A few decades ago, when my parents were still alive, I don’t think I would have been able to predict how cell phones would transform certain aspects of our life. My father-in-law was one of the first adopters of the new technology, when a mobile phone was a fairly large case that you carried in your car and required a special antenna to be installed. We borrowed that bag phone when we came to Rapid City on our house hunting tour in 1995. A few years later, I got a flip phone to help the office staff find me. I spend quite a bit of time out and about in the community, calling on folks and making visits in a variety of settings. Having the cell phone gave the office a way to get messages to me. Before long, I had become quite addicted to the technology, carrying my phone with me nearly everywhere I went. Years passed, phones become more capable, and these days, I grab my phone as I wake in the morning and it is a nearly constant companion throughout my day.

What I don’t think I expected was how much we would use our phones for things besides talking to folks. Yesterday, I was with another grandparent and we were exchanging views of our grandchildren by scrolling through the photos on our phones. We were passing around the phones and admiring each other’s grandchildren. It probably isn’t significantly different from the old wallet photos we used to cary of loved ones, but our photos are much more up to date. I receive new photos of my grandchildren nearly every day. With children and grandchildren living so far away it is a definite treat for me.

It isn’t just that we receive more pictures, however. We also take more pictures. I a barista adds an extra d to the spelling of my name, I’m likely to snap a picture and send it to a family member. When I see something that catches my eye, I get out my phone and take a picture. The current generation of smart phones has meant that I nearly always have a camera available. Using my phone doesn’t afford the same focus and concentration as using my camera, and I’m more likely to take a photo that is less well framed and less artistically appealing than I am with my camera, but the advantage of the phone is that it is constantly available and the photos I take with my phone aren’t all that bad. The resolution of the digital photography from my phone is about the same as my good DSLR camera.

I remember years ago I was amazed by a Minox camera. The subminiature camera used 16mm film and was tiny. You slid the outer case to the right and exposed the shutter and lens. It was the stuff of a spy movie. I don’t remember seeing any spectacular pictures taken with the camera. It was more of a novelty. I know that lighting was an issue for the tiny device. It was a relic of the Second World War in terms of technology, but the miniature camera was still a fascinating device. The cameras we carry in our cell phones are much smaller, much better and many provide artificial lighting.

Another device that struck me as interesting when I was a youth came directly from the comic pages in the newspaper. Dick Tracy had a two-way wrist radio. He could talk into the watch-like device and receive messages on it as well. We had portable radios that we used in our family’s business. They were very expensive, fairly fragile and bulky. You could clip one to your belt, but you had to extend a metal antenna that was very prone to being broken and they didn’t seem to work in many of the places whee we wanted to use them. I thought the device that Dick Tracy used would be a marvel of the future. Like a flying car, it was something that didn’t exist in real life, but something that someone might develop some day.

I doubt that i could have imagined the watch that I wear today. It has a digital assistant. I can talk to it and ask it to display certain information. It receives email messages and even works as a telephone. It is brand new to me, a purchase made in response to our recent issues with heart rhythm. It acts as a heart rate and rhythm monitor and we can check our heart rate at any time by touching an icon on the screen. The device, however, has far more capability than we’ve learned to use.

I can’t help but think how much my father would have loved this futuristic devices that we have. He loved the simple calculators and computers that were available when he was living. He purchased many different generations of communications radios. We had a basement full of devices that were purchased, used and then put away when the next latest one appeared. I’m pretty sure that he would have been an early adopter of modern digital technologies had he lived to see the devices.

What is clear to me is that the changes and advances in technology are occurring so quickly that I have no ability to predict which technologies I will be using a few years from now. I have wondered if driverless cars will avoid that awkward conversation with my children when it is time for me to quit driving. There are devices that appear in fiction - in movies and on television that we don’t yet have. There is no such thing as a teleport that can instantly move a human being from one place to another. That, however, would be a great technology for grandparents. We could beam ourselves to a kindergarten graduation or a birthday party and be home for dinner.

When that time comes, I probably won’t have the money to purchase the device. I will have spent all my money on gadgets that are currently available. It is, however, fun to imagine what might be coming.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!