I was looking at a friend’s Facebook page yesterday. She joked about losing her cell phone and feeling helpless because she doesn’t have a land line to fall back on. I don’t know why, but the fact that most people I know don’t have land lines anymore really made me think.

Everyone had a land line just a few short years ago. Not having a phone in your house was just inconceivable. But with the advent of cell phones and reasonable calling plans, you just don’t need one anymore. So naturally I started thinking about all the other technology and commonplace items of my youth which had gone, or are going, the way of the Dodo.

Then I imagined myself talking to Will 10 years from now. Maybe we’re cleaning out the attic one day and stumble upon a box of antiquated items. What would that conversation be like?

WILL: “Hey dad, what’s this thing?”

ME: “Oh cool, my old Walkman!”

WILL: “Huh? It doesn’t look like a man and I don’t think it walks.”

ME: “No no no, this played music. You put your headphones on, slap a cassette tape in there and you could listen to music on the go.”

WILL: “So it’s like a really ugly iPod. But what’s a tape?”

ME: “It’s what they stored music on before CDs.”

WILL: “What’s a CD?”

ME: “Oh sweet God.”

WILL: “Dad, what the heck is this thing?”

ME: “No way!! Buddy that’s a rotary phone!!”

WILL: “That thing is a phone?? But it’s bigger than my head!”

ME: “Yeah. You used to have to put your finger in the slot and turn it all the way to the right one number at a time. Calling someone used to take hours. You knew it was important if someone with a rotary phone was calling you just because of the time commitment it involved to place one call. And God forbid you screwed up the number halfway through.”

WILL: “That sounds awful.”

ME: “Well it was better than having to use a pay phone.”

WILL: “Everyone still has to pay for their phone.”

ME: “No. A pay phone was a public phone located outside on street corners. You used to go into the booth, put quarters in the phone and then you could make a call. But it only lasted a couple of minutes and then you had to put more money in.”

WILL: “You guys should’ve just signed up for unlimited minutes. But dad, I still don’t understand this rotary phone. If this is a phone why does it have a cord? And where’s the LCD screen for videos or the speakers for music? Heck, how did you even know who was calling you?”

ME: “There was no caller ID back then son. You had no idea who was calling. It was an adventure every time you picked up the phone because you had no clue who was on the other end. Like you were tempting fate. It was kind of a thrill.”

WILL: “So I would’ve had no way to ignore all the calls from you and mom back then?”

ME: “Frightening isn’t it?”

WILL: “Hey what’s this thing? Is that like the first iPad ever made?”

ME: “No, that’s a pocket calculator. Your mom used to use that to tally up all of our bills and do the finances. You set it next to you and do all your math.”

WILL: “You guys didn’t have calculators on your phones and laptops?”

ME: “Rotary phone, remember pal?”

WILL: “That’s just sad.”

ME: “Hey buddy, grab those phone books so we can throw them out OK?”

WILL: “A book of phones? What are you talking about?”

ME: “Those huge books over there. They have everyone’s phone number listed in them so if you needed to look someone up you just flipped through the phone book, found their number and dialed. They also doubled as booster seats for young kids who couldn’t reach the table, and sometimes your Uncle Nate and I used them as weapons.”

WILL: “What about these books with all the pictures and stuff in them?”

ME: “Oh wow. Our Encyclopedia Britannica collection. I used to use these for book reports and research projects when I was growing up. They have all the information you’ll ever need on everything.”

WILL: “Isn’t it all on Wikipedia? And isn’t the Internet better than having all these huge books in the house?”

ME: “Well wise ass, before the Internet you either could use these in your house or you had to go to the library.”

WILL: “What’s a library?”

ME: “I’m gonna have a heart attack.”

WILL: “If you were having a heart attack and I had to use this rotary phone to call for help, you’d be dead before I could dial 911.”

ME: “Very funny. Now come over here and help me bring these things downstairs. If this VCR still works we can watch home movies of when me and Uncle Nate were just little kids.”

WILL: “I don’t get it. These tapes are like plastic bricks. How do they play movies? Does this VCR thing hook up to YouTube somehow?”

ME: “No it doesn’t connect to YouTube. In the old days you had a video camera and you taped people. Then you put the tape in the VCR to watch it. Soon you had a whole collection of tapes and you had to label them to make sure you knew what’s on which tape. And I think this is the video of when we went to the Grand Canyon. Do you know where that is? Here, I’ll show it to you on this Atlas.”

WILL: “OK. Let me get this straight. You had gigantic phones that took forever to dial and had no way to see who was calling you. And if you didn’t have a phone, you went out and kept putting quarters into a slot in a phone out on the street. If you wanted to call someone you had to look their number up in a huge book. If you wanted information on anything else, you needed to sort through a series of other gigundo books. And if you didn’t have those, you needed to go to this library place that did nothing but store other huge books. You did your math on huge ugly calculators. You stored your memories on massive tapes which, judging by the look of them, you forgot to label so you have to sort through each one manually to find what you’re looking for?”

ME: “Yeah. Those were the good old days.”

WILL: My phone makes calls quickly. I can ignore calls quickly too because it tells me who’s calling. And I don’t need to continuously carry quarters around to keep my phone working. It also plays music. I can take a video of you right now, upload it to Twitter and store it on YouTube so everyone in the world can see it in a matter of seconds. If I need a phone number I can look it up on the Internet. Which, coincidentally, I can also use to find out any information I need to know much quicker than breaking my back with this thick encyclopedia. In fact dad, I didn’t want to bum you out but I haven’t read an actual book since I was a little kid. All my reading is done on my Kindle now. Which, if I’m not mistaken, is where people read all of your news stories right? And FYI, the Grand Canyon is in Arizona. Wanna know how I know that? Because it took me 3 seconds to Google Map Grand Canyon which gave me precise GPS coordinates. All before you even found Arizona in that huge Atlas book. So tell me, how can you possibly consider those the ‘good old days?'”

ME: “You damn kids these days…”


Share Button

23 thoughts on “Outdated

  1. I work in a theatre school at a large university. In one of our musicals there was a scene in which several undergraduate actresses had to use typewriters. This show was set in the 1920s, so only old school typewriters would do. To the amazement of the production staff (all of us in our 30s) these 18-22 year olds had never seen a typewriter of any kind before. We actually had to sit down with them and show them how to roll in the paper and push the carriage over when they reached the end of a line of type. I swear I could feel the grey hairs sprouting from my head…

  2. I loved this post.

    I always wonder if we make our kids grow up too fast. They lose their ignorance and naiveté that we held onto so dearly when we were young.

    We had a rotary phone forever! I never got the number right the first time, heck, even my friends thought we were outdated when they had to use the phone!

  3. HA! I’m laughing out loud here in CA. My parents finally gave in and text away on their cell phones but refuse to get call waiting on their home line. “Because if you’re taking the time to call them, they’re going to take the time to listen uninterrupted.” 🙂

  4. My two oldest kids are 16 and 13. The fact that I only had two channels until I was 10 is mind-boggling for them. Nevermind cartoons only being on Saturday morning. They cannot fathom why I get so jacked about The Muppet Show or Walt Disney. They love looking at pictures of me between ages 12 and 14 when I sported a perm and thought nothing of high-waisted pleated shorts. Sigh. The good ol’ days.

  5. Loved this post! I also thought of typewriters when reading this post. When I was a kid, I loved playing with our typewriter. I would create ridiculous fake newspapers with it.
    How about an 8 track player? Anyone want one? For some reason my husband saved his and it’s in our crawl space. Anyone? Please? 🙂

  6. I thought of typewriter too, but I couldn’t list it in good conscience because…well…I never used a typewriter. I used a word processor that wasn’t far off, but never a typewriter. And no 8-tracks or record players either. The earliest I go back are cassette tapes.

    Don’t hurt me…

  7. Love this! My husband and I talk about things like this quite a bit. We had to do REAL RESEARCH when we were writing papers.
    I thought of typewriters too, mostly since I have been trying to find one lately!

  8. Aaron,

    How soon you forget. We had to use 8 tracks for our promos at WJJW! Gotta love state schools!

  9. Loved this. I remember back when I was in school, I would borrow a family friend’s computer to do my reports. My printed reports would get oohs and aahs from my classmates for the creative fonts (Read: Not Times New Roman) on the cover. A few years later, I figured out how to incorporate clipart and people oohed and aahed over my low resolution clip art filled covers complete with visible line-gaps from the dot-matrix printer.

  10. I actually learned to type on an electric typewriter in an actual typing class when I was in high school. I’m 32. And I did have records growing up before the cassette tape made its way into the mainstream. Don’t worry, they weren’t good records–they were Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake and a single of “Mickey” by Toni Basil.

  11. Very funny. I think about stuff like this a lot. The technology explosion and digital age we have lived through has really changed life as much as anything ever I think. Life pre internet to post internet doesn’t even resemble each other. Two other random thoughts. Where would Superman be if he was invented today. No phone booths. If we feel old imagine our parents. My dad remembers outhouses and life before TV. Talk about prehistoric.

  12. Psssssssshh…I just finished typing pathology reports into patients charts USING A TYPEWRITER…I keep trying to break the damn thing in hopes that it will be impossible to fix but noooooo, they keep finding the parts for this dinosaur.
    It is funny whenever a new girl starts and is all “What is this?! How do I use it?!”

  13. Oh and lets not forget the Nintendo and Atari….now there were some great graphics! I still play my nintendo to “remember the good ol days”!

  14. The other day, my 3 year old was doing some worksheets (she’s kind of a nerd. ha) There was a rhyming one, and one of the pictures was a ‘bone’ and she had to figure out that it rhymed with ‘phone’. Except the picture of a phone was a rotary phone (like the one in your post, actually) and she had NO IDEA WHAT IT WAS.

    How can I be so old already??? I’m only 31!!!

  15. I used to think I was really hip because I had a stereo with a turn table AND an 8-track player! I still have dreams sometimes that I am trying to make a call using a rotary phone and I keep messing up and have to start over. As for typerwriters, I used to use one and remember when you had to make a copy, you had to use carbon paper?? My first video player was beta……. My siblings and I used to play pong and we thought it was sooooo cool that we could play this great game on a computer. Does anyone remember the knee socks that everyone wore pulled all the way up to the knees and they had colored stripes around the tops near the knees??

  16. Hey, when the world crumbles because of some super-flu like what happens in “The Stand”, we’ll need to go back to our roots. Our fancy technology won’t mean anything.

    Which would suck big time.

  17. That sounds like a recent conversation with my girls! Of course, they are teens and know everything. 😀 I still think the “good old days” were so much simpler, or at least quieter.

  18. Pagers–because it was too hard to carry around a brick phone or the small suitcase-sized ones. Why is it that doctors in TV shows still have pagers? Do real doctors still have pagers? Or do they use cell phones like everybody else?

    Also: 8 tracks, record players, walking across the room to change the channel. The world without a DVR: my 4 year old doesn’t understand why he cannot watch a non-DVR’d show whenever he wants. Telling him that “It’s on TV, not the DVR, so you have to wait until 9:00” doesn’t work.

  19. A few years ago, my mother-in-law bought a discman for our then three year old. I think I still have it in the attic!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge