Obsolete Technologies

In the year 1979, we were all forced to make a life-altering decision. With technology rapidly expanding, the world of standardization that was to come hadn’t yet reared its lemming-head. We still had choices and one of monumental consequence was forced upon every household in America. It was tougher than Democrat vs. Republican, Coke vs. Pepsi, Burger Chef vs. McDonalds. We had to choose between VHS and Betamax.


My father enjoyed the electronics boom. He researched every technology purchase and in this instance, chose the Betamax. At first, I was fine with it. When I went to my local video rental store, it was split evenly between the two formats. But slowly, the VHS side began encroaching upon the Betamax section until I only had one wall from which to choose… and then one shelf… of really old movies I’d already rented multiple times. Who remembers the curtained off section in the back where I wasn’t allowed to go? As it turns out, that little room may have decided the war because the burgeoning porn industry selected VHS as its medium of choice. Proud of that tidbit VHS owners?

walkmanI’m not bitter, though. I was 12 and for the first time in history you could record and pause television. The world of technology began changing everything around me. While Sony would lose the videotape war, its release of the Walkman in 1979 was the first bold step in portable electronics.

Consider the revolution that has occurred in consumer electronics, technology, science, and medicine since that time. Nearly everything has changed. Instead of recording television on tapes, we now download it from any number of services or record it digitally. We don’t pull a World Book off the shelf because more information than we could ever explore is at our fingertips.

That dejected 12-year-old kid in Louisville, Kentucky could never have imagined what was in store while he was scouring the rejected shelf of old Betamax movies.

There is one thing that has changed little over the years, however. While science and technology has advanced at rapid speed, treatments for children with cancer is stuck in the Betamax era. I learned this when my 12-year-old daughter, Kylie, was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma in 2014. The stunning reality was that had I been diagnosed with the same cancer in 1979, our treatments would have been virtually identical. Push pause for a moment and consider that.

There are many reasons for this, but it boils down to economic value. One could argue that the same reason Sony discontinued the Betamax is to blame for the fact that cancer claimed my little girl: There’s not enough money in it. Ewing sarcoma is one of twenty childhood cancers, and is considered rare by scientific standards. In the United States, only around 300 children are diagnosed with it each year.

imageSo in the end, it becomes a numbers game and children lose every time. There is money and economic success in the finding a cure to breast cancer with its 268,000 new cases per year or lung cancer with 228,000 cases. Drug companies are drooling over the potential windfall a cure for either of those would bring. I get it, I was in business a long time. Profits are a good thing.

But that was hard to explain to my daughter as she died and hard to stomach in the wake of her loss.

The simple fact is that we need to do better for our children. Cancer is the number one killer of children besides accidents. Every year we spend in excess of $1 billion on child safety products designed to prevent accidents, yet many researchers are leaving the pediatric cancer space because other areas of study are more lucrative. Private investment in research is what we must demand.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and I believe that someday, a brilliant researcher will find the cure. You might feel overwhelmed and consider this a problem too big to solve. To that I would say we have no choice. Children are our most precious resource and we cannot leave a single one of them alone without a cure.

A good start would be to sacrifice a cup of coffee or fancy lunch today and give a few bucks to a charity that funds research specific to children. If you don’t know one, might I suggest one named after a precious little girl who never saw 13.

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Smiley for Kylie is a non-profit organization that exists for the purpose of funding research that will lead to safer and more effective cures for childhood cancer.

How Do it Work?

I am no longer an Uber virgin! I was with a group of (much) younger coworkers when the situation necessitated an Uber ride. They both had the app. I had cash for a cab – who uses those anymore?

I was like a little kid peering over their shoulder as they made their selection. The car arrived within a few minutes and I sat in the front seat dumfounded. I started to give our office address, but she didn’t need it. She already knew!

What sorcery is this?

So curious was I about the intricacies of Uber that I began quizzing the driver.

“How did you know to pick us up?”

“So you were just tooling around waiting for a fare?”

“What happens if two drivers go after the same Uberer?”

She was patient with me despite the giggling from the backseat. When we arrived, I started to get out my wallet to pay or at least tip. But Uber already thought of that. No cash required. How do it work?

I have the moniker of the Office GrandPa… and I’m okay with that. But one of my fellow riders described me as “precious” in my quest for knowledge and I that isn’t really what I’m going for in life. That connotation implies someone so old that they have become childlike. Those days are coming, but are they here already?

A few weeks later, my family headed to the zoo where they are building a new parking deck, thereby reducing current parking to just 9 1/2 spaces. They’ve entered an agreement with Lyft for ride-sharing from a lot a few miles away. To impress my kids, I downloaded Lyft and set up an account. But then since I’m old, I made everyone leave way too early and we squeezed into the half-space angering a young vegan family crammed into what looked like an electrified wagon. I deleted Lyft.

money machine


I have also started using Venmo to pay and receive money. But like the bear squatting in the woods, is it really money if it nothing changes hands? I all seems so ethereal – like I’m trying to grab cash from one of those money-booths and everything is slightly out of reach.



As we age, that’s just the way of things, I think. It’s like living on the set of a sci-fi movie; we must decide whether we can suspend reality to engage with the ever-changing world around us… a world that we cannot possibly understand. And it’s more than technology. Everything gets more complicated: life, death, God, science, physics, women, politics… there are too many things I will never grasp. The question is can I appreciate and enjoy them without understanding the mechanics that make them run?

People with an insatiable thirst for knowledge make me tired.

Twenty years from now, I just want to sit back with a frosty beverage and get Uber to take me wherever I need to go – even though I have no idea how it works.

“To the proctologist, Uber man!”