It’s safe to say a great many Christmas traditions have changed.
For example, Christmas lights.
I’m not sure it ever took hold much here, but the old German tradition saw people putting candles in their trees to imitate stars flickering amongst the evergreens. Given that fire and tinder-dry trees are natural enemies in the wild, it was a risky proposition; the festivities generally saw the candles lit only briefly as the family sat ’round with buckets of sand and water.
Electric lights changed that, although in early days electrical wiring was about as dangerous as an open flame.
In addition, the early lights were wildly expensive, running around $12 per string back in 1900, around $300 in today’s money. Plus, each bulb needed to be wired individually, so the task often also involved hiring an electrician.
But technology marched on, lights became cheaper, good old American one-upmanship kicked in and, as a result, today many a home can be spotted from orbit.
Another big change is also related to electronics: We now spend inordinate sums at Christmas on technological gifts that go obsolete in about 18 months.
Phones wear out and fall behind; games wear out and fall behind. The DVD is as dead as the dodo. All the accessories associated with the upgrades become stored away and turn into archaeological artifacts. What does this cord go to? Dunno, but better not toss it as it might come in handy some day. Say, to wear as a belt when you’re broke from updating your technology.
In doing a little research on Christmas lights for this piece I came across the Mother of All Technological gifts, one that I’m happy to say nobody in Jackson County purchased.
Introducing the Honeywell Kitchen Computer, aka the H316 pedestal model.
Weighing in at more than 100 pounds, the HKC was more or less a glorified recipe book. While it came with a few recipes, in theory you would have to input new recipes yourself.
That task required a two-week training course. Afterward you could spend time playing with toggle switches and a binary-light output, time that probably could have been better spent reading a cookbook or ordering a pizza.
Oh, and the price tag for this wonder of the year 1969? A mere $10,600, or about $71,000 in today’s dollars.
That sounds steep, but the HKC did come with a built-in chopping board.
Like I said earlier, nobody fell for the allure of the HKC here in Jackson County back in 1969.
There’s no evidence anyone on the planet did.
Those boxes of mystery cords we all have in our homes may be an indicator we’ve gotten older but not particularly wiser.
Buchanan is editor of The Sylva Herald.