The world is so hectic now, so packed with options, that I can no longer remember what it felt like to stare at the clock, listen to the ticking of the seconds, and wish there was something in all this empty time to do.

Vermont Avenue in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles, east of Hollywood, in the 1950s. The Dresden is still there in 2023.

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