surinenglish

Techno qualities

On 26 June 1974, at Marsh's supermarket in Troy Ohio, Clyde Dawson and Sharon Buchanan participated in a humble interaction which would prove to have enormous significance in the history of technology. Clyde as customer and Sharon as check-out girl were involved in the first public bar code transaction. The purchase was of a pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit chewing gum. I'm not sure if Clyde was in on it or just some bloke who wanted to freshen is breath before a hot date. Let's hope it wasn't the latter.

"Good morning , sir."

"Good morning. I'd like to buy this pack of lovely gum , please."

"Certainly, sir. I just need to .. erm.. how was it again? .... erm..."

*Bleep

"What the hell was that? Is this gum radioactive?"

"No, sir. It's our new system. That'll be 684 dollars please."

Ok, I'm sure that everything actually went exactly to plan but to be the first member of the general public to use almost anything must really be quite discombobulating.

Imagine being the first person to use a cashpoint, for example.

"Sorry, sir, we're closing the bank now, you'll have to use the cashpoint."

"The what?"

"The machine on the wall outside, sir."

"Listen here, young man, the three words in the English language that I least want to hear regarding the withdrawal of my hard-earned money are are 'machine', 'wall' and 'outside', thank you very much. Get me the manager."

I still remember setting up my first email account and my sister trying to explain to me how it works.

"It's like getting a letter except it arrives almost immediately."

"Er, ok. But what if I can't get back to this internet cafe for a week or two, I might miss something important."

"You can just go to another internet cafe anywhere in the world and open your mail there."

This was like somebody telling me I didn't have to pick up my posted mail at my own house because there would be duplicates posted to every other address around the globe at the same time. I'm surprised to this day that my head didn't implode trying to take it all in.

Mind you, even the humble television still feels like a miracle to me. How can you possibly be able to watch a football match being played thousands of miles away in a corner of your living room next to a radiator where your socks are drying? It's mind-boggling.

We're absurdly fortunate to live in the times that we do.

I really must try to remember that the next time a bar code purchase doesn't register at the first attempt.