Monday, January 17, 2005

#8 - Something Old...

It's easy to see how jaded we've become in these days of technological advances and convenience. Dad used to tell me about making an honest-to-gosh crystal radio set using copper wire and a do-it-yourself cat's whisker arrangement. It always amazed me that such a thing would actually work. Then I had a chance to make one, and I was still amazed. As a boy, Dad would have thought using two tin cans and a string was quite a thrill.

The older I got, the more sophisticated my toys became. Toys that lit up or made weird electro-mechanical noises were much coveted, and relatively rare. Then, when I turned 14, Dad gave me a Heathkit Electronics Lab with something like 15 or 20 experiments. I was hooked. I did every experiment in the book and then branched out. I became Poindexter in his lab creating such things as an alarm system for my room. That one scared Cameron half out of his wits, which was my intention. He'd been known to invade my Sanctum Sanctorum once too often and I couldn't wait to trap him with it. Didn't take long, as I recall.

Dad bought our first computer, the venerable Trash-80, in late 1979. My inner geek quickly came to the fore, and I've never looked back. I got on the roller coaster early, and I still enjoy the ride. I've watched the growth of the information age from the original 300 Bd acoustic coupler to my already nearly obsolete wireless home network. Likewise, entertainment toys have improved from our family's very first color (sort of) television, through VCR's and finally (or, rather, so far) DVD's.

One of the things from my childhood that continually fascinated me was any type of recording equipment. At various times in our home you might have found one or more reel-to-reel tape recorders, both large and small. We graduated, of course, to cassette recorders later on, but the fascination with them never diminished. It didn't take me long to master their workings. 8-track bored me to tears because you could never record with it. They may very well have made 8-track recorders, but we could never have afforded one. Thank goodness.

Tonight, the Woodyettes continue the cycle. For years we have had an old Fischer-Price tape recorder. This is the type with the microphone that can also serve as a mini-PA system if need be. The PA part they figured out many moons ago. They especially love to use it when Mrs. Woody and I are intensely interested in some program or movie. Tonight, they decided to record stories.

They got this idea from Mrs. Woody. Several vacations ago, Mrs. Woody decided to read several of the girls' favorite story books on tape so they could listen and (sneaky homeschooler that she is!) read along while we travelled. They loved it.

At first I didn't pay much attention to what they were doing. I was aware that they wanted to record, and I helped them understand which button to push to make it work. Mrs. Woody helped them understand why, exactly, you don't want to rewind after a recording if you're planning to record something new right away. Little things like that. After that, they were off and running.

Our attention was grabbed when we heard the older one say, in a significant voice, "Turn the page, Sweetie!" This was Mrs. Woody's device to compensate for our lack of bell noises when making our own story tapes. After that we kept at least half an ear on the proceedings.

Best of all, though, was the playback. The Woodyettes, in turn, would get excited and say things like, "That's me!" or, "That's you talking!" They were absolutely fascinated. I have no idea how long this fascination will last, but it's another walk down memory lane for ol' Woody. Best of all, assuming we can rescue the tape before it becomes a casualty of war, we'll have a wonderful family history nugget that we can use to embarrass the girls with future boyfriends, etc.

The old toys are still best, it seems. Using nearly fifty year old technology, the girls have embarked on another self-discovery journey. Of course, I may very well drop the whole thing into the computer, scan in the books that they were reading, and make a Flash movie out of it, but, hey!

Dad can have fun, too.

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