Probably one of the most somber experiences taking place in my life each holiday season is gift shopping. It’s hard to believe how out of touch I am with the modern world.


I guess I’m still stuck in a time warp that involves the middle to late Twentieth Century — back to a time when things were changing – but not overnight. Back when a flashlight was a flashlight, a sled was a sled and a pressure cooker was a pressure cooker.


Of course, today designers and progressive thinkers have transformed the most basic items to exotic or multi-purpose creations.


Today’s flashlights are unbelievably powerful, zoom from narrow to wide beam, and even send out their own SOS signal if the need arises.


Modern sleds sport features such as snowmobile handling, with twin rear skis and a wide front ski for quick maneuvering. Others are nothing more than a flat piece of plastic.


State-of-the-art cookers aren’t just pressure cookers any more – not by a long shot. They also work well as a slow cooker, rice cooker and probably, many other tasks.


I learned all these startling facts as I paced through aisle after aisle in a multitude of business houses. What had started out as a quick shopping jaunt ended up a mind-spinner. Why can’t things be simple anymore?


The trip wasn’t an entire waste. I did uncover a rather surprising item nestled amongst all the modern electronic goodies in one store – a red View-Master.


For those of you who are either too young or have misplaced any such memories, the View-Master is a photo viewer. It holds a circular reel containing 7 pairs of images. The images line up under the viewer’s two eye pieces. This creates, for the viewer, a 3-D color image of a photographic image. A wide variety of reels were and still are available.


Truth is, my mom was a View-Master junkie. For as long as I can remember, everyone in our family had his or her View-Master, thanks to Mom. The unseen benefit she gained from this was a multitude of gift ideas. Each year, more and more View-Master reels would hit the market. They would range from travel photos to cartoons. So Mom would simply scoop up one or two for everyone on her gift list.


I can’t imagine how many of our relatives were able to travel the world from the comfort of their homes. On a more personal note, I remember trading cartoon reels with friends throughout the year. Usually about the time Christmas rolled around the next year, my original reels would have made it back home.


Of course, things have changed.


Today the View-Master is regarded as a child’s toy and the reels are a far-cry from the ones we enjoyed back in the 1950s. Many titles come in three-reel sets and cost more than Mom paid for all the 3-D gifts she would give out each Christmas.


But isn’t that the way of the world?


Ed Rood is former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife, Sharon, live near Cambridge.