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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Notes from yesterday, the day after Labor Day

And these are courtesy of my friends at Wells Fargo Daily Advantage:

It's the day after Labor Day, a time to put away the white clothes until next spring. And thank goodness because who can take the pressure of wearing all that white during those long months of summer barbecue season? I can only buy so much bleach. But no matter. Beyond getting to wear clothes that can plausibly hide barbecue stains, the beginning of the school season and the coming of fall also serve as a prime time to remember, to mark the passage of time, to remember back to a time 50 years ago when lava lamps hadn't even been invented, when mice didn't roam our desktops, when dialing phones took forever.

  • Today marks the 50th anniversary of the day that lava lamps went on sale in 1963, those staples of groovy home furnishings in the '60s and '70s that apparently got handed down from parents to children, winding up in dorm rooms in the '80s and '90s. The liquid-filled lamp was invented by a British man named Edward Craven-Walker. I like to imagine that Mr. Craven-Walker grew up near one of England's long-extinct volcanoes, which sent ancient memories of lava flows to invade his dreams (sorry; trying—and failing—to get into the psychedelic spirit of things here). What's fascinating about the lava lamp is how something that could have dissipated as a momentary fad kept getting revived by subsequent generations. It's like fashion; just wait a few years, and it will come back in style again. And when it does, I know that it's my time to lie low for a while, as my wardrobe and home furnishings can't keep up.
  • Falling down the rabbit hole of "things invented in 1963," not only did we get the lava lamp, we got the computer mouse. The prototype for the mouse was invented by Douglas Engelbart, who also helped develop computer hypertext and graphical user interfaces, which we still use today. The early mouse used wheels instead of a trackball, and it looked like a little wooden box, unlike the sleeker versions that came after. Between all the lava in the lamps and mice next to the keyboard, people in 1963 were probably wondering why nature was invading their indoor electrical appliances.
  • And finally, even deeper down the rabbit hole, in November 1963, AT&T offered the push-button touchtone telephone to customers for the first time, which some members of my family managed to evade for the next 30 years, sticking with the pulse-dialing rotary phones instead. One way to look at 1963 was that it gave us wonderful inventions that are still with us today. Another way to look at it is that, with the touchtone keypad, it also gave us texting.

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