David Bowie captured it so well so many decades ago when, at the end of 1971 – a very tumultuous year for me, he released the album Hunky Dory with the song Changes. He concluded the song with the lines:
Pretty soon you’re gonna get older
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can’t trace time
So, here I am more than forty years later continuing to see changes in me and changes within the world about me. Some changes are an improvement while others I could just as soon do without. One example of a personal change for the better was, for me, leaving the mobile home behind for a downsized two-bedroom fixer-upper in a quiet neighborhood with good neighbors all around. But, even though it was a good move, it had its share of problems like when we discovered that behind the old shower wall was dry rot, which meant an exterior bathroom wall needed to be replaced. Then, when we finally moved in, the main cast iron drainpipe disintegrated and created a toxic lake underneath the house forcing us to return to the mobile in campout mode.
Yesterday, my son-in-law brought me my records that had still been in storage at the house he and my daughter bought from my wife and me. He unloaded eight heavy-duty packing boxes each weighing fifty pounds or so and when he was leaving he commented that all of that music would now fit on a thumb drive. When I purchased my first three record albums at the Noah’s Ark secondhand store when I was all of perhaps six-years old I could never have imagined the technological changes that were to occur in my future.
My first exposure to computers was in 1973 when I went to work for Xerox in El Segundo where they built the Sigma computers. There I learned about core memory, which was developed in the 1950’s but was still being used, and hard disk drives a bit larger than trash compactors with removable platters that stored something like 25 megabytes of data. When I began programming in 1978, using APL on Sigma computers, we still had core memory banks containing (if I remember correctly) 1K and 2K core memory planes. And, from that background, today’s 128 and 256-gigabyte flash drives appear to be almost magical devices.
Most people I know, including myself, do not relish the onset of change, which, along with death and taxes, seems to be a universal constant. Way back when this once seventeen-year-old listened to David Bowie’s Changes for the very first time I never imagined that I would make my most recent change: I joined the AARP.
Does that make me a senior citizen?