Friday, June 29, 2012

Ode To A Tech-Free Childhood

Hello, Virtual Play Palz!

I read recently that American kids spend almost eight hours a day watching T.V., playing videogames, surfing the net, and presumably typing 'LOL' a hundred times in a row.  I find this statistic to be supremely troubling.

But before I start getting all self-righteous ("Too Late, Gramps!"), I must confess that we really didn't have the sort of sophisticated and compulsively addictive diversions that wee ones now have access to.  If I'd been born in the past, say, twenty years, I'd probably be checking new texts every ten seconds like a rat on cocaine as well.

Nowadays kids have all kinds of cool shit at their disposal: streaming video, smart phones, iPads, and Blu-Ray players.  Cripes, even their friggin' eyewear will soon become leet.

Just as an example, look at how far video games have come.  Here's a dragon as depicted in last year's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:

And here's a dragon from the Atari video game Adventure from 1979:

In the immortal words of Thor, God of Thunder: "Verily, I shit thee not." 

And I had to wait ten or eleven years before I encountered technology like that.  When I was really young, like seven or eight, this was my idea of a video game...

And for comparison's sake, here's what a hockey player looks like in NHL 13

And here's what that same player looked like in Mattel Electronics Hockey (magnified 300%):
That's right, kids!  Imagine not being able to tell the difference between Sidney Crosby and a friggin' price sticker?

Despite our clearly primitive graphics capabilities, I still had the best childhood you could ever imagine.  Any given day during the summer was a new and exciting adventure.  First off, you'd get up at the crack of dawn and watch Star Blazers while eating a mixing bowl filled with cereal...  

Nutritious breakfast consumed, you'd hop on your bike and pedal furiously down to your best buddy's place.  In fact, the better part of your day would be spent astride your one-speed crotch rocket.  Often we'd ape adult behavior by selecting a destination and pedaling there at a drunkenly neglegent rate (sans helmet, natch!).  Once we got there, we'd deploy our kick stands and "hang out" (I.E. loiter), leaning on our seats like motorbike-riding teenagers and taking care not to stray too far from our "rides" lest we invite a case of "Grand Theft Bike".

Then we'd pester the bejesus out of some poor shop-keep, buying penny candy in batches of one or blowing our wads on one of these lurid and colorful titles:

En route back home we'd encounter the neighborhood spoiled rich kid who's parents could afford to buy him a Green Machine or Big Wheel.  This moron would brag that he'd be doing a "crazy jump" in the dirt lot across the street from our apartment building at 2 pm so we'd "better be there" 'cuz it's "gonna be just like Evel Knievel".

So naturally we'd all show up at the appointed time to gawk and make fun of this dumb f#@k as he tried in vain to pedal up a flimsy plywood ramp on a plastic bike.  Fast forward a few months later and Richy Rich would still be trying to kill himself for the sake of some "respek", perhaps this time astride a heavy, oversized motocross bike that would flip him off into the woods after he invariably lost his balance half way up the ramp.

Later that same afternoon a rumor would begin to circulate that THE ASSHOLE KIDS WHO LIVED UP ON THE HILL had greviously insulted someone's neighborhood / mom / bike and challenged us to a rock fight a 4 pm sharp.  Speaking of sharp, the traditional arena for this tilt was the empty lot (hey, what can I say, we had a lot of lots back then) at the bottom of THE HILL behind our apartment, which was nicely stockpiled with shale, I.E. the WMD's of the Grade Two-set:

Mercifully there was also several large boulders to take cover behind so this often went on like a protracted, low-rent version of laser tag until the first kid got clipped and the battle was decided.  Even these early experiences served to delineate a clear line in the sand between childhood fantasy and painful adult reality.  

FANTASY: "My newly acquired Spider-Man web shooters will surely be the deciding factor in the coming battle!"    

REALITY: "Ze web shooters, zey do NOTHINK!!!"

Knowing full well that we still had at least three solid hours of daylight left, we'd scrarf our dinners down like pythons eating a capybara.  We were soon back outside again, either leading a platoon of stormtroopers in a futile search for droids or creating our very own Sim City for a fleet of dinkies:

Which brings me to a quick aside.  One time while me and my buddies were playing dinkies, the resident ruffian Alan came along and kicked apart all of our painstakingly elaborate civic planning.  That particular day I'd spent most of the morning reading Batman comic books, so I decided to do what Batman does to every villain: I stood and tried to punch the bully square in the mush with a haymaker.  Unfortunately my quarry ducked and I ended up punching the brick wall that he was standing behind.  Yowtch!    

Then, just before dusk you and your team of pint-sized Steve Irwins would catch a grass snake, sparking off a heated U.N. style debate about which lucky big game hunter would be allowed to take it home.  One time when I was the "winner" I had to spend hours lobbying to keep the beast in my room.  Eventually my poor long-suffering mother let me seal it up in a disused aquarium with an entire set of encyclopedias holding the lid down.  The next morning my room stunk like the gorilla cage at Granby Zoo after a week-long maintenance strike.

Yeah, it goes without saying that releasing the snake back into his natural habitat was my first action item in that particular day.

Honestly, every summer day would be like that: a constant rinse, wash and repeat of outdoor adventures.  I know that kids today posses vastly superior diversions but frankly I'd never trade it for my own low-tech childhood.

EPIC   Go the adventure that is, um...Adventure.

FAIL   And we wonder why there's a health epeidemic in North America.

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