While waiting for the coffee to brew this morning, I saw on my news feed that Macy’s is closing 63 stores in early 2017. “A sign of the times” I thought as I browsed through the list of stores. “Online shopping is so huge now, it’s hard for brick and mortar to compete.” Then I came to a line on the list that took my breath away. Macy’s is closing the store in downtown Minneapolis; it opened in 1902.
I wanted to yell at someone about the loss of history, or why longevity doesn’t count for much of anything, or maybe just to get off my lawn. But a national chain closing one branch of a store isn’t really a big deal. It is just “a sign of the times”. Macy’s in 1902 didn’t know about the Mall of America, or online shopping. They’re doing what they need to do to stay alive now.
It made me realize that for most of the last century progress moved along a predictable curve. Sure movies, the automobile, and television were crazy and dangerous when they debuted but it took time for any of them to gain traction in everyday life. Computers and the internet, however, have changed everything in a short span of time. Personally, by location or choice, I was usually a little behind. But the changes just in my lifetime are huge. When I was in grade school our phone still had a rotary dial, our TV had five channels, and my parents had just bought a new-fangled microwave.
I had a computer class for a quarter in the 9th grade. We were taught it could do basic algebraic math and how to program it to make a picture in pointillism (turn this square in this column and row this color, and repeat until your image appeared). That was it.
I got my first email address as a junior in college. You could sign up at the student services office if you wanted one, and use one of the two computer labs on campus. My boyfriend was at another college and taught me how to use it, to save on stamps.
I got a pager when I became a professional stage manager in 2000 and a brick of a laptop to do paperwork with. I didn’t get a cell phone until about two years later, when finding a payphone to return a page went from annoying to near impossible. And it was 2004 before we started emailing out daily reports, instead of printing and faxing them.
Now I can’t imagine how to function in the modern world without an internet connection and computer at home, a cell phone (preferably smart), and the ability to google something I don’t know, or send an email to coworkers or friends. Now I live in CO and work at a company in PA by connecting to the servers over a VPN from my home internet connection and skyping with co-workers. Only two decades ago that sentence would have been gibberish to me.
So how do we know where anything is going to be in a decade, or two? Sure, maybe we’ll finally get our flying cars or replicator meals, or maybe something different but equally as cool is coming. But I don’t know how to get ahead of a curve that’s moving this quickly and there’s no good way to predict. I don't know how to plan for a future I can't even imagine.
**This is my entry for this week in LJ Idol read everyone else's here. The topic is a Wayne Gretsky quote.**
- LJI:4 "I don't skate to where the puck is. I skate to where the puck is going to be."