My friend Jim talks to middle school students about history. He starts off by asking what each of them knows about the past.
“There are two types of history: ancient and modern,” one kid told him.
“Modern is what happened in the last few years. Ancient was a long time ago…about 1970 or before.”
When Jim told the guy he remembered 1970, the boy stared at him like he was a fossil. “Wow,” he marveled, “I can’t believe you’re still alive.”
A girl asked, “So, like, can you remember before cars, and airplanes, and television?”
“Hey, how old do you think I am?” Jim replied. “This is the 21st
century. These days, people are living to well over 50, and beyond.
“But I do remember some things you can’t imagine. Back when I was a kid, we thought a website was the place a spider lived.
“We didn’t have cell phones. Ours were all plugged into some wall at the house. The phone cord was only about a foot long.
“Then, some genius invented a stretchable phone cord, so we could venture out 15 or 20 feet.
“And back then, not everybody had clothes dryers. We took our clothes out to a clothesline, hung them up, and let the sun dry them. They stayed clean, as long as a flock of birds didn’t fly over.”
The kids then asked Jim if he had television, and what he watched. “Our TV had only four channels….and sometimes the picture was lousy. So, one of us viewers would go to the set, and adjust the rabbit ear antenna to improve the picture.”
A kid in the back of the room raised his hand. “I’ve got one simple question,” the boy said.
“How did they discover that a bunny could receive TV signals?”
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Rix Quinn is a former magazine publisher who works as an independent biographer and broadcaster.