As of a couple of days go, I am 25. I have witnessed a quarter of a century.
The first major event I was really cognizant of was the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was living in upstate New York at the time. My father was still in the army, and I was under the impression that he would be reassigned to Germany. That assignment got changed to Alaska because of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Looking back on my life now, I can see that so much of it would be wildly different if the Berlin Wall had remained up for even a couple more years. So many of my nearest and dearest would likely be neither.
Ten years from now, elementary school kids will be learning about 9/11 out of their textbooks. The event will be distilled down to a basic description of the events — perhaps with a few teaspoons of propaganda thrown in. What those kids won’t read there is how the entire emotional climate of the world changed over the course of a few hours. Halfway through the school day I had a teacher completely can his lesson to talk about it. And when I got home and went to the online forums I moderated at the time, the general chat forum had a thread about it with quite literally a thousand pages. I don’t know how the database handled that thread, but the range of reactions people exhibited was astounding.
Fear has found the gaps in society and filled them like insulation, as stifling as it is warming. The number of things you can’t take on an airplane has increased a hundred fold; the manufacture of substitutes and specially-sized containers for air travel is now a booming business. It’s not just the United States, either. Japan is now fingerprinting all foreigners entering their country.
9/11 even affected the Super Bowl. When I was a kid, the Super Bowl was held on the last Sunday in January. During the week following 9/11, all air planes within the United States were grounded. The football schedule was set back a week, and the Super Bowl has been held on the first Sunday in February ever since.
I don’t think I need to say much about technology. Computers and TVs are both smaller and more powerful than people imagined possible 25 years ago. You can buy an electric toothbrush for cheap at the store. Libraries no longer use card catalogs. Video game graphics have become so impressive that young people today won’t even play older games because they automatically assume a game without the latest graphics can’t be any good.
Films often sport as much CGI as live action (assuming it’s not an outright 3D-animated film). That’s not the only change I’ve seen in film making. The one I’m least fond of is the tendency to make action scenes choppy and time-lapse-tastic in an attempt to make the acton seem more fast-paced. It only makes me irritated and/or nauseous.
Science has advanced a lot, I’m sure, though in smaller, less-noticeable increments for the most part. There are a number of things we take for granted now that weren’t available when I was younger. MP3s, for instance. You can carry hours of music around in your pocket. Used to be you were lucky to carry an hour and a half in that same amount of pocket space, and if you listened to it too much the sound got warped because the tape stretched out.
And speaking of MP3s, how about them law suits about piracy? The rise of the internet and information sharing in general? Intellectual property complaints FTL. Perfect example of how inflated society has become.
Anyway, I could probably ramble on for longer. I’m tired. Good night.