Same As It Ever Was

In preparing my speeches I like to go “back to the future” to see how far an organization, association, or company has come since it’s inception or a major milestone. Going back fifty years made me realize that as much as things change, they also (sort of) stay the same. Here’s some examples from 1966 to 2016.

TRANSPORTATION Fifty years ago (1966) the Toyota Corolla was introduced. It became the best selling car of all time (40,000+) and is still among the top five best selling cars in 2015. In 1966, a new car would run you $2,500, and at .32¢ a gallon, it would cost roughly five bucks for a fill up. Many of us were able to work on our own cars because if you took an auto shop class in school (yes, they were offered back then) you knew enough to fix most minor problems.

Traveling by plane is much the same as 50 years ago, but instead of watching the movie the airline decided would be shown in the cabin, you can now choose what you want to watch on your own digital device. Fifty years ago you would be served a free meal and alcohol, but you would have to eat it in a smoke-filled cabin filled with drunk passengers. What surprises many people is when you adjust for inflation, flying actually costs less now than it did in 1966–and it’s also safer.

COMMUNICATION In 1966, people often spoke on the phone, but it was either at home using a rotary phone, or outside in a phone booth. The best you could hope for back then were phones with push button dialing and long curly cords so you could roam your home. In addition to phone calls, back then the other way to communicate was with a letter (or postcard) sent through the mail—you know, sent in an envelope, with a stamp . . . that you had to lick. Then it was faster to fax.

Obviously, we have cut the chord and many of us no longer have a home phone and pay phones are few and far between. Nearly everything about today’s smart phones are better than before, and communicating comes much easier. Now we can, “reach out and touch someone” (emotionally, not physically) day or night. The only downside is less downtime. Unless we “unplug,” we are always accessible and available. Sending a letter today is instantaneous once you hit send. This is both good and bad. You gotta love the immediacy of it, but if you send without thinking things through first, there’s no redo.

RELAXATION Curling up with a good book was a favorite past time in 1966. When you needed a book you went to a bookstore or library. (The Librarian was Google before Google.) Now we buy books online and read them on different devices, but a good book is still a good book regardless of how you get it or read it.

People would travel and send postcards to show others how cool they were. (I think you know how we do that today.) We would take pictures to capture those magic moments on a camera and then develop the prints and create a photo album. We still take pictures for emotional reasons, and we still share them, but how we do it is decidedly different.

People still start their day with coffee. In 1966 a cup of coffee would cost a quarter and a go-cup was a thermos. Back then, coffee was coffee (unless you were in Europe) and you bought it at a grocery store in a can (which you would then likely reuse to store stuff.) The “Starbucks” of the day was Maxwell House (or Folgers) and you used basically the same style of coffee maker at home as we do today.

Music is music. We still love to listen to it and attend live shows. It’s recorded differently (analog versus digitally) and performed differently (real instruments versus samples and such) and purchased differently (records, eight-tracks, cassettes, and even CDs bought in a store are replaced by downloads) and the record player and boom box is now a computer and smart phone. That said, songs still need a melody, meaning, and a hook to be a hit.

Same As It Ever Was

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