Gone to the history books

Allison Smith

Technology defines gap between generations

Matthew Shank arrived on Kent State’s campus during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. As he looked around that day, it seemed as if every student was talking on a cell phone. A generation defined.

“When I got out of the car in the parking lot, it seemed like every kid had a cell phone,” said Shank, an English professor. “I had really never noticed it before how widespread it was.”

Cell phones are not the only things that separate Millennials from their parents. Objects such as word processors, VHS tapes and record players are a thing of the past. And some students now have never even heard of these things.

For example, word processors were in the stage between typewriters and computers. Sneha Jose, sophomore industrial technology major, thought it was a modern-day computer program.

“I thought word processor was the MS Word, it’s just like the real name for it,” Jose said. “I didn’t know it was like a typewriter.”

History professor Rebecca Pulju used a word processor in the 90s. Word processors had small screens where the text was shown. The appeal was the document could be saved on a floppy disk or on the machine’s hard drive.

“I thought I was pretty lucky to have one,” Pulju said.

Shank remembered when he got his first word processor.

“I had two,” Shank said. “I write things on my own, so that was a real breakthrough. The idea that you could save, like a screenplay, and then revise it and work on it.”

Another object used less and less today is the VHS cassette. After VHS beat out Sony’s Betamax, a similar device, in the early 80s, the videotape took off, Shank said.

“That was a big deal; now you could tape a TV show, and you didn’t have to be there,” Shank said. “You could rent movies and take them home.”

Students now remember VHS tapes from their childhood.

“I used to watch a lot of Disney movies,” Jose said. “I know ‘The Little Mermaid’ was on VHS for sure. I think I still have it.”

Video is not the only medium to make a transition. Music has made a jump from records, to cassette tapes, to compact discs, and now to MP3s.

Shank said cassettes were a big innovation, too.

“I’d make mix tapes back when they weren’t even called that,” Shank said. “You know, you record songs from different sources and put it on a cassette. I still have a lot of those in a closet somewhere.”

Jennifer Eulberg, senior secretary of English undergraduate studies, had a Walkman with a cassette tape player. She said she was behind everyone else when it came to electronics.

“I didn’t buy CDs until they stopped selling cassettes,” Eulberg said.

Shank, on the other hand, said he was happy when CDs became popular.

“I was always a perfectionist when I got a record. It’s as pristine as it’s going to be the first time you play it,” Shank said. “When CDs came out, oh I loved that because it was such a clear sound.”

Not all students have forgotten about records. Kelly Arnold, sophomore conservation major, has a record player and a collection of records in her dorm room.

“The sound is pretty cool; when it’s digital, it sounds really sharp, I guess, but when it’s a record, it’s a deeper sound,” Arnold said. “They’re just cool because they’re old.”

Arnold said she doesn’t listen to CDs anymore. She just loads them on her computer and listens to them as MP3 files.

“I don’t have anything to listen to them on,” Arnold said. “I don’t even have a CD player.”

Arnold said she decided to start listening to records because of an article she saw in Rolling Stone magazine. The article reported how record sales were up last year, Arnold said.

“Artists are still releasing on vinyl. Not like Britney Spears and those kind of people, but like older groups and indie groups,” Arnold said. “Only the cool artists release on vinyl.”

Contact news correspondent Allison Smith at [email protected].