Tales of Technology: Quest for Communication

In a highly fictional past, at an uncertain place on earth (as depicted in the movie Quest for Fire):

Naoh has been sent to find fire. He succeeds, but upon his return the flame extinguishes before he can hand it over to his tribe. They are crushed. Then Naoh announces (translation), “I can make fire!” The tribe stares at him like he’s crazy. But sure enough, fire gets made.

May 2014, at the NK’MIP campground in Osoyoos BC:

My sister Mary and I, and our twenty-something niece Tamara, are hanging out at the trailer. Mary has pictures on her phone that we want to send, but there’s no Wi-Fi. We are crushed. Then Tamara gets out her phone and announces, “I can make Wi-Fi!” Mary and I stare at her like she’s crazy. But sure enough, Wi-Fi gets made.

Between one epoch and the other, some technology happened. The consequence is that we went from wanting a constant supply of warmth to wanting a constant supply of communication.

A lack of warmth and communication came together for me and my small group of cyclists one cold summer day in 1973 on Highway 6 somewhere near Pugwash, Nova Scotia.


My group consisted of me, my two older siblings, and a neighbour boy from our relatives’ Tidnish cottage. We were having some trouble. The technology that my group needed was a Star Trek-style communicator so that we could contact our place of safety and demand that it yank us from our trouble. In this day and age, we call that a cell phone. Back then, we had to settle for the office phone at a Bible camp.

Our trouble was the rainy day, and the fact that we couldn’t find our parents and younger sister. We had all set out on bicycles together from Tidnish, along the Sunrise Trail, for an overnight expedition to Pugwash. But we – the sure-of-themselves 11–15-year-old crowd – bicycled fast and arrived at a fork in the road sooner than the slowpoke adults and mere child. Impatient, we struck off on what we knew to be the correct road. Later that day, the adult-and-child group arrived at the Pugwash campground and the teens weren’t there.

When my tired, wet, chilled group saw the Bible camp, we hoped it was our destination. It wasn’t. But the kind people there let us use the office phone to call the Tidnish cottage, which my parents had already phoned from the Pugwash campground, so the cottage phoned the campground who told my parents where we were, so then my parents called the Bible camp who told us to wait there. That’s how it was done in those days. My Dad bicycled over to get us and show us the way.

Since ages past, the technology was there for my parents to make a fire and warm their soggy group of deflated teenagers. But what they really needed at that moment was the ability to make Wi-Fi ─ and gleefully send a picture of us to the relatives at the cottage, so that they could share in the moment.

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