I’ve had this feature in the back of my head for a long time, but it seems particularly relevant at the mo given the recent O2 network problems, and the news that text is the nation’s preferred method of communication.
See, kids these days don’t realise how good they have it; things were a heck of a lot different back in my day. Sit back and let old granddad tell you a tale.
I’m not that old, but I often feel that I grew up at an ideal time, a time when technology came along and made everything stupidly easy, but I can also appreciate how it used to be.
Even kids 10-15 years younger (my little cousins spring to mind) seem to take all these newfangled devices for granted. On a mobile phone alone, you can call, send texts and emails, take camera-quality pictures, play console-quality games, and store your entire freakin’ music catalogue. That was unthinkable when I was a lad.
Fifteen years ago, to tick all those boxes, you would’ve had a primitive mobile phone with an aerial (a Phillips C12, perhaps), a separate camera, a Nintendo Gameboy, and a personal CD player with a sackful of CDs.
Rather than go on an unstructured rant, I’ll break this down into categories. Ready?
Talking to girls
Yep, when I was at school, you actually had to speak to girls during the courting process. There was no texting or Facebooking to test the waters, no cyber flirting, no emails… nothing.
Indeed, I fondly remember writing my highschool sweetheart letters – yes actual pen-to-paper letters, I kid you not. Similarly, I recall struggling to muster the courage to phone her for the first time. It was freakin’ terrifying.
If technology had been on our side, I firmly believe things would’ve turned out differently. Alas, she’s now married. On the plus side, I’m officially The One That Got Away. Sah-weet.
As kids growing up in the eighties and nineties, you’d quite often turn up at your mate’s door to ask if he was “Coming out” (nothing to do with sexual preference), only to discover that he’d gone AWOL. “I think he was going to the shops,” his mum would suggest.
Cue a fantastic scenario in which you’d have to search the entire town to find your mate (invariably he wouldn’t be where his mum thought). “Have you seen Steven?” you’d desperately shout to other groups of kids. It was genuinely quite exciting – like being a mini detective.
I realise a lot of younger kids today don’t have mobile phones, but that logic carried on into our late teens, before mobile phones became the norm. Which brings me to…
Meeting people was a risky little game in the old days, and demanded military precision. There was no last-minute texting to amend arrangements as necessary.
If you turned up at the meeting point and your accomplice was late, you could either wait indefinitely in the hope that they might eventually turn up, or bail knowing that – in all likelihood – they’d arrive 30 seconds after you left, leading to a massive hate-filled rant (via landline, of course).
Traffic jams, broken down trains, last-minute illness… they killed many a friendship in the eighties and nineties.
Whether on foot or in motorcar, mobile phones offer precise directions with a few simple taps. Previously, we had to make do with paper-based maps. Again, many a pre-mobile relationship was ruined with couples getting lost.
Being able to store an entire collection of music on a handheld device is something that continues to amaze me to this day. All those songs, all those albums, all those bands… it’s really incredible, and something that the yoof take for granted.
When I was younger, we had Sony Walkmans and cassette tapes. When setting off on an adventure, you had to carefully choose which music to take with you beforehand – with generally two albums per tape (if you were lucky).
Skipping tracks? Repeating songs or albums? Shuffling? None of that existed. If you wanted to get to the other side of a tape, you had to patiently wait for it to fast-forward. Amazing.
We lived through personal CD players and MiniDisc before we got to mp3s.
I’ve probably forgotten about a million and one other luxuries now afforded by mobile phones, but next time your network goes down for 24 hours or your mobile dies, spare a thought for us old guys.