My conversation started like this:

“Do you know where the recorder is?” she asked.

“The what?” I replied.

“The tape recorder we bought you!”

After a long pause, I replied:

“You mean the Panasonic cassette tape recorder you bought me in 1974?”

“Yes, that one! I want to record myself playing the piano.”

My brain froze momentarily, as I processed the many implications of this statement. After another long pause I asked:

“Mom, did you really call me up to ask me about a cassette recorder? From the 70’s? And for the record, no, I’ve not seen it in – uh – three decades. I think we threw it out when the batteries corroded the insides. That would have been in the early 80’s.”

“Oh, darn!”

“If you don’t mind my asking, why not use the computer? Or one of those dictaphones you’ve got scattered around the house. Or your phone should – wait, don’t you have a smartphone?”

“No, your father and I do not have cell phones.”

This conversation occurred last month. I literally put down the phone after that comment to think about what that meant. They didn’t go all Amish on me, did they? I consider myself a ‘late’ adopter because my first phone that was more than a basic phone was the iPhone 4. I still use email. I have really just started to appreciate Twitter, placed my entire music library on a computer, and started streaming television over WiFi. But I have owned cell phones for 15 years or so. This is a whole different universe of thought and perception. Other than their DVD player and the ‘recent’ upgrade to Windows XP, it seems my parents stopped advancing with technology a long time ago.

My wife has a theory that you can tell someone’s ‘heyday’ when you walk into their home, by looking at the period decor. I have got lots of friends who are 10, 15, even 25 years older than me; and it seems to hold true. For my parents it’s velour, brass, and mauve – you do the math. Some people continue to modernize but most just stop at some point. I think that there is an economic component to the lack of change – it’s expensive to just replace things for the sake of modernization. But this is different. An old couch is a long way from not having a cellphone. I grew up hearing about the generation gap, and I mostly ignored the discussion about the digital divide as – in Berkeley at least – it came across as some socialist rant against what was perceived as a technological caste system. But I am starting to see the point, not in the “technological literacy” sense, but more about humans’ willingness to adapt or sample new things, or just try something different. But damn, this is still shocking. And I’m their offspring – could this happen to me too?

Is it because you own a device that already does something similar, so you figure “Why buy a new one?” Do you need a robot vacuum cleaner when the Hoover upright still functions? Do you need voicemail when your answering machine still works? If the Mr. Coffee still cranks out brown water, why invest in a single-cup espresso maker with those fancy foil packs? Why replace the refrigerator that’s been working great for 30 years? If IE6 still browses the Internet, why change? Do you need LED lights when you have an incandescent desk lamp?

Mom was more comfortable with a cassette tape recorder than any other recording device invented in the last 40 years. She was headed to the store to see if she could find a new one. I told her that her best bet was [snark]Office Max[/snark]. The good news is that I have figured out the perfect Christmas gift – I’ll send them the Patrick Nagel prints I have stored in the garage.

On to the Summary:

Webcasts, Podcasts, Outside Writing, and Conferences

Favorite Securosis Posts

  • Mike Rothman: Friday Summary: TSA Edition. Rich nails the issue with airport security in his intro to last week’s Summary. He’s right – more security theater will be coming to an airport near you.
  • Adrian Lane: Stupid Human Tricks: Security Job Interviews. The LiquidMatrix guys are like family, so this is my favorite ‘inside’ post of the week. Guaranteed to make the most cynical security people laugh out loud!
  • Rich: FireStarter: Policy Wonks and Pests. Have I mentioned how little respect I have for people who want to govern things they don’t understand?

Other Securosis Posts

Favorite Outside Posts

Project Quant Posts

Research Reports and Presentations

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Comment of the Week

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