Every summer in recent years, I have measured the development of the digital age by noting the gadgetry our three-generation family carries with us for information, communications, and entertainment to our house along the lake in rural southwest Michigan. Equally interesting (well, really only to me among those assembled) is the equipment once considered indispensable that is now ignored. This year, with four adults and three children (ages 6, 4 ¾, and 3), we have four laptops, three Blackberries, one iPhone, two iPods, one Kindle, one iPad, one iTouch, two Leapsters (simple language video games), a portable DVD player (mainly for children on the fourteen-hour car trip and rainy afternoons), and a rented mobile hot spot that ties the whole shebang together with WiFi for about $50 per month.
On the other hand, the television hasn't been turned on since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, although we did prevail on a neighbor with cable to let us watch "Mad Men" on Sunday night. One major change this year is that a storm knocked out our telephone land line. AT&T, the local provider (these company names seem to change every year too; last year it was Ameritech, I think), told us at the end of a twenty-minute automated conversation that it would take six days to get service, and the minimum bill would be $71, unless we could show that the problem was "external," meaning their line was down and not ours. I chased a repair truck, but the technician said that, with only seven people on call, anything sooner than the schedule was out of the question. The appointment passed and the phone is still out. But, as already demonstrated, we have no shortage of other devices.