The ever-improving Holiday Wish List

November 2, 2009 9:08:03 AM PST
My son wants an iPod for Christmas. He will be nine soon. I thought this was an odd request. Then I remembered the time when I was his age. I asked my parents for a robot that serves drinks and vacuums (I must have seen it in one of those Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogs - I don't think the robot was even for sale). I got a train set that year.

Fast forward back to the present. I am a father. I must address this situation with my son.

Allow the one-sided interrogation to begin:

"So, you want an iPod."
"Uh-huh."
"What are you going to put on it?"
Silence.
"Do you even have any favorite bands?"
Silence.
"?"
"Well, I really want one, daddy!"

He can probably name a few groups that offer downloadable music, like: The Wiggles, The Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, and any band that has played on the iCarly show. Given that he is eight, it is probably no longer cool to "like" those acts.

So, to summarize, he wants an iPod, and he has no musical preferences. That makes sense.

As it turns out, his friend has an iTouch, it is fun to operate, and so my son wants one too.

Ah, so the truth finally comes out...

One day, that friend came over to my house with his iTouch device, and proceeded to ask me what my password is to access our home wireless internet account.

"Internet access? What do you need that for?"
The friend quickly moves beyond this question.
"What is your WEP password, Mr. O'Donnell?"
WEP? Where did he learn about WEP?

I had to chuckle, and started to ponder how much has changed between my generation and my son's. I'm sure you've done a retrospective like this every now and then.

It must have been three decades ago when my uncle came walking into the house carrying this huge box - it was one of the earliest cell phones. A "car" phone is what we called it because back then it was primarily used in a car. People didn't carry them everywhere. They were too big. They actually had an antenna, and they needed to be plugged into a power source (like your car's cigarette lighter - whoa, they don't even make those anymore).

Now, a device that is 1/100th the size can allow you to carry out about 1000x more tasks - and the battery is tiny. And people use them in the car, at the store, in restaurants, during meetings, at church (you know who you are), while walking across busy streets, on bikes, on skateboards, in elevators, in bathrooms, and sometimes even on airplanes.

Music. When I was younger, my father had a stereo system in the house that included an 8-track player. He had a few selections from Elvis Presley and Blood, Sweat and Tears. I remember my grandparents actually having an 8-track player in their car. Wow.

8-tracks died out in the early 80's because of their bulkiness and the high expense to build the hardware. Remember how big those things were?

Now, my son's friend can use his iTouch to download full songs through thin air, in seconds - simply by purchasing them on digital music sites on the internet (and using my home wireless account, nonetheless). And his device can fit more songs than a whole garage full of 8-track tapes.

Back then, VCR's and 10 cable channels. Today, Blu-Ray players that can download movies almost instantly - through wireless - if you subscribe to one of those internet movie services. Oh, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of cable channels. Thousands maybe. I don't think anyone knows anymore.

Back then, VHF and UHF, and getting up from your couch to change the channel using two dials. Now, HD and multi-functional remote controllers.

Back then, Atari's lame version of Pac-Man. Now, being able to play Mario Kart with some kid who lives in Germany.

Back then, searching a 30-year-old encyclopedia for nearly a half hour, all to answer the question: "What was the last World Series team to come back from a 3-1 deficit and win it all?" Now, typing that same question into an internet search engine and getting an instant answer.

By the way, it was the KC Royals in 1985. The loser - the Saint Louis Cardinals.

Back then, knowing that the only thing between you and fame is somehow beating out thousands of wannabes in finding your way onto Star Search with Ed McMahon. Now, knowing the only thing between you and fame is simply recording a 10-second video, uploading it on YouTube, and watching it go viral.

Is that how we have accumulated so many people who are famous, but no one knows why they are famous? Sorry, a bit off topic now.

Anyway, my wife and I still haven't made our decision on our son's Christmas gift. Maybe it'll be an iPod/iTouch/iNano. Maybe it will be some other, cheaper device. Sadly, a train set and a new pair of pajamas doesn't seem to cut it this days.

As for our six-year-old daughter, she posed an interesting question about Christmas the other day. This is what she asked me, complete with her "ums":

"Daddy, um, for Christmas, um, you know the elves at the North Pole?um, well, how do they, um, make the toys for Christmas, and, um, what do they do when they have to go to the bathroom?"

I'll bet Santa has never heard that one before. We'll make it a point to ask him in the department store after Thanksgiving.


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