Meet George Jetson

I celebrated my birthday last weekend and as always it was awesome, full of pizza and Black Forest cake. Birthdays are a great time for reflection. This has been helped by the fact that our satellite TV provider is giving us 4 new movie channels for free right now and they are running all of these great 70’s and 80’s movies… the kind that are hard to find elsewhere but fun to watch. Movies like Stripes and Face-Off and great serious movies like “All The President’s Men.” When I watch a movie like that and get a sense of what went down during Watergate I am reminded that politics can be a really dirty game. It’s fun to watch the journalists back in the day actually ferret out the story. Without computers. Just using a phone and knocking on doors and going to libraries and talking to people. What a concept. I believe this was back before mainstream media seemed more critical of those in power and less likely to cheerlead government action.

Speaking of how technology has changed, I find it hard to believe that when I was teenager we were probably still using a rotary dial telephone. It took a while for push-button phones to be adopted.

Some of my photos from when I was a kid were in black and white. You know you’re old when you were born in the black and white time.

When I was in high school I took a typing class because my writing was illegible and I decided that I’d better start typing my essays and assignments if I wanted my teachers to be able to read them. As it turned out, in a world with computers this was a good skill to acquire, although it was uncommon to find males in typing class in 1976.

There was a TV show back then called “The Jetsons.” It ran from 1962 until 1987 and featured a futuristic family. The family used “videophones” to communicate.  Ya, like that was ever going to happen. Only in the future, way in the future.

This past weekend the future arrived. My oldest daughter was visiting our youngest daughter in London, Ontario where she is working on her Masters degree. Not bad for a home schooled kid, but I digress. On Sunday morning they decided to initiate a video chat in order to wish me a happy birthday. I heard all of these voices coming from upstairs and low and behold there was Michelle talking to our daughters and our son-in-law via Skype. My mind was ready to explode with the wonder of this technology. It was like I was living with Jane Jetson in the future!

We have been challenged with VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) living off the grid because we use a satellite service for our internet. Latency is always a problem, because the signal has to go from our computer 25,000 miles out into space to a satellite, then 25,000 miles back to another satellite receiver, which then plugs the signal into the internet. So in the past, anytime we tried to speak to someone on-line there always a delay. It just got so annoying to speak and then have to wait for a while for a response. Pretty quickly I’d give up and just use the telephone, which was way better. Given the fact that we use a cell phone here in our off-grid home, even the telephone seems pretty amazing!

Last year our internet company put a new satellite into space which they said was “4G” but I was skeptical it was going to be much better. But sure enough our speeds increased and Skype calls are pretty good. And the picture resolution was fantastic. It was like sitting talking to our daughters in the same room. There are still boxes of toys upstairs near Michelle’s computer and so while we chatted I kept dangling Barbies and other toys in front of the screen to entertain my daughters.

Then they decided to switch to Google Hangout, which allowed the girls to use Google Effects. They added party hats and a birthday cake to the screen. My mind exploded for a second time. With the quality of travel shows I get on my HD TV and the technology of video calls I see great potential for humans to spend less time traveling and more time staying put. And yes, you don’t get the smells and feeling of a place on TV, but you don’t get the digestive problems and intrusive searches at the airport either. I love my living room! So unencumbered by humanity.

skype-birthday-call

All in all it was a great birthday… pizza, cake and a visit with my daughters and son-in-law. I’ve lived long enough to enjoy “Jetson” style video calls. Life is good!

7 Responses to “Meet George Jetson”

  • Jean:

    I already wished you happy birthday, so I wil just say that Pierre took typing in high school! Now you two are officially the only men I know who took typing as teens…… Nice Christmas tree at the parade!

  • Ron & Mari (Chicago):

    Hi Cam and Michelle,

    Belated happy birthday, Cam! Really enjoyed the “back to the future” Jetson reminiscence (as well as our October Sunflower Farm sojourn).

  • Neil B. (Orleans):

    Happy belated Birthday Cam. Sounds like it was a great one!
    Keep inspiring!

  • Madeline and Ken:

    What a great way to spend a
    birthday!!Sorry we missed you but have a lot of other great birthdays and who can guess what else in technology will appear next year!!
    Ken and Madeline

  • Glee:

    Happy Birthday Cam. Hope you have many more.

  • The cake is just so REALISTIC! Hahaha.

  • Gerrit:

    Happy birthday Cam! Keep up the good work.

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Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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