You know you're getting old when you see paraphernalia of your youth exhibited in a museum. Taking respite from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I spent a few happy hours in the National Museum of Scotland. Newly refurbished, it's a wonderful collection representing the nation's industrial endeavours and the natural world.
As a child I remember walking around such museums with my parents. They'd coo with delight on seeing post-war chocolate wrappers, a kettle from their childhood home, or the same washing machine used by their grandparents.
Memories can be powerful. Seeing a cottage shaped teapot or hearing a few bars of music can, in an instant, reconnect us with all the multi-sensory emotions of a long forgotten moment. Even the smallest, most prosaic item can summon smells, colours, faces and feelings.
In the design section of the museum I found a Sinclair ZX81. Proudly (and bizarrely) British, the ZX81 was on the front line of the home computing revolution. For only £49.95 anyone could own one. Soon siblings could ignore each other for hours at a time whilst tapping a digital white square against a wall. Now that's progress.
I hadn't seen one for over 25 years. I was immediately taken back to my auntie Margaret's living room, sitting on the floor with my cousin playing Ping Pong and wondering why the most basic graphics imaginable bore absolutely no resemblance to the very exciting picture on the box.
Next came the all colour ZX Spectrum closely followed by the Commodore 64 on which I spent four weeks programming a quiz to test the user on the capital cities. What an interesting child.
I am typing this on a fancy new Macintosh computer. Before long it too will end up in a museum cabinet, bemused kids pressed against the glass wondering how on earth we used to survive with such antiquated machines.
In 1899 Charles Duell Commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents said, “Everything that could be invented has been invented.” He should have known better. There's no stopping progress, and sooner or later we'll all see our the substance of our lives consigned to the museum.