To say that the world has changed a lot since I was a child is an understatement and I am constantly marvelling at how far the world and all its inhabitants have come a long way in such a short amount of time. But as the world changes and progresses, so does technology. The Ice, Stone, and Bronze ages may have come and gone, and now our feet are planted firmly in the Digital Age; a period in which we rely heavily on gadgets, and technological advancements are moving at an astounding pace.
Looking back at my childhood years, it’s crazy to think that we were so technologically advanced. And compared to our grandparents and parents, we were. But by today’s standards we were barely getting warmed up! Many of the technological devices and gadgets that once had pride of place in our homes have now been consigned to the scrap heap, while concepts such as mobile phones which perform a multitude of functions and social media ruling the world didn’t even seem conceiveable.
So let’s take a look at a time when life seemed so much simpler…
1. WHEN PHONES WERE PHONES
Mobile phones started to gain in popularity when I was in my early teens. Back then you were considered someone special if you were one of the elite lot privileged enough to own this little device that you could fit into your pocket and enabled you to break free from the confinements of your home because after all, staying in to wait for a call is so 1983! Remember One-2-One and those free after 7pm phone calls? And before 7pm it was only a penny per minute but we still managed to run up some bills and a half? Forget it’s good to talk, it costs a whole lot of money to talk (yes, I know that’s a different phone company!)
With the emergence of text messaging and camera phones, it seemed as though the humble mobile phone was no the total package. How little we knew! The mobile phone was barely getting started, and now you can use your phone to listen to music, watch TV shows, check your emails, keep up with social media, find directions; make cups of tea; fly you abroad; transport you to a parallel universe… and after all that you can even make phone calls! No wonder mobile phones are never out of people’s hands.
2. DO LANDLINES STILL EXIST?
OK, I know that they do, and they can most definitely be found in most offices and business premises. But do any households – apart from my parents and parents-in-laws’ – actually own one and, if they do, do they actually use it? It’s hard to believe that the whole world has gone mobile phone crazy now because when I was growing up in the eighties, some households didn’t even have a phone. And we thought we were in the presence of royalty when we met someone who had an extension in one of the bedrooms. But the ever-increasing desire for mobile phones has meant that most people have very little use for landlines, and I actually know people who have done away with them.
3. KINDLES ARE THE NEW BOOKS
Kindles have become so popular now that when I see someone on the Tube reading a book – well, someone other than me – I have to look twice. I totally get how handy these readers are, especially when you think about how much space a collection of books takes up, and the weight of them as you have to lug them around. I also find that I tend to read faster with a Kindle, as with books I tend to linger over the page for too long. But that said, I really don’t think I could give up my book collection for anyone. There’s something about the feel and smell of a book that I can’t quite put into words but has made me realise that anything I do read needs to have pages, a cover and a spine.
4. WHEN TELEVISION ONLY HAD FOUR OPTIONS…
Many Americans I knew found it really hard to believe that we only had four terrestrial channels – five with the emergence of Channel 5 in 1997. Furthermore many Americans thought it was bizarre that we had to pay a licence fee to watch TV but that’s another story! Yes, during my childhood years we only had four/five channels to while away our days with. But we were never bored because TV was quality back then – or maybe we weren’t fussy!
Sky TV was a pretty big thing when I was about eleven. I nagged Mum to get that for us but she wasn’t having any of it saying that we didn’t do our homework as it was thanks to our excessive television watching. However Dad did get cable ten years later before getting Sky. We soon found that despite the millions of channels, there was hardly anything worth watching!
5. CDS AND DVDS MAKE GREAT COASTERS
I never thought I’d see the day when people stopped buying CDs and DVDs. But to be fair there’s got to be people out there who are still listening to music and watching films the old-fashioned way. How else can you explain the ten HMV stores that are still open?
I started buying CDs and DVDs when I was in my mid-teens and hardly a week would go buy without me popping into a store to pick up that weeks latest releases. as my collection grew, the space in my room diminished. That should have been a sign to stop but it was impossible. I still have my collection and haven’t given anything away but I did wonder if I should. After all, I’ve outgrown most of my collection and don’t watch/listen to them any more. But the nostalgic in me won’t let that happen!
Of course Netflix, LoveFilm, YouTube and the numerous amount of downloading sites means that it’s no longer necessary to have shelves stacked with CDs and DVDs. A pity if you ask me!
6. GOODBYE PAGER!
I think I only knew one person who had a pager which he pretty much did away with by the end of the nineties. But I do know that they were all the rage, and as with mobiles before they became accessible to all, pagers were for the elite few including doctors, business people and other professionals. So if you were an ordinary Joe who carried a pager, that was pretty impressive. Well we thought so anyway! But then mobile phones really took off and with the possibility of texting, nobody really needed a pager anymore.
7. NO MORE HALF CHEWED VHS TAPES
Oh my goodness, how my VCR was my best friend! It saddens me terribly that there are kids today who will grow up never having seen a VCR or even held a video cassette in their dainty little hands! Movies were a pretty big deal when we were growing up; an inexpensive and convenient form of entertainment. And as there were video stores just about everywhere back then, movie nights with our family and renting DVDs to watch at home were a common occurrence. And when we weren’t watching videos on them, we were using our VCRs to record shows that we needed to watch at a later time.
Of course there were times when things didn’t go to plan. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’d accidentally recorded the wrong show or taped over a show that someone else had been planning to watch before they’d even had a chance to view it. And as for the frustration of our trusty VCR chewing up a cassette…
I miss those days!
8. THE END OF THE ANSWER MACHINE
“I’m sorry I’m not in right now but if you leave your name, number, and a short message, I’ll get back to you soon.”
Then there were the security conscious people who didn’t want to admit that they were out of the house in case it was a would-be-burglar phoning to check that the coast was clear…
“I’m sorry I can’t come to the phone right now but I’m playing with my two rottweilers…”
And whatever the recorded message was, we all knew we had to wait for the beep.
We didn’t get an answer machine until it became a matter of necessity for my parents’ business and prior to that I was always in awe of people who actually owned one because it seemed like such a luxury item (well in the eyes of a six year old it was but I’m sure the answer machine was essential to the person who owned it!)
Now with the vast majority of the world’s population owning a mobile not to mention the other one million and one ways available today in which we can get hold of someone we are trying to reach, answer machines are no longer a necessity and it’s very rare to see one in someone’s home today.
9. SOCIAL MEDIA FRENZY
When I was growing up, the phrase ‘social media’ was yet to be coined. Now it’s all anyone talks about. In fact it’s what we use to talk – face-to-face communication is so 1980s after all! There’s no denying that the world has gone social media crazy. Whether that’s good or bad is another story but it’s the way it is in the twenty first century. Everybody who’s anybody uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Instagram and the millions of other sites that are available. How many times have I seen friends and relatives sat in coffee shops and restaurants, not speaking because they’re too busy checking out what’s happening in the virtual world rather than the real one. And everyone’s forgotten the Green Cross Code when they’re crossing the road because they’re too busy gazing at their phones!
I remember when I was a kid, if one of the adults wanted to get hold of someone, they’d phone them on the landline – although in those days it was called a phone! If they weren’t on the phone and they lived nearby, you’d pop round. And if they weren’t in, you’d pop a note through the letter box.
But today of course, you can try to get hold of someone without leaving the comfort of your armchair. When I was in my teens, if someone uttered the words, “If you need to get hold of me you can phone me, fax me, or page me,” you’d be suitably impressed and think that the person was Marvel’s latest super hero, Gadgetman! How little we knew!
Today you’re more likely to hear:
“If you need to get hold of me, you can phone me – try all five lines; text me; email me; Facebook me; Skype me; Instagram me; Facetime me, or tweet me!”
10. THE FAX MACHINE:NEWEST EXHIBIT IN YOUR LOCAL MUSEUM!
As a child, I marvelled at the brilliance of the fax machine. I thought it was amazing that you could send something from London that would reach New York – and further afield – within a matter of seconds. Of course as I got older I realised just how expensive it could be to send faxes. My parents used to own a stationary shop, and we used to sell fax rolls as if they were going out of fashion. Then several years later, we ended up binning boxes of fax rolls.
They had gone out of fashion!