Technology Then and Now

By Susanna Barbee | Mar 05, 2014

I have a love-hate relationship with technology. I love it when it allows me to write articles and teach online courses so that I can spend more physical time with my two little boys. I love that it has helped me reconnect with old friends and faraway family members via Facebook, Instagram, and blogging.

On the flip side, I hate it when I turn the computer on to check my bank account and all of the Olympic gold medalists for a particular night were listed before we could even watch the event. I hate it when people use social media as a way to bully young people into tragic deaths.

I was a child of the 80s. We had a lot going on in that decade. From plastic charm necklaces to Garbage Pail Kids to Dirty Dancing to tight-rolled jeans to electronic music to side pony tails, it was a quirky and bright span of time. Compared to today, there was very little technology, other than the gadgets dreamed up by the writers of Back to the Future.

The general definition of technology is “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes”.  With that thought in mind, I guess we did have some technology when I was a little girl. We had a TV, microwave, VHS player, stereo, Nintendo (the original), and a Sony Walkman. At some point, we got a bag phone in our car that we used for emergencies or to call our dad to ask him if he needed anything from the store. If we positioned it right and were smack in the middle of I-240, we could barely hear him through the static.

When I was in middle school, we had one computer lab that we visited maybe once a month. It had a DOS operating system, and we used big floppy discs. I don’t remember much other than the fact that the screen was black and the words were green. In high school, we had one computer in the entire school that logged on to the Internet, and that took at least 20 minutes. In college, I had to lug around a giant monitor, tower, keyboard, mouse, speakers, and cords as I moved from dorm to apartment. Very few people I knew had personal laptops.

Reflecting upon all of this, it’s completely mind blowing how advanced technology has become in a relatively short period of time. As a mom, I have to be extremely conscientious about screen time and not allowing technology to invade our lives too much. The fact that I had a wonderful childhood completely void of computers, tablets, and smartphones has been very helpful. I know how much fun a kid can have without any technology whatsoever.

Parents and grandparents need to educate themselves about today’s technology but work to engage children in other, non-techy activities. If we do not teach today’s children that there is excitement in life without technology, who will? We need to ensure they don’t rely too heavily on technology; otherwise, that’s how they will parent their own children, and society will eventually become completely reliant upon gadgets to feel “happy”.

I certainly see all of the benefits of technology, but I’m also trying extremely hard not to obsess over devices in our home. I really want my boys to learn how to critically think and be creative on their own, without depending on something cold and electronic.


Susanna Barbee is a Waynesville mom, writer and educator. Find more on her blog, Reach her at