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Paul Potratz

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There’s nothing better than realizing you’re starting to sound like your grandparents.  The other day I caught myself throwing it back to the ‘old days’ when car technology was a much simpler beast…

‘Back in my day you had to roll the car window down with a hand crank, none of this motorized window stuff you kids have these days. And oh, our idea of in-car entertainment was singing along to a cassette tape, do you even know what that is?’

So, it wasn’t exactly yesterday when the motorized window was created or the cd player (which is even now almost obsolete) was built into cars, but I can remember when we considered the ‘fancy windows’ a big perk.  Or the relief it was when we were able to get rid of that crazy tethered cassette tape that allowed us to magically play cd’s through our speakers.

While these seemed like big developments when I was a kid, today, it doesn’t even hold a candle to the new amenities that are being thrown into vehicles.

What was once just an AM/FM radio is now a hub for SIRIUS, IPod connectors, and even hard drives designed specifically to hold thousands of songs downloaded at the owners delight.  A clock used to stand alone in the center of the dashboard.  Now it’s filled with a touch screen navigation system fully armed and ready to bring you wherever you need to go and even capable of telling you where you might be interested in traveling to next!  And I must admit, I remember when only crazy people talked to inanimate objects.  Today that just means you are summoning a contact on your Bluetooth for hands-free driving.

There were no rearview cameras or irritating beeps, just a chiropractor waiting to fix that nasty snap-your-head-around-as-far-as-you-can neck pull you got after attempting to back into a tiny parking spot.  And I can only imagine how permit wielding teens everywhere are jumping for joy at the prospect of a driver’s test where a car can parallel park itself.

Stow and go seating… genius!  My muscles twinge just thinking about all the times we pushed, pulled, yanked, and tore seats clear out of the minivan just to have to push, pull, shove, and jam them back in. Not to mention self-closing doors, who knew they could actually exist in places other than hotels and malls?

And with all this new technology we may just see the demise of the backseat driver. Your rearview mirrors can now signal you when there’s someone in your blind spot – which means dad won’t have to yell at you for merging into the truck next to you (oops).  Mom can breath a sigh of relief with adaptive cruise control which acts as a ghost driver to keep you at a safe distance from the car in front of you – so she doesn’t have to blow a gasket about tailgating.  There are even cars that will alert you if you are about to get in an accident – which means no more pesky friends screaming in your ear as you soar ghastly close to the big rig on the highway.

Truck with no keys?  Way back when that meant a hunk of metal sitting in your driveway until you found your spare set.  Now it’s a luxury for drivers, with push-button start. Car turns off while driving?  Back in the day you’d have to call a tow truck. Today, it’s just your car saving gas at a red light. And no gas? No problem! Just plug it in!  Electric cars still seem like a crazy futuristic dream to me, but there they are chugging along right beside me on the road.

It seems to me, the future is here.  Anything and everything we thought would be cool for a car to do, it does.  No more pipe dreams of what life COULD be like, it’s what life IS like now with a new generation of vehicles.

Congratulations we have made it to the future!

Jim Bell
Great post to take us down memory lane. Something to add would be "when I would look for a car, I would look in the paper, call 12 different dealerships, and just drive all around town. Now it's just a click away."

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