AT RANDOM: Retro is new again

From time immemorial it has been the job of youth to educate their parents on stuff we just don’t understand

From time immemorial it has been the job of youth to educate their parents on stuff we just don’t understand. In the Stone Age, the kids probably had a better method of using a stick to engrave words on a rock. During the Renaissance, they probably had cooler lutes to play for the object of their affection. And in the ‘50s, teens were no doubt showing their parents how to insert the little plastic discs in the centre of a 45 record.

And so here we are in the 21st century. Turns out we’re not quite living the life we imagined when we watched The Jetsons, but we’ve come pretty darn close.

Since I’ve come of age, the technology we now live with on a daily basis is almost mind-boggling.

At one time, my parents had to get my nephew — who was then about 10 years old — to make sure the clock on their VCR didn’t flash 12:00 over and over.

And now I’m getting my 10-year-old daughter to help me organize the apps on my iPhone. And so it goes.

I was on the phone with a friend yesterday and she was having some difficulty with Netflix so I was talking her through it. It got me thinking of the things we now take for granted. If someone had told me even 10 years ago that I’d be able to watch movies on my phone, I would have dismissed the claim as  preposterous. Watching movies on a tiny screen isn’t the best viewing experience but it sure comes in handy when I’m on the elliptical trainer at the gym.

When the VCR first came out, it was the most exciting piece of technology in years. In the early days, most of us would go to a video store to rent both the player and the movie, and you had to choose between VHS and Betamax.

I finally bought my first VCR, at the old A&B Sound in downtown Vancouver at the astronomical price of about $499, which I paid for monthly and had for years.

And of course you would tape your favourite shows and have them forever  — or so we thought. These days I can’t even watch my wedding video unless I have it transferred to DVD.

The video stores are all gone. What was once new and modern technology has gone the way of the rotary dial phone (which you can still find at the Vernon Towne Cinema as a courtesy phone for customers).

My colleague and good friend, Cara Brady, grew up in rural Alberta so trips into town were a big thrill.

“We would go to town to do the shopping and if we were lucky we would go to the drive-in. I remember seeing Audrey Hepburn and looking at the clothes and the way they lived and it was like something out of science fiction — even Edmonton, which was the closest big city, had nothing like it.”

Since high school, I’ve gone from listening to records to listening to cassettes on a Walkman, then the Discman and the five-CD changer at home. Now my CD collection has given way to apps like Spotify or Songza: thousands of songs at my fingertips at the touch of a button, from ‘60s French pop to today’s top hits.

But it’s come full circle. Last year I bought myself a birthday present: a portable record player that looks like a mini suitcase, complete with handle, exactly like the one we had as kids.

Luckily, I still had all of my old records and the last time I was at my parents’ house I packed as many LPs as I could into my car and the thrill I felt at lowering the needle onto vinyl was just like it used to be. That glorious, slightly scratchy sound was still there.

And as for movie-going, Netflix is the best deal going and it’s fun to watch movies while tucked under the duvet, but nothing compares to sitting in a dark theatre and watching the magic unfold on a giant screen.

As for the really big screen, Cara and I are already making plans to head to the Starlight Drive-in this summer. But I haven’t had the heart to tell her that they no longer have those mini speakers that hook onto your window.