The Medium Is the Message

(This is an old post from 2015; the point is valid, but the changes are far more than “the small details,” as stated below. That was true at the time this post originally appeared, I’m sure. I think my point was, life on the surface has changed so much. There really wasn’t that much difference between people living in the 1980s and people living in the 1940s, except the former traveled in jet planes and the latter dressed a lot better. Now, not only is it a different world, it looks different, too.)
When my grandmother was born, airplanes were more than a decade in the future. In my lifetime, space exploration and exploitation became a reality. In the 20th century, automobiles took over. Electricity and telephones became ubiquitous, and television was invented. It would be impossible to name a century of greater change. Yet, I think more apparent change has occurred in the past two decades. By apparent change, I mean changes in daily life and routine. Think how dated movies made only a few years ago can seem. You’ll see people running around frantically searching for pay phones. You’ll see black computer screens with green type. You’ll hear people asking, “Where are we?!” The fabric of daily life now has an entirely different feel. Take, for example, the above cartoon from 20 years ago. Of course, many people—if they still have land lines—still have answering machines, but they’re not the icon of connectivity they once were. And kids in the household certainly do not consider them a lifeline! Technological change has been a juggernaut for the past 200 years, but the small details have never been more apparent than in the current century.
Today's "Arlo & Janis!"

74 responses to “The Medium Is the Message”

  1. My wife’s maternal grandmother was born in 1896 and passed in 1999. She came from Morgan County, Ohio, an extremely rural and poor area of the state. She left home when she was 18 so that she could work and send money home. Story shortened: She married, had six children, became city auditor at age 40 when her husband (he was the auditor) passed due to gallstones at age 62. All six children were/are extremely intelligent and successful, as are the grandchildren.

    Try to imagine the changes that she witnessed during her lifetime.

  2. Jimmy:

    Your reference to Marshall McLuhan reminds me of Neil Postman.

    Mr. Postman stated that Mr. McLuhan was incorrect. He said that the statement should be “The medium is the metaphor.”

    He explains his point extremely well in “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.”

    It was published in 1985 and is even more accurate in today’s world, thanks to the incredible advances in technology and how it has changed everything.

  3. I’m one of the geezers who still has only a wall phone – “land line”, as seems to be the modern term. We have 4 apparati so that it can be answered from any of several different places. Of course, as the last several years have elapsed, I have tended to answer less and less. More sales pitches and political crud are the reasons. Blessings on voice mail for that ability to screen.

    The MBH does have a portable electronic phone primarily for emergency usage. Mostly, it gathers dust while charging or else gets lost. The little bugger seems to have grown little feet! My observation is that it really lacks in the ability to store a charge. As it doesn’t get used even once a month, why should it need charging every day or three?

  4. Yesterday’s xkcd noted that there were 57 years between the 1st human airplane flight and the 1st human space flight, and 57 years since that 1st human space flight. It’s been a fast, busy 57 years!

  5. Another way things have changed since the ’80s is that back then, it was still customary for men to wear a coat and tie when they flew, and women to dress equivalently. Now, of course, nobody bothers. I still don’t understand, though, where that custom came from.

  6. Sideburns, I guess that is a carryover from the consideration of travel as a formal occasion, like going to church or to work in an office. Personally, I’m glad it’s gone. I developed an aversion to coat and tie when forced to wear them to church as a youngster. Last time I wore them was to get married, another reinforcement of my aversion!

  7. Rick in S, O

    My wife’s Grandmother lived during the same timeframe.
    From Steam Engine to Space Flight
    From when everyone walked to when nobody walks.

    c e-p
    Does your apparati still have dials as does ours?
    MB still has a brick – it costs about $10.00 a year.

  8. Old Bear, my maternal great-grandmother was born in 1874 and died in 1969. Born less than 10 years after the end of the Civil War and died the year we put men on the moon.

  9. Astute observations from one who makes his livelihood from noticing his world. As the old man said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  10. Land lines. I heard on the radio a woman whose father lived in Paradise, Calif., and had only a land-line phone, no cell. He kept all his phone numbers in a paper address book. She doesn’t know if he escaped the fire, or if so where he is now, and his phone and address book were both destroyed, so he can’t call her (if he is alive).

  11. emb, You’re right about the wild ones. When I lived in Tennessee, we had them in the woods behind our house, in an airport’s green space. They used to fly over the security fence to get to our side and back. And I saw them fly into high trees and perch there.

  12. I believe Jackie was just explaining to me the other day that the Ancient Egyptians didn’t mummify cats because they worshipped them. It was more like a hobby or something.

  13. emb that is a famous line from a hilarious old television show called WKRP in Cincinnati. They threw live turkeys out of a helicopter to crowd below..

    There really was town that did this not fictional.

    Ghost used to be bird hunter but he says turkeys took great skills to kill. We have wild flocks in our area

  14. I was shocked to find out Egyptians has kitty breeding farms to provide cats to be mummified for your funeral and your tomb. Kind of like flowers at the funeral nowadays.

    Some tombs were full of cats, hundreds. One contained 1800 cats.

  15. “It would be impossible to name a century of greater change.”

    Challenge accepted.
    The century where the Big Bang happened.

    I’ll just let myself out…

  16. Mark in TTown:

    I fully agree that wild turkeys can fly.

    After all, old magazine ads for Wild Turkey Kentucky bourbon used to show a wild turkey in flight.

    If you can’t trust a Kentucky bourbon ad, you just can’t trust anything.

  17. Ghost is sleeping hopefully and I am being quiet. We are thankful for a few days off from trips to Tulsa. We are going all of two blocks away to eat a Thanksgiving buffet at one of our customer’s restaurant.

    Happy Thanksgiving to the Village in whatever way you celebrate and give thanks.

    Thank you Jimmy for making us smile and laugh 365 days a year.

  18. emb, perhaps he really does mean reigns. As in the reigning over a country, a people, or perhaps even the world? But yours probably still is the most likely explanation. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

  19. Here’s another common error I found in an article about the United States Postal Inspection Service:

    In all, there are about 200 criminal and civil statues that the agency enforces, according to Bingham.

  20. Jackie, I do Facebook since most of my generation in this community have settled on it for communicating within our groups (church, orchestra, A&J fans, and astronomy club for me). Though I was once a technical writer, I’ve also been a trucker, amateur musician, and for the past few years, a proctor at a community college.

    I still shudder (internally) when people mix cases and tenses, but I only correct them when I’m helping them write papers for school or prepare talks for church or other public speaking.

    If I were susceptible to such seizures, it’d happen at work where we use Google Hangouts to communicate between our campuses. My boss lady (her term, not mine) frequently misspells words and has to correct her comments in subsequent ones so we have some idea what she means.

  21. There are a few of us in the Village that remember when there
    was more than one Civil War Veteran.

    There were 2 WWI veterans in our outfit when I was in the Army.

  22. Trucker I once was paid to proofread, edit and correct. I despair anyone will be able to spell soon or know meaning of words, much less write coherently.

    I never correct anyone but I shudder and roll my eyes.

  23. I not only survived, it was surprisingly uneventful. Based on reports, I was expecting the shopping version of “Zombie Apocalypse”, but that was not the case.

  24. Just how many people did Arlo feed Thanksgiving, anyway? Advice for Arlo (and by extension, Janis): “Clean as you go.” Which is a corollary to The First Rule of Bachelor Housekeeping: “Never let it get ahead of you.”

  25. Galliglo:

    I follow Ohio State football, and that’s about it.

    That game yesterday completely shocked me. I was fully expecting Michigan to obliterate OSU.

  26. I suppose my former boss’s practice of losing weight prior to the eatin’ holidays works. Week before last, I lost 3.5 pounds. This week, I gained only 3.0 pounds. Take that, holiday feasts!

  27. I haven’t researched it, but recently I’ve noticed some college football games that have produced what seems to me to be a ridiculous number of points. In fact, the Texas A&M 74 – LSU 72 score yesterday apparently set some type of scoring record. I’m old enough to remember when good teams didn’t seem to allow their opponents to score that many points in an entire season.

    Have college football offenses gotten that good? Or have the defenses gotten that bad? Or have the rule makers, deciding that touchdowns provide more “excitement” for casual viewers watching games on TV, somehow cooked the rules book? Not having followed the sport for the past couple of years I really don’t know.

  28. Ghost, last nights score was mostly due to the 7 (seven!) overtimes. Starting on the 25 yard line makes it easier to score. Also, when the game is that long the fatigue that everyone feels is more of a risk to defenders. The announcers for the LSU and A&M game were calling it an “instant classic.” With that said, the wide-open offense some teams use seems to encourage big plays. Lots of big plays equal high scores.


    This gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “protecting the family jewels”.

    Also, those poor, non-traditional shoppers could have been seriously injured by those wildly flailing edged weapons. Perhaps it’s time we had a national conversation about common sense sword control.

    Oh, wait. Never mind. I believe that’s in Canada.

  30. Those football high scores in overtime games are the result of the powers not wanting tie games. Me? I’d say that we keep tie games in the curriculum.
    If the current system MUST be used, at least give possession at, say, midfield, so that the ball needs to be moved even for a reasonable field goal attempt. Possession at the 25 yard line is, apparently, too close and leads to easy scores.

  31. I guess that I did not check in last week. I was very busy at work Monday and Tuesday and then took the rest of the week off, so I did not get a chance.

    I can’t agree more with Jimmy regarding the amount of change, however I would say that the miniaturization of electronics from the 50’s to 80’s was dramatic. So were communication satellites that made the world a smaller place. But it was computers, internet and cell phones that have really been a game changer.

    I actually watched 2 football games on Thanksgiving as I have increasingly become less interested. Of course if Drew Brees and the Saints keep it up, I will be watching the playoffs with great interest.

  32. Here’s a post to AWAD about a word that is often used in the plural, “fiddlesticks”. Mom used it.

    From: … Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day—fiddlestick As is explained in The Revival of Banned Dances: A Worldwide Study (p. 166), dancing and the instruments used to make dance music, including violins, have been banned by conservative forces in various cultures throughout history. Thus fiddlesticks would take on connotations of subversion, a prime characteristic for becoming a more-than-four-letter word. Cave City, KY


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