14 April 2014

Reacting to “Kids React to…”

I grew up with dial telephones. The family of my best friend in first grade had a “princess” phone with a smaller dial in the handset, but that was as exotic as home phones got. Touchtone phones were confined to offices.

In fact, I grew up in a town that once had an exchange named “Woodland,” so a lot of the local numbers I dialed started 969- or 965-. I spent many seconds of my school years waiting for the dial to rotate almost the whole way back—and I’m never getting those seconds back.

Since dial telephones were already established when I was a kid, they seem indeterminably old to me. Yes, my mother had stories about something called a “party line,” which was clearly ancient, but I can easily accept dial telephones as historic.

I could therefore enjoy the “Kids React to Rotary Phones” video easily. Though these twenty-first-century kids are baffled by the old technology, they’re also smart and lively and often able to figure out the implications of that device once the video makers explain it to their incredulous ears.

The kids display those same qualities in “Kids React to Walkmans”, but there’s a sharper edge for me. Because I remember when the Walkman was new. And cool. And, like all widely used new technology, a cause for tsk-tsking social concerns. Yes, I understand that they’ve long been superseded by, well, phones. But they’re not really old, are they?


rocketdave said...

I think I kind of hate some of those kids. It's not like I'd expect them to know how this older technology works, but to display such contempt for it pretty obnoxious. I mean, I never reacted in horror at the thought that my parents grew up with black and white TVs with only a handful of channels to chose from.

Also, I can't help feeling like a few of those kids are a little stupid for not even questioning whether texting always existed. Yeah, they might have snazzier stuff than what I grew up with (or what I even have now- why do so many of these kids have their own smart phones?), but it doesn't necessarily make them more intelligent.

J. L. Bell said...

On the question of texting, the video makers ask, “How would you text with this phone?" or "How do you think they texted?" A polite kid facing an authority figure would try to come up with an answer. A couple of them (Dash?) knew there wasn't texting, but for the others it was kind of a trick question.

At other times, when the video makers explain the limits of the old system (e.g., long-distance charges), some of the kids quickly grasp the implications—relatives in other states wouldn't just call casually. And that was accurate. I remember when AT&T launched its national ad campaign to convince consumers they could call long-distance without it being an emergency.(Followed by MCI parodying that campaign to highlight its lower prices.)

As for "horror," I think most of the kids' primary emotion was "pity." Pity that unfortunate people like me grew up with black-and-white TVs that we had to tune by clicking a dial on the front. The same pity I felt when my mother explained how party lines worked.

rocketdave said...

I freely admit I might just be a little bitter because I feel so behind the times when it comes to keeping up with modern technology (and society in general) and taking out my frustration on those kids.