While the range increases and the quality of gadgetry improves every year, ultimately, we all have habits that are pretty well entrenched
An end-of-summer ritual for us in recent years has been the comparison of how technology has evolved in the ways we access information and entertainment from our beachhead on Lake Michigan. I am pleased to report that some vacation activities are maintaining their place among adults and children: cycling, kayaking, windsurfing, tennis, jogging, walking (striding), swimming, beach picnics, a minor league baseball game, and a summer play featuring cousins, grandchildren, and neighbors. This year's Peter Pan was a great success. Also holding their own are Lego, miniature cars and trucks, Richard Scarry books, and on the way home this August, an unusual treat: a visit to Reptileland in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, a unique zoo of imposing snakes, related species, and a spectacle of animatronic dinosaurs that spit, hiss, and mesmerize grandsons with a mixture of fascination and dread.
But what has changed each summer is the variety and preferences for digital and traditional devices. The last time the television was switched on was for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but there is a DVD player that is handy for rainy-day viewing (depending on your age and interests) of Thomas the Tank Engine videos or movies rented from the grocery store kiosk; $5 overnight, with $0.50 Monday specials. Packed into our bags this year was a Kindle (the current top-of-the-line model has a light attached that permits reading in bed), BlackBerrys, laptops, an iPad, and an iPod. The New York Times is delivered at dawn, but the now-ingrained habit of checking nytimes.com during the day has dulled the excitement that picking up the morning paper so long provided. As I've written before, a decade or so ago only the early edition of the Chicago Tribune and local papers were available. The Internet was still accessed via clunky dial-up, and magazines arrived via FedEx along with accumulated office mail. These days there are barely any letters to be passed along from the office except for charity event invitations and an occasional thank-you note.