RICKTER SCALE: Thanks for the memory

I still haven’t played a video game since the invention of Pong in 1972

Riverside four, one oh, seven seven.

That was my home phone number that I memorized somewhere around the age of six while growing up in Ville St. Laurent, a suburb of sprawling subdivisions just outside Montreal, ironically far removed from any view of a river.

By the time I turned 10, there were probably a dozen phone numbers tucked away in my memory banks; mostly a collection of frequently called friends.

The total mushroomed through my teens and early working years to include work-related numbers, family members no longer living at home, Mike’s Submarines and a couple of pizza joints that delivered the Montreal version of all dressed; pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers.

A period of dealing or living with dealers spared the need to commit their phone numbers to memory and improved my math skills during the metric shift from pounds and ounces to kilos and grams.

When I moved to B.C. in 1974, I had, conservatively, 50 numbers that didn’t require a peak at a five-pound phone book.

Since the dawn of the iPhone, you would have a difficult time rounding up a handful of twenty-somethings who can rattle off three of the numbers they dial up every day without checking a screen.

Whether that’s a reflection of the age we live in or the product of a tidal shift in education is open for debate.

It is, however, eerily similar to the shrinking skill set that prevents most young people from performing the most basic math without a calculator. Test that with anyone under 20 the next time you’re at the checkout.

If your total is $16.40 and you want a five dollar bill instead of a fistful of change, hand over a twenty dollar bill with a loonie, quarter, nickel and dime and let the games begin.

If it sounds like I’m bashing technology, it’s because I’m the Fred Flintstone of the computer age, a self-inflicted moniker I earned in 1990, the only one in my journalism class who had never worked on a computer.

Still unable to comfortably embrace the technological marvels at our fingertips, I take a grudging, halfhearted hug approach because the machinery senses my fear each time I need to learn a new task.

Despite that, I managed to carve out a semi-successful career as a reporter by learning only what was absolutely necessary, and I take a perverse pride in not owning a cellphone, much to the disbelief of my friends.

I still haven’t played a video game since the invention of Pong in 1972, when I retired as undisputed champion at Friar’s Pub on Crescent Street where I worked as a cook, another point of misplaced self esteem.

While I admit I’m embarrassed by my techno no how, I can at least take some comfort in simple memory and math functions that are increasingly beyond the reach of a much younger computer savvy generation.

•••

Rick Stiebel is a Sooke resident.