How Technology Has Changed the Relationships between Women and Men

Chapter Thirteen

© Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

During the forced social isolation of the Covid19 Pandemic, The Americas Revealed published two long autobiographical series.  The first takes place in Mexico in 1970, when I was sent there on fellowship from Georgia Tech.  I intentionally included much information on the education that I received there . . . outside the realm of Architecture and Indigenous American History.  I wanted readers to understand what life was like in Mexico and the United States during that era.   The second series takes place in Northern Virginia, Washington, DC and ultimately the Atlanta Metropolitan Area in Georgia.  Again, I wanted readers to understand what life was like in that era. 

In both series, I met lovely, women, who I could have been happily married to for the rest of my life.  They were a Sephardic Mexican señorita in Mexico City,  a French architecture student from Lyon, a Mexican anthropology student in Campeche City,  an actress-singer from Paris, France and a Swedish-American FBI agent from Minnesota.  The only reason that relationships did not continue indefinitely with the first four women was the difficulty of communicating and alas . . . even finding each other over long distances after brief disconnections. The fifth lady ceased communicating with me, while on a mission overseas. I never knew what happened to her. At the time, we had known each other for 14 years.

In contrast, during the past three years, I have reconnected with many, many people from my past . . . going back even to elementary school . . . via the LinkedIn professional communications website. 

For example,  Gert Erik Engelien from Norway, lived on our farm in the Reems Creek Valley, North Carolina when he was 17 and 18.   I first found him in Stavanger, Norway on LinkedIn, where he was head of the local Securitas, AB office.  Then he was promoted to being president of the new division of Securitas, AB in Australia.  Most recently he was promoted to being director of Human Resources for the entire Securitas, AB international corporation in Stockholm, Sweden.  In 1970, making contact after decades of separation with such an upwardly mobile executive, would have been almost impossible.   

Gert Erik Engelien – Securitas, AB

With Google Earth, I have been able to go back and see  . . . even download photos of . . . the places that lived and worked –  both in the United States and overseas.  During the Mexico series, I repeatedly reminded readers that throughout most of my time in Mexico, I had no clue where I was.  The maps in Mexico were THAT bad back then.  Well, they were basically the resolution of a highway map of the entire United States!   Having access to Google, satellite-based, maps enabled me to far better understand the cities that I studied so long ago. 

The capabilities of Google Earth are astonishing.  I can download images of where I lived and worked in Landskrona, Sweden that are a far higher resolution and more vivid color than the 35mm color slides that I took, while living there in 1972.  Here are the modern images . . . absolutely amazing!

The brick apartment building on the left is where I lived in Landskrona, Sweden.
My office was at the second window to the right of the entrance – ground floor.

Comparison of technologies in four eras

Below are descriptions of the level of technologies available to middle class civilians in 1970, 1991, 2001 and 2021.  I intentionally limited the descriptions to “regular folks” because some technologies were available to the US military and very wealthy civilians at a much earlier date. 

For example, the internet was used by the military in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, but unknown to most civilians.  Having contacts with the French military establishment, Vivi the French Courtesan was able to hire a French electronics engineer to adapt our personal computers and FAX machines to essentially create a private, encrypted internet connection between the two of us.  When I went missing in April 1993, “someone” was dispatched to covertly remove the encryption devices from my computer/FAX machine without any damage to my computer or my home.  The FAX machine still worked fine, when I moved it to the Atlanta Area, but no longer functioned like an instant messenger.

1970

Internet – In 1969, the US government had first issued contracts to create an internet system for the military.  Its first form was working on an experimental basis in 1970, but a top military secret.

Communications between long distance lovers – mostly handwritten letters and cards. It took 7-10 days for high priority air mail to travel from Mexico City to Atlanta.

Communications between international businesses – mixture of typed letters sent by air mail, telegrams and minimal telephone calls

Electronic data transfer – Early 20th century telegraph systems had evolved into a separate system of cables and microwave stations, owned by nationwide monopolies.  On July 26, 1970 the New York Times published an editorial announcing that the traditional telegram was dying.  Until the 1970s, telegrams were hand-delivered to homes and businesses, but by 1972 many were being mailed in the destination town. That was the case in late winter 1972, when Crown Prince Karl Gustaf sent me a telegram, inviting me to work in Sweden,  it was placed in my Georgia Tech Post Office box.

Telephones – All telephones and telephone equipment in the United States, except in some rural areas, was owned and leased by the Atlantic Telephone & Telegraph Co. (AT&T).  All telephones were hard-wired into the building wall.  Installation of a non-AT&T device, such as an answering machine, via splicing would result in immediate disconnection from the system.

Long distance calls – In 1968, the US Government required all long distance carriers to interconnect their lines, making possible direct dial long distance calls for most of the country.

Answering machines – In many AT&T subsidiaries, residential answering machines were forbidden. Some AT&T subsidiaries were leasing them by 1970 for a price vastly exceeding the telephone rental.  I saw my first, tape-based, answering machine in December 1968.  It was in the Midtown Atlanta apartment of a wealthy Cuban-American Emory University student from Miami.

International telephone calls – Very expensive, varying voice quality and unavailable to rural areas of developing countries. A telephone call between Europe and North America by a regular folks type tourist would be unthinkable, but did occur among large corporations, who got cheaper rates.

Mobile phones – Commonplace among public safety agencies and larger businesses.  They were limited to being in line of sight of a transmission tower. Without transponders, they were useless around high-rise buildings or mountains.

Personal computing – In just four years the pocket calculator had evolved from being merely a compact adding machine to being a device capable of solving most math operations needed by architects and engineers.

Cameras – Almost all consumer cameras were single lens reflex mechanical cameras or Polaroid Instant cameras.  The most popular SLR lens width was 52mm.  The primary barrier to creating high quality photos was the low resolution of consumer grade film. Polaroid did not introduce a color film until 1972. 

Voice recording – Magnetic tape recorders were invented in Germany in the 1930s.  North American companies began producing increasingly smaller tape players that catered to the consumer.  By 1970, most middle-class households owned a tape recorder.

Music Recording –  33 1/3 rpm and 45 rpm vinyl records were the industry standard.  Both compact cassette tapes and 8-track tape cartridges were invented in the 1960s to be used in automobiles and portable hi-fi’s  (boom boxes).  The tapes were gaining popularity, but had a much shorter useful life because the tapes broke.

Television – There were only three national TV networks – NBC, CBS and ABC.  PBS went on the air in November 1970, but most people didn’t even know it existed, plus it was dependent on being broadcast by state-owned educational TV systems.  Most people only owned a black & white TV, although most prime time shows were now in color.  Both Mexico and Sweden had just introduced color TV when I lived there, but there were few color programs and very few color TVs.  On July 20, 1969 many of us had crowded into the home of a neighbor, who was Southeastern Director of the FAA, to watch man land on the moon in color. Most urban and rural households used antennas. Suburban households used either cable TV or antennas, but cable TV was increasingly popular.

Typewriters/word processing – Electric typewriters had pretty much replaced mechanical typewriters in both businesses and in the home.  The first  IBM Mag Card “Selectric” Typewriter was introduced in late 1970. It enabled secretaries to permanently store documents on magnetic cards. Once typed the document could be retyped unlimited times with the push of a button.

1991

In 1985, a company called Quantum was formed to create a message board for owners of Commodore 64 computers. In 1991, Quantum was renamed America Online. By 1993, AOL introduced its own email addresses, a Windows version and access to the rest of the Internet for its users. AOL Instant messaging was introduced in 1997.  That was seven years after Vivi and her consultant set up a messaging system between her computer in Paris and my computer, via a server in Alexandria, VA.

Internet – There were functioning internets, but in a different form than the universally accessible worldwide net today.   It primarily was a means for government agencies, academicians and Department of Defense contractors to communicate privately. Vivi’s instant messaging system may have been a connection to the French government’s internet.  She was an intelligence officer and no one told me actually what was put into my computer and FAX machine.

Meeting singles – The drinking age was 18 so most contacts were made person to person at night clubs, social events, random contacts, in the classroom, fraternity/sorority parties and at mixers which invited large numbers of singles.

Communications between long distance lovers – mostly handwritten letters and cards, but costs of long-distance calls and fax messages had dropped substantially, thus increasing their use. Vivi carried her Christmas card with her on the jet, crossing the Atlantic, because sometimes it took three weeks for an airmailed Christmas card to reach an address in the United States.

Communications between international businesses –  mostly FAX messages and direct telephone calls. Typed letters and contracts were usually sent by mail.

Electronic data transfer –  Email had largely replaced FAX machines as the way to transmit data and images.

Telephones –   Cellular phones were beginning to replace land line telephones of the primary communication device in households.

Long distance calls –  The relative cost of long distance calls continued to drop.

Answering machines – In 1977,  President Jimmy Carter issued an executive order, which forbade AT&T from refusing service to residential customers with answering machines.  All telephone companies were required to provide receptacles for answering machines. We bought our first answering machine in 1978. Although still using magnetic tapes, answering machines were much smaller and now relied on miniature cassette tapes.

Mobile/cellular phones –  Consumer owned mobile phones were still commonplace among public safety agencies and larger businesses.  However, cellular towers were being steadily constructed farther and farther from urban centers. There were vast rural areas of the United States that had no cellular service.  There was no cellular service in the Shenandoah Valley, when we first moved there, but by 1991 the towers had been erected.  There still was no service in the Blue Ridge Mountains between the Valley and Dulles International Airport.

Personal computing – Until around 1986, the personal computer had limited applications.  I purchased one on 1984 that had only floppy disk drives, to type my specifications.  However, by 1987 “business” computers were becoming available, which had hard drives and a mouse that could be used for drawing.  From then on almost all my drawings were produced by CADD – Computer Aided Design and Drafting.  The first laptop computer was invented in 1984, but cost $6500 ($12,000 today’s money) and had limited utility. 

Cameras –  Polaroid cameras were at the peak of their popularity, because there had been almost no improvement in the quality of SLR cameras in 25 years. Still,  the primary barrier to creating high quality photos was the low resolution of consumer grade film. The first digital camera was invented by Kodak in 1991, but it cost $20,000 and had limited utility.

Voice recording –  Large tape recorders were seldom purchased by households.  They had been replaced by small cassette tape recorders.

Music Recording –  33 1/3 rpm vinyl records were still the industry standard.  Record companies discontinued production of 45 rpm records, except for juke boxes.  Compact cassette tapes had taken a large share of the market, but still had the problem of a much shorter useful life because the tapes broke.  Eight track tape cartridges were no longer being sold.

Television – In 1991, there were five national TV networks being broadcast on the airwaves – NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS and FOX.   CNN functioned like a network, but was only available on cable TV.

Typewriters/Word processing – Typewriters rapidly disappeared from the office and the home after low-cost computer printers became available to consumers in 1985.

2000

Internet – The internet and worldwide web was fully functioning by 2000.   However, it only had a tiny fraction of the websites that may be seen today.  There were forecasts that it could become a powerful research tool, but that had not happened.  One of those early websites was the Creek-Southeast Message Board.  This enabled Creek and Seminole descendants from around the United States to make friends.  I still have friends made 20 years ago on that message board.  It is the origin of the People of One Fire and The Americas Revealed.

Communications between long distance and local lovers – Email and AOL instant messaging instantly replaced hand-written letters.   During the 15 years that I knew Susan Karlson, she never sent me a direct email or instant message.  Instead, she deposited a message with an electronic courier service.  Instead of her name the courier service notified me that an alphanumeric number had a message for me.  I responded to the courier service’s message box.  

Dating web sites –  Sites where supposedly single adults could place ads to attract other adults first appeared on the web around 1998.  For the first few years, most sites were free or a free service of such fee-based internet connection services, such as AOL.  By 2000, one could view millions of profiles around the world.  In 2000, I was courted by the Secretary of Cultural Affairs in the Netherland Antilles, who saw my profile on Yahoo Singles. She was a lovely, well-educated lady, but I did not have the income to romance in person, living that far away.

Communications between international businesses –  mostly FAX messages and email. Typed letters and contracts were usually sent by mail.

Electronic data transfer – FAX machines were at the peak of their popularity.  Email did not yet have the capacity to attach image and data files.

Telephones –   In 2000,  the arrangement of the land-based telephone systems was very similar to that in 2021.

Long distance calls –  Long distance calls were cheaper than ever.

Answering machines – Answering machines were much smaller and now relied on miniature computer-like memory chips.

Mobile/cellular phones –  Cellular phones had become commonplace in the developed world, but the coverage by towers was still not 100%.  The phones themselves were limited to voice communications.

Personal computing –  Desktops were the primary form of personal computer.  The RAM and hard drive storage capacity was growing exponentially.  Computers were obsolete before they could be manufactured. By 2000, laptops were lighter and contained CD-ROM’s, but had limited operational time due to the current state of battery storage capacity.

Cameras –  Fugifilm introduced the first modern type of digital camera in 2000.  It cost $6500.

Voice recording –  Voice recorders now were even smaller and fit into one’s pocket.

Music Recording –  CD’s had completely replaced vinyl records and cassettes.

Television – There were five national TV networks being broadcast on the airwaves – NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS and FOX.   However, there were now over a hundred cable channels . . . several hundred, if one includes local channels.

Typewriters/Word processing – Computer-based word processing had almost completely replaced typewriters.

2021

Internet – The internet has come close to its original goal of containing all of the world’s knowledge, but now is a far less effective tool for research because of the profit-oriented bias of Google algorithms.  Commercial advertisers and businesses are given priority over factual webpages.  For example, if I type in “Totonac pottery” as search words, I am likely to first get several pages of irrelevant advertisements,.

Communications between long distance and local lovers – Email plus text-messaging and voice communications on SmartPhones have replaced both instant messaging and hand-written letters. AOL is essentially an advertising platform and no longer offers AIM instant messaging.

Dating web sites –  Some free dating websites . . . most notably “Plenty of Fish” still exist, but most have been terminated or are a shadow of themselves.  Young people now tend to rely on fee-based dating apps, which target only the socio-economic profiles that the client is interested in.  Between 2000 and 2007, I relied heavily on dating websites for my social life, because it was impossible to meet single women in my age bracket in the county where I lived.  However, I got increasingly burned by the bad experiences from meeting women there.  The two biggest problems were married women, pretending to be single and single women, who basically hated men and were wanting to get back at their ex-husband.

Communications between international businesses –  Mostly email. The scanner has replaced FAX for the most part.  Scanned images can either be stored in the computer or placed as attachments to emails.  Typed letters and contracts are sometimes sent by mail.

Electronic data transfer – FAX machines were at the peak of their popularity.  Email did not yet have the capacity to attach image and data files.

Telephones –   In 2000,  the arrangement of the land-based telephone systems was very similar to that in 2021.

Long distance calls –  Long distance calls were cheaper than ever.

Answering machines – Answering machines were much smaller and now relied on miniature computer-like memory chips.

Mobile/cellular phones –  Very few people in North America and Europe don’t own a cellular phone.  The more recent models function as handheld computers. With many people, they have become a form of addiction.

Personal computing –  Laptops are the most popular form of personal computer, but actually, most SmartPhones are really computers. Desktops now are aimed at the business and professional market.  My primary computer has more RAM and data storage capacity than all the computers on the Georgia Tech campus did in 1970.

Cameras –  Digital cameras almost completely replaced SLR mechanical cameras.  Polaroid filed for bankruptcy in 2001 and 2009.  It ceased producing instant film cameras in 2008.  Although Kodak invented the digital camera, the company did not develop design further until it was too late.  Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Now the sales of digital cameras are being seriously diminished by the widespread use of Iphones, SmartPhones and other cellular devices that contain cameras.

Voice recording –  Voice recorders now are even smaller.

Music Recording –  CD’s have completely replaced vinyl records and cassettes. Some vinyl records are again being produced for those interested in nostalgia.

Television – There are five national TV networks being broadcast on the airwaves – NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS and FOX.   However, there were now over a hundred cable channels . . . several hundred, if one includes local channels. Viewership is declining steadily on both the network TVs and cable television.  The internet has become the dominant source for news and entertainment.

Typewriters/Word processing – Computer-based word processing have completely replaced typewriters.

5 Comments

  1. WOW !! You have certainly got this all wrapped up Richard Thanks for sharing all your knowledge. I have still got many Vinyl records but my record player has just packed up so I can’t play my records any more.

    Liked by 1 person

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