I’ve found myself starting sentences with “When I was young” quite a lot lately. And that’s how you know things have changed. Here are tech things that don’t make any sense today and if you’re born after 1998, I’ve also included an example of what this tech could be compared to today. So let’s go back in time…
Then: Encyclopedias Now: Google
My parents collected Tree of Knowledge, a weekly pull-out magazine encyclopedia. There were different categories and it was organised alphabetically. When Encarta or Britannica came on to the scene, we were getting fancy because it came in CD-ROM form. If you had this for school projects, you were cool.
Then: Clipart Now: Google Images, memes & gifs
My sister once got a collection of different CDs to do digital art for her birthday. It was amazing. Vectors, images and photos. Browsing Word to find an image to go with your project was an art and a skill. And who can forgot the bean people? They plagued office memos, prezos and very badly designed posters.
Then: CDs Now: iTunes
Collecting CDs was a big deal. My first CD was something really, really embarrassing but let’s just say I redeemed myself with Grammy Hits 1996. Finding the perfect CD rack, enjoying the CD cover art and learning the lyrics by reading them were all part of the experience. Discovering hidden tracks was even better.
The best hidden track for me was one by New Found Glory (remember them?). If you fell asleep listening to that CD you’d be woken up with a hidden track starting like this: “Someone’s in your house. Someone’s in your house.”
Then: Video store Now: Netflix
This was the place to be on a Friday night. There would be about 6 copies of the same movie you wanted to watch but everyone had the same idea so you had to reserve the video for the next weekend.
Be kind rewind was a real thing. There was nothing worse than getting a video and having to wait for it to rewind. Previews let you know what would be coming to video soon and therefore what you had to look forward to.
If you were lucky your parents would have bought a contract, but usually this expense came out of your pocket money.
Then: Mix tapes Now: Playlists & streaming
While the art of the mix tape has been romanticised, a mix tape for me meant listening to the radio waiting for your new favourite song to come on, and hitting record. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to pay for the CD, it was just that it wasn’t available on CD yet. This way you could rewind your tape to listen to it whenever you wanted. I did this with Goo Goo Dolls Slide.
Then: The atlas Now: Google Maps
Having to know how to read a map, work out distance and whether to go left or right was a skill all those that rode shotgun needed to know. It was also the reason that family road trips almost always involved an argument.
I think Google Maps has probably saved many relationships while travelling. Kids these days will never know.
Then: Phoning a house Now: Whats App
In the days of landlines, you had to phone your friend’s house and one of their parents would probably answer the phone. You then had to introduce yourself, be polite and make small talk. Once this was done, you could speak to your friend. Chances are the phone was in the family room, so you had to speak in code. You also knew all of your friend’s home phone numbers off by heart.
Then: Dial up internet Now: Internet everywhere
You had a dial up modem that made this very specific sound. You usually had a family computer and only used the web after 7pm because internet was very expensive. Weekends were amazing because you could be on the internet from 7pm Friday to 7am on a Monday for R7 (thanks Telkom).
If someone picked up the phone while you were trying to download something, that was horrific.
Then: The floppy disk Now: USB & the cloud
This is what we used in place of a USB to save documents. It also came with a security system – the write protector. A tiny button you could move to feel like a bad ass.
What tech things do you remember using that are obsolete today?