Tuesday, April 05, 2016
Fun With Aging
As for TG's question, my socratic answer would be to ask her when the war with ISIS "started" and suggest that she pay attention as it evolves because it (and successor wars) might go on for another ten or twenty years. After all, the war with Al'Qaeda started in the 1990s with the first attack on the WTC and included three major acts of war a full year before 9/11 and ISIS merely reflects the same mind set in the middle east that was triggered by the first gulf war in the 90s.
BTW, my answer would be Yalta. And I would be sure to mention that it wasn't all that cold. Dozens of US (and Soviet) servicemen died in secret in the air war, particularly when electronic warfare aircraft penetrated Soviet airspace, and vice versa near Japan. The father of a friend's school chum was court martialed for celebrating shooting down a Soviet MIG off Japan in the 1950s. The wins and losses produced secret military awards and citations.
They are also too young to remember that at one time there was actually just one telephone company—the Bell System. They were a monopoly, and they had many of the arrogant practices that one might have expected of a monopoly. For example, you were not allowed to buy your own telephone and connect it to their network—you had to rent your telephone from the Bell System and they had to install it for you. You had the choice of any color telephone, so long as it was black.
They were entirely self-contained, and their Western Electric division manufactured all their equipment for them. I still remember my indestructible Western Electric telephone—you could have dropped it out of a ten-story window and it would still work just fine. The Bell System even had its own research organization, the Bell Telephone Laboratories, which was probably the finest industrial research organization on the planet.
Those days are long gone. The courts decided that the Bell System monopoly could no longer be sustained. First there was divestiture in 1984, in which the local telephone companies split off from the Bell System to form several regional Bell operating companies. The now-reduced AT&T retained the long-distance service, the Western Electric manufacturing arm, and the Bell Laboratories research branch. Then Western Electric and Bell Laboratories split off from the long-distance service to form Lucent Technologies. Then Lucent Technologies was bought by the French company Alcatel, and then was bought by Nokia. The current AT&T is actually just a shadow of its former self, formed by the merger of several regional Bell operating companies.
The 50s were pretty far away from the late 60s. I still remember the "Better Living Through Chemistry" poster featuring the round birth control pill holder -- on a door in a girls dorm. But then AIDS changed some of those same interactions to a remarkable degree, so that 1990 was pretty far away as well. There must be a fascinating social scientific history to be written analyzing the transition from Free Love to Friends With Benefits.