It really is astonishing to realise how much has changed in technology – phones, computers, the way we listen to music, the way we watch TV – in the past 50 years. This is the subject of Jules Wilkinson’s sweetly funny 2017 Midsumma show, Technostalgi: A Story of Life, Lust and Mixtapes.
Using the conceit of making her millennial girlfriend a mixtape (a proper one, on a cassette), Wilkinson – a butch lesbian from Generation X who has been in love with technology since the age of six, when she watched Neil Armstrong walk in the moon – takes us on a trip through the technological changes of the past 50 years. Along the way we recall overhead projectors; the first Macintosh desktop computer, which came with an audiocassette of instructions on how to use it; and the first mobile phones. These phones were called “bricks”, Wilkinson says, because they were the size and weight of a brick and because you were as likely to connect with a person on the actual phone as you were by throwing it at them.
Among the excellent gags in her show, Wilkinson makes some topical points about the impermanence of information that is stored on fast-changing technologies, noting that in a time of “post-truth” and “alternative facts”, the ability to verify information sources is more important than ever. While information today is stored “in the cloud”, how soon might that become obsolete? “This one might contain the cure for cancer,” she says, showing us a floppy disk and flinging it over her shoulder.
I am much the same age as Wilkinson, so it was easy for me to identify with and be charmed by Technostalgia. I was curious as to whether the younger audience members in attendance would enjoy it as much as I did, but Wilkinson’s delivery is so genial and she is such a likeable performer that I needn’t have wondered – we were all attentive and entertained.