I’m an "old-school’ guy. However, several days ago, during that quick hit of snow and wind, I stood at my back door and flashed some technical knowledge. I started the engine of my pickup truck with my cellphone. The FordPass App also informed me of the air pressure amount in each tire, as well as how much gas I had left.
I reflected for a moment on what I had just accomplished and thought, "Holy smokes," that was amazing. The changes I have witnessed in my lifetime have been remarkable and at times unbelievable.
I remember leaving home for college almost 49 years ago. When I left in the fall, there were no emails, texts or daily phone calls. My parents were lucky if they heard from me by Christmas.
Boomers headed out on our own — to sink or swim. We liked it that way. The only technology my vehicle had at the time was a radio, ashtray and a cigarette lighter. I started my truck by pushing in the clutch and turning a key.
The modern technology of the day I brought with me when I headed for additional education, which I badly needed, was a manual typewriter and a few Bic pens.
I’m currently reading the recently released biography "Edison" by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris. Thomas A. Edison invented a lot of stuff. He was a genius and recognized during his lifetime as a great American.
His last name will always be associated with the invention and development of the electric light, but there was so much more to his life. The book, which is a long one, got me thinking about inventions.
I contacted a couple of friends and asked them what invention made them go, "Wow, this is remarkable!" I told them this was about inventions that simply affected their life in a positive way.
I’m going to start with Dave. Dave grew up in the community of Parsons, located in eastern West Virginia. His family would listen to a cabinet-sized radio that on a good night, could only pull in some mountain music and country music from nearby Wheeling, W.V.
He remembers in the spring of 1962 he had been saving money from his paper route for this new invention he read about. He paid $15 for a Sony transistor radio. He could slip it into his shirt pocket. Dave said his dad told him he had lost his mind spending that kind of money on such a thing.
Dave said from the comfort of his bedroom every night, he could pick up rock-and-roll music from the station WOWO all the way from Fort Wayne, Ind. As a kid, that pocket transistor was pure magic.
My second buddy Lee grew up in Moose Lake, Minn. Lee remembers in 1972 his boss asked him to drive to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport to pick up his wife. His boss informed him he had this new add-on feature in his car called "speed control."
As Lee drove down I-35 and figured out this new technology, he thought this invention was remarkable. No foot-cramping or speed-checking. Lee said he didn’t get a vehicle with that option for a few years, but today, he says it’s as necessary as the first cup of coffee in the morning. Come on Lee, really — that important?
Lee gave me a second life-changer. While at the University of Minnesota Duluth, also in the early ’70s, he was in the Ven-Den (a dining area surrounded by vending machines). He watched someone buy a hamburger from a vending machine, bring it to a box-shaped thing, open the box-shaped thing, and put the burger in it. The guy then pushed a button, and 30 seconds later, he removed a steaming hamburger.
He decided he needed to try that. He found that the microwave-heated hamburger tasted terrible but the invention was amazing. Of course, microwaves became a go-to tool for many college students and young couples. Hot, leftover pizza in 20 seconds — priceless.
I guess for me, not long after I entered the working world, I found myself the one person in a one-person department. I had to complete all the reports, etc., myself. I found the IBM Selectric II typewriter to be a magnificent machine. You could even correct mistakes without Wite-Out or correction tape. With that machine, I could fly on those keys. It changed my life for the better until the computer came along.
Edison held over 1,000 patents for his inventions. He was a bright guy (pun intended). He left this world in 1931. Maybe the inventions I mentioned were not a large step for mankind, but a cool small step for some young guys trying to find their way. What invention made you go, "Wow"?