Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: 21st century family time |

Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: 21st century family time

My first “laptop” was so big it wouldn’t have fit in Jared’s lap before he ever thought of consuming his first Subway sandwich.

The year was 1982, and though I still took it home from the bank every evening, the Compaq behemoth was better suited as a boat anchor than a portable computer.

Fast forward 30 years, and here I sit alongside a South Florida beach, my ridiculously light and thin laptop balanced easily on my lap, ears soothed by the rhythmic rush of waves just off the back patio, the sunlight lapping at my toes as I pull them in to prevent further color changes, and my wife next to me on her laptop enlightening the world of Facebook with details of our fascinating morning of drinking coffee, eating fruit and watching the waves.

Two 13-year-old boys (one related, the other a friend from school) are sitting quietly in their bedroom, each with their own lightweight, game-playing Facebook-posting laptop, while 83-year-old Grandma is in her bedroom trading stocks online and keeping up with her social life back in Denmark on her own laptop.

Five people, five laptops, and each also carrying Internet-enabled smart phones for those brief moments when they are out of electronic reach from the apparently even smarter wireless router.

2012: The year the Carnes clan realized family Internet communication is better than no family communication at all.

We did everything in Florida we have done as a family for the past 15 years. We swam at the beach, at the pool, went jet skiing, fishing, caught a flick (“Three Stooges,” an absolute visual blast), overate, over drank, moved our heads in perfect sync with the hot blonde in the white bikini as she repeatedly sauntered down the beach (perhaps this was just me). Yet through it all, whenever we returned home, the very first thing that would happen was each humanoid rushing to their respective corner of laptopdom to catch up on whatever the hell we might have possibly missed during our time in the real world.

But wait, before you judge too quickly (or harshly, as I’m sure a few of you have already blamed Obama), realize that it really wasn’t so bad at all once you look at the big picture.

There were moments when each of us was on Facebook at the same time (except Grandma, who although tech savvy, doesn’t see the point), laughing out loud and LOL’ing online simultaneously about something silly one of us had just posted. It became a game of sorts, seeing who could out smartass the other with witty comments (I’m still wearing the crown), or who could post a funnier picture from that afternoon at the beach, or who could forward the funniest photo from the fast-growing Facebook-based humor sites (No Hope For The Human Race, Random S*** I Find Funny, You Sick Bastard, etc.).

We were actually entertaining one another, albeit in an up-till-now unconventional way, but entertaining as a family nonetheless.

Everyone would eventually head off to bed and read a book, play a game or, in some instances, actually go to sleep, but the key to all of this working was it was the first time I recall never watching TV for an entire trip.

Yes, I realize we had traded in the mindless rambling of the Tube of Boob for the mindless ramblings of the Tube of You, but somehow it seemed normal, as if my family had simply evolved to the next level.

So I guess we have a new and improved normal for all future family travel engagements, but I look forward to the laptops becoming even smaller, as my lap sadly, but inevitably, goes in the opposite direction.

Richard Carnes of Edwards writes weekly. He can be reached at

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