This old dog’s seen plenty of new tricks


The old adage of not being able to teach an old dog new tricks has generally proven to not be so accurate, even with this old dog.

As I reflect back on what now are the 60 years of my life, I recently pondered the technological changes I have experienced personally and how I’ve either adapted to them or simply written them off as something better left to someone else.

Personally, the most technological things I have are my ham radio equipment, my iPad, my iPhone and my laptop computer. All of which are of the recent variety.

To give you an example, when I first started in ham radio 25 years ago, my first radio — or rig as we call them — was an old tube type radio made by the Swan Electronics Company. It took several minutes to get it tuned up just right. It used tubes which had to be warmed up, to put it simply, unlike today’s radio which you simply apply the power and turn on the switch.

My newest rigs combined (I have three of them in all), take less time to turn on and get on the air with, than it took for my old Swan to just get going on one frequency. While the instant on air is great, I still have the memory of trying not to fry the tubes while I got ready to transmit.

Going back even further, my first computer was an old Commodore Vic 20. Yes, it was truly a task in itself to use. It had a keyboard, an external cassette tape drive for storage and a really fundamental joystick compared to the tech wonders of today’s gamers.

You literally had to write most of the programming you wanted to use yourself. I remember this big, thick spiral bound book that told you how to write the programming to get a simple clock to countdown from 10 to zero — and the like two-and-a-half or three hours of time it took to write it, only to see it click off in a matter of a few seconds.

Now all we have to do is download the app and we’re off and running. I remember the Vic 20 was so simple yet so complex for a guy fresh out of the Army looking to learn something new.

My first cellphone was a TracFone brick-looking device ­­­— a device so obsolete now, I doubt you could even get a SIM card to work in it. While the company is still around, the first phones you used are definitely not. They have long since been sent to the tech scrap heap in favor of the handheld wonders we now have in the form of iPhones and other related devices.

Over time, I have learned possessing both an iPad and a laptop, is allowing you access to what was once called “the information superhighway” through two on-ramps. The iPad for quick at-the-touch of a moment access and the laptop with a more formal entry ramp.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, the “information superhighway” was the predecessor to today’s internet. I don’t really remember much about it per say, since I really didn’t get into it until after the internet had begun it’s infancy. Those first few years were dominated with web pages which were very primitive by today’s standards.

You cold see pictures, text and other related stuff, but not much else.

There was no streaming site like YouTube, there were just sites. The photos didn’t change unless they were in a primitive form of a carousel slideshow. Mostly it was pictures and words, which would eventually evolve into what the internet is now.

As I have reached the iPhone 11 and iPad Pro stage of my technological evolution, I realize anything more is likely just beyond my reach. So, I think I’ll sit back now and watch the tech world go past, all while I try to figure out how to make my iPad and Echo Show 5 talk to each other and see what kind of havoc that would cause.

Rick Curl is a reporter with the Daily Record. He can be reached by telephone at 910-230-2037. He can be reached by email at


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