Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Where Have All The Projectors Gone?

A bit nostalgic this morning as I think about where we are in just my lifetime. My 13-year old son really wants an iPad for Christmas, though he is well-aware he is shooting high. I think he put that on the list so that the Kindle a little further down the list will not seem like anything at all.

As I watch people with their iPhones and Droids watching movies and having face-to-face conversations across the country, I really cannot believe that all this has happened. I am not yet 40 years old, but when I was my kids' age, I remember technology a little differently.

Monday night was family night and we always got a movie. But instead of checking the DVR for recordings or renting from Amazon online, my dad would bring home a 16mm projector and a couple of films in canisters rented from the local library. These films would be things like Laurel & Hardy, The 3 Stooges, or Disney films including my favorites which starred live animals and all used the same amazing voice-over guy to bring it to life. Because my dad was a pastor, we would also occasionally get to review the latest film produced by Billy Graham or Bob Jones University--to see if it would be good for the church to view at the upcoming New Year's Eve service. As long as Dad could get it threaded properly and the bulb didn't give out, we would have a great night watching a jumpy picture and listening to equal parts projector hum and film soundtrack.

As I got into my teen years, technology advanced to the point that we would rent a VCR and videocassettes instead. The top-loading VCR weighed about the same amount as 16mm projector, but by the time I finished college and began teaching, things had really advanced.  I remember the class where I told my video students about the latest thing that was being discussed in the industry. It was "movies on a CD." We were all in awe of the fact that they had figured out a way to get that much information on something the size of a CD.

Things change fast, and if anyone thinks they know what is coming in the future, they are probably wrong. I can imagine the writers of the original Star Trek having ideas for some of the technologies included on today's smartphones, but deciding not to incorporate them because they were not believable enough. Instead they went with things that we were sure to have by now such as travel at the speed of light and teleporting (which Apple is working on as we speak, by the way). It is funny to think about what my kids reaction would be if I started setting up a projector and threading a film in my living room some evening. I fear their attention span would not hold out past the leader.