Did you know that approximately 15 to 20 years ago we didn’t have the technology that we have today? Is it stupid to ask that question? (A: YES!) I feel like I was born at a unique time in modern history because I lived without technology and now I’ve evolved as technology has evolved. For all you youngsters out there, technology as you know it today did not exist when I was a child or teenager.
Technology as you know it didn’t even really start to exist until I was in college. Prior to this technological-revolution we lived in a world of unmitigated horrors. HORRORS! Can you imagine a world without the technology you hold so close and dear?! Can you imagine going to sleep without snuggling your darling cell phone and knowing the mundane statuses of your friends are seconds away? Well, my technological darlings, there was a time, before, and yes that time was fraught with terrible uncertainty and a frightening dreaded lack of communication. And the horrors of these so called “technology dark ages” existed for thousands of years. Well, that’s an exaggeration. We did have some mean, small, insignificant kinds of technology in my day like oh, electricity and running water. But it wasn’t much! We were literally suffering! Hard to believe, isn’t it?
Here’s a list of the horrors we routinely dealt with “back in my day” (I’m obsessed with saying “back in my day” now. I feel as though I’ve finally earned the right to say this simply through sitting around and getting older (Yes I do deserve respect for just going about my business and letting time take its course). It feels good and also terribly depressing at the same time).
Back in my day we had corded phones only and then eventually cordless phones that still used a land-line. Do you know what a land-line is? It’s an actual cable line that is strung upon telephone poles across actual concrete physical time and space. Mind boggling. Imagine the implications of these so-called “Land line Phones.” You could only contact someone if they were actually within hearing distance of their land-attached telephone device’s shrill cry. If they were ANYWHERE ELSE in the world, you could not contact them. Can you imagine this!?! It’s hard for me to imagine and I lived through this horror of uncertainty.
I can remember being at a friend’s house and wanting to go home because I didn’t feel well, but my parental units were out shopping, therefore I could not contact them and ask them to pick me up. So I was stuck. FOR HOURS! My parental units would basically have to drive all the way to our house, answer the telephone’s incessant ring (or eventually we had an answering machine where they could hear my pathetic recorded cries of distress) and then drive all the way to my friend’s house in order for me to go home. There was no contacting people on the fly! Silly! We were incredibly non-productive with this method. Clearly our processes were not lean.
Back in those days, you basically accepted the fact that people ceased to exist when they were no longer in your physical company or talking to you through the magic of the corded telephone. If you called your best friend and she wasn’t home and didn’t answer her phone, she could be ANYWHERE in all the world. And God alone knows what she was up to when she was unreachable. And you accepted this uncertainty by believing that she’s not a real person unless you can reach her and then she magically becomes real because you conjured her. You magician you! WITCH WITCH!!
Secondly, when you were out and about driving places you had absolutely no communication of any kind in the car (unless you were rich enough to have one of those 1980’s enormous phones). So if you got a flat tire and needed help, you had to either find a pay phone or rely on the kindness of strangers or aliens. Death via stranger danger and alien probing lurked around every corner, my friends.
At some point in my angsty teen years, probably around my 18th year, Beepers were a thing. You know those devices that Doctors sometimes have that beep when they have to run to the operating room, yes we had those and it was ahmazing for about 2 mili-seconds in historical time. For the first time EVER you could actually reach your friend while they were out and about thus scientifically proving that people do actually continue to exist when they’re not with you. This was big, people. You could no longer be quite as ego-centric as you were before.
Basically you knew your friend existed because you’d call a certain number and enter some keystrokes and this message would be SENT over some kind of magical ether and then your friend would receive these KEYSTROKES on her small beeping device. You’d have to actually come up with secret codes. LIke 45698* means, let’s hang out or whatever.
But the best part about these devices is that your friend couldn’t actually communicate back to you with the Beeper. NO!! We weren’t there yet! She had to hear the beeper (kept clipped at her waist, cause that’s how cool it was) and then FIND a pay phone or other land-obsessed, attached land-line and then PHONE you back. If that bitch wasn’t quick enough, you’d know that she either didn’t really exist without you or you were no longer besties.
Way back in the day the Internets didn’t exist. If you wanted to share a funny picture with your friend (if you could even come upon a funny picture in print) you would have to cut that shit out of a magazine and then tape it to her notebook at school. If you wanted to flirt with someone you liked, you had to actually be there IN PERSON with them at school or a school dance or a party. If you wanted to see photos of someone’s vacation or new pet or even see photos of their face, you had to do so in person. It was pretty awkward sharing a selfie in person.
And we did have selfies but you had to actually take it with a film-filled camera and then take it to Walgreens and have them develop it. This was a bit embarrassing because clearly the film developing technician knew you had taken some self-aggrandizing selfies and they then gazed upon them with either loathing or titillation. But back then we had more humility than people do today. We were actually ashamed of our selfies.
Back then, if you wanted to look up useless nonsense you had to do so in a book at a library, hence the popularity of those ridic useless fact books found by people’s toilets. We were pretty ignorant of all kinds of useless trivia. People of today would have laughed at how little we knew about Alf or Full House or celebrity lives. In fact, if you wanted to make friends with someone who lived in Australia, you had to actually go there, meet someone and then get to know them well enough that they’d send you a physical paper letter that would take weeks to reach you. The time delay in conversation was astounding. You could not conceivably be impatient. Impatience didn’t exist. Plus, the only people you really knew were those that actually physically lived near you or went to the same places that you did. Our social circles were much smaller.
In those days, you did not just banter about silly shit with strangers on some non-physical realm like Twitter. You did not have conversations with yourself in front of millions of people. You did not even interact with millions of people. Your 15 minutes of fame were when they printed something you wrote in the local newspaper or you were arrested, taped on VHS and then replayed on local TV news. If you wanted to let people in on your secret thoughts, you gave them your diary to read, you did not type up your thoughts and feelings and then publish them in the internet outer-space. And in most cases you didn’t even want people reading your diary. Again, we had shame and knew how to use it.
Also, back in the early days of the internet, we did have a primitive form of email (AOL/Hotmail) and we had chat rooms. And we had Dial-up. Below you can listen to the sweet sweet mating music of waiting 15 minutes for your computer to connect (sexually) to the internet. I remember sitting in a chair in my parent’s bedroom, twirling around listening to the beeps and bongs of my computer attempting to connect. Back then, such waits were typical and gave you time to get a snack, stretch, go to the bathroom, read a book while you waited. Then once you were on-line, the connection was always dubious and tentative and could be dropped at any time. So you hurried along and tried to start chatting with creepy older men posing as younger guys that wanted to know your stats in chat rooms. Or you spent your precious on-line moments hating on creepy internet chat room bots. Yes, the bots have been around for a while and have always been unoriginal and creepy.
The other thing is that we certainly had no way of looking things up while out and about. If you wanted to know how to get somewhere or were lost or needed the hours of operation for your favorite fast food spot, your best bets were either a paper map or again, the kindness of strangers. Paper maps will always be terrifying. They were the first kind of “distracted” driving.
Back in the day I dreamt that one day there would be a physical machine that you could go to and from there you could actually make a sweet mix tape of all your favorite songs, instead of buying an entire Cassette tape or CD album with only one song you actually liked. So honestly, I invented MP3’s in my mind, before they were a thing and now I totes make sweet mix tapes on my MP3 player.
Back then, we actually had these things you could buy at a physical music store called Singles. A single was one song from your favorite artist on a cassette tape with a little cardboard sleeve featuring a picture of the artist. This was the only way you could listen to ONE song without buying an entire album. And these little cheap cassette tapes were always breaking or the little tape inside would get unraveled or twisted and your tape would be useless.
Otherwise the only way you could actually listen to that ONE song you really liked on that album was to FAST FOWARD the entire tape to find the right spot where that song began. There was no clicking on the song you want and instant musical gratification. You had to sit there, finger on the FF and play button while the tape went round and round until you decided it had been long enough to get to your song. Then you hit Play. Most of the time you were wrong and either Rewinding or Fast Forwarding were required again and again until FINALLY you found the right spot. CD’s were obviously a vast improvement on Cassette Tapes, but they still sucked because they got scratched and then skipped all over the place and you couldn’t listen to your favorite song AT ALL.
Back in the old days if you wanted to watch a movie or record a TV show, you had your lovely VHS tapes which were basically along the same lousy technology lines as Cassette tapes. Some of the same things applied, you pushed FF (Fast Forward) to move ahead and Rewind to back up. The video stores where you went to find tapes to watch, always said, Be Kind, Rewind! (*shiver* the horrors!) Of course, if you had any special viewing proclivities, the video rental store can cater to that and also snicker behind their hands as you check out.
If you wanted to record something, you could, but you had to actually be there when the show/movie came on and then physically push record on your VHS player. Then later you could enjoy that show again, commercials and all. Pretty exciting stuff. Many of my favorite childhood movies were recorded this way, the commercials immortalized.
If you wanted to see a new movie in any kind of logical time frame you had to go to the movie theater because that shit was not coming out on VHS for at least 6 months. So either you go now, or you wait, wait, wait and then watch it on your teeny tiny screen at home. Waiting, as you can tell was routine for us.
Also if you wanted to record your friends or family you had to get out the monstrous VHS camcorder and tripod. You don’t know how many family vacations, Christmas mornings and birthdays of mine were recorded on one of these bad boys. My dad looked like a news station camera man. Even my 6 year old tantrums and freakouts on my little brother were forever (maybe?) immortalized on a VHS tape.
When we wanted to relax a bit with some video games, this is what we worked with:
We eventually had computer games such as this:
This was actually a huge improvement:
The Wrap Up
However, even though I have proved to you that the past was filled with horrors, it wasn’t all bad because we did have ways to travel around such as these beauties:
And this was the sleek improvement:
So ya know, we could totes visit our friends whenever mom would drive us there in this show boat. We weren’t at ALL ashamed of this.
And so, in retrospect, the old days were pretty dope. I long for the days of corded phones, huge VHS camcorders, the FF button in all its glory and even waiting to get online while listening to the mating call of the computer for the ever illusive yet desirable internet. I know it seems like horrors to you young kids, but to us, it was all we knew. We were sad, sad, pathetic darlings. But at least we grew up into this technological world we have now where you can be proud of your selfies, patience does not exist and bragging on Facebook is par for the course.
What a wonderful WORLDDDDD!!! I leave you with this gem: