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Hear's My Story: Senior Voices in Greensboro

HEAR'S MY STORY, Senior Voices in Greensboro

Dawn to Dusk: Technology in Everyday Life

From the dishwashers used to clean breakfast dishes to the television sets people watch at night after work, technology touches almost every part of our daily lives today. It is easy to forget, however, that past technology was once new and considered just as exciting-and frustrating-as the newest gizmo today

In the Home: Taking Technology to Heart

Technology Then and Now, photo by Jennifer Dickert, courtesy Flickr.com

Technology Then and Now, by Jennifer Dickert
Courtesy Flickr.com

While "home is where the heart is," our homes are also where much technological advancement began. Household items such as vacuum cleaners, washers and dryers, telephones, and air conditioners were invented to make our lives easier. Not everyone, however, feels that these changes were for the best.

While Evelyn Dorsey was "very happy to see new washers come in," Annie Kinion still prefers her clothes "to be dried on the outside."

“I ain’t never liked dishwashers. My daughter has a dishwasher and everything you can name. She gets mad with me ‘cause I wash the dishes. But I don’t know. It’s just habit, you know.”
-Annie Kinion

Maytag advertisement

Maytag advertisement, Courtesy Pudd LeBoy, Flickr.com

From disposable diapers to speed dialing, our everyday lives have been transformed by technologies of every kind. Whether this change is good or bad is for you to decide.

The next time you are in the kitchen, look around at all the many technologies contained within this one room. Dishwashers, ovens, and microwaves have transformed the way we think about food.

When Fatima Basic first came to America from Bosnia she was shocked to find that

"everything was in the kitchen. In [Bosnia] there is nothing in the kitchen."

Similarly, Em Thi Vo recalls:

"We were very poor. Our house was built with bamboo tree so our kitchen [was] very simple. [We] just had a wood fire so that's how we cooked. That was a change [when I came to America]. The kitchen was huge. I was scared!"

For Evelyn Dorsey, in contrast, the transformation of the kitchen into "the hub of family life" was "ideal":

"I guess when I played paper dolls, [I] played house, [I] played with all kinds of cooking equipment and what have you—make-believe—and the make-believe came to pass! Now we have beautiful great big kitchens with islands and what have you. And we were lucky to have a little kitchen back then. You did live in the kitchen [back then] but you didn't live in it as comfortable as you do today."

Garland Stove, photo by Jimmy
Brown, courtesy Flickr.com

Garland woodburning Stove,
courtesy Jimmy Brown, Flickr.com

Times of war or natural disaster can render advances in household technology useless. For example, during the Bosnian War, Fatima Basic describes how an old wood burning stove saved her community:

“There were a lot of houses without electricity, so what we did is the community would get together and one person had a wood stove [but] there was no wood. You couldn’t buy anything even if you had money, so we had to destroy furniture and wood floors, doors, books, anything we had to burn to cook food because there was no electricity. And the whole community would get together and cook one big meal to save energy. We would burn furniture—anything we could get in our hands to burn.”

In the Workplace: From Fields to Cities

The workplace has seen perhaps the most dramatic changes in technology in recent decades. Computers have replaced typewriters, and copy machines have done away with carbon copies. Many jobs America's older generations once held have been replaced by machines but should not be forgotten.

“Employment is easier to gain. The world just in general, there’s so many vast improvements in technology that they apply down. Like my son off studying nuclear physics and that kind of thing. It’s brought into our lives conversations that never would have existed when I was a child.”
- Evelyn Dorsey

The senior interviewees held a wide variety of jobs, from factory worker to computer store owner and even rice cultivator. While each of these jobs are unique in both type and location, technology affected every individual's work on a daily basis.

“Back then, twenty years ago, there’s only one season of rice, but now I’ve heard there are three seasons of rice because of technology. Before, everything we used was by hand, including weeding out the grass, so the process was slower. It is ninety-day periods with technology.”
- Em Thi Vo, translated by Snow Rahlan

“This guy and I got together and we discussed what kind of business we could get into and finally settled on computers, Hamilton Computer Supply Company. But then a few years ago, these chain computer stores started moving in and they were combating us with prices. By them being a big chain company, they could get the parts a whole lot cheaper than we could. We finally went out of business.”
- May Williamson

Typewriter, photo by Cody Geary, courtesy Flickr.com

Typewriter, courtesy Cody Geary, Flickr.com

The introduction of computers into the workplace is perhaps the most influential change in office technolgy over the past two decades. Many seniors expressed an opinion on computers.

“It was a little hard getting use to the [computer] keyboard because it was not at a right slant but it didn’t take long. I’m used to it [now], but I still struggled. I really still like the typewriter better, as far as the keyboard is concerned.”
- May Williamson

MacBook Pro keyboard, photo by Alexander, courtesy Flickr.com

MacBook Pro keyboard, courtesy Flickr.com

“Now I still don’t know too much about computers, but I try. I was taking a class here [at the Greensboro Senior Center] not too long ago, but I got so tired because I go to dialysis. I then come here and [am at] the computer and almost to go to sleep, so I had to let that go for a while.”
- Patrick Perryman

“My daughter has a computer in the house, [but]I hardly ever use it. She’s a doctor so she lives on it practically. I don’t know what she would do without it.”
- Annie Kinion


Seniors have gone from ground to air, traveled across the world, and seen the automobile evolve from early “streamlined” Cadillacs and Chevrolets to sleek, compact cars. They remembered their parents' first cars and their own, and elaborated on the impact that other types of transportation had on their lives.

Fatima Basic’s husband and daughter, courtesy Fatima Basic

Fatima Basic’s husband and daughter,
courtesy Fatima Basic

“When I went to college, we always flew. I believe my first plane trip must have been in the late fifties from Kansas City to St. Louis, just to do it. It was the excitement. You don’t have the excitement [today]. You’re just getting on a plane and going now. [It] used to be an exciting experience.”
-Evelyn Dorsey

“My own [car was] a ‘47 Chevy, second-hand. I thought it was wonderful. It was MINE!”
-Evelyn Dorsey

Patrick Perryman's method transportation has evolved over the course of his life, and as technology has simultaneously evolved. He describes his latest mode of transportation:

“I got this [motorized wheel] chair when I was at the nursing home, although I don’t like it sometimes. All the sudden you’ll be going so fast and you try to stop and you say ‘BOOM’ and you hit something. But other than that I love it and wouldn’t do without it.”
- Patrick Perryman

Entertainment: Movies, Television, and Music

Whether taking a Saturday trip to the Carolina Theater, watching TV after school, or dancing to the radio with that special someone, entertainment technologies can both bring us together and take us away. Seniors recall using movies, TV, and music as ways to explore other worlds and socialize with each other. How might newer technologies like iPods and on-demand movies change how entertainment shapes our lives?

Motion pictures have evolved from early silent pictures on reels of film into spectacles with special effects that are almost completely digital. The experience of hearing the film projector and changing the reels between shows is lost to the youth of today.

RCA Victor Special, courtesy Jeff Jackson, Flickr.com

RCA Victor Special, courtesy Jeff Jackson, Flickr.com

“We went to the movies every Saturday morning and stayed all morning long. I think that’s the way Mom and Dad got rid of us so they could have some peace and quiet. But I enjoyed that.”
-May Williamson

“I bought the first TV when I was at home. Try to explore life, just like we saw on TV.”
-Alice Johnson

“I read something like Buck Rogers, which was a comic, as a little kid. [It] would go along with the Star Wars that the kids have looked at when they grew up. All that was things of the future, you know. And the future’s kind of here.”
-Evelyn Dorsey

Gospel, jazz, rock-and-roll, Motown, and more—each provides the soundtrack to which we lived our lives and relive our memories: afternoons rummaging through 45s and LPs, or sitting with siblings and friends listening to the radio, or dancing the night away. The way we listen to music changes, but the joy we get from it plays on in our minds.

“We had a Victrola. As we got older, we had a stereo with the speakers and it was quite a change. I liked them both, to tell you the truth. Of course the stereo and the speakers were more sophisticated, but the Victrola played just as clear and as good.”
- Annie Kinion

“Oh, I loved to dance when I had legs. I was the best dancer in my neighborhood...I liked any music-45 records, the one’s with the big hole in the middle, and thirty-threes, the big LP’s. Any kind of music, I really enjoyed.”
- Patrick Perryman

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