My grandmother once had a cell phone. It was an old Nokia which she couldn’t use. She would go months between switching it on. I always laughed at how she wrote the instructions down – press green button 4 times then red button once and then press down 7 times to phone my mom. That almost never worked. I could never really understand why she never read the screen or sought to understand what each button did. She would sometimes try but almost always failed.

When she was young she didn’t need to be available 24/7 on a cell phone so trying to get one to work must surely have been a big bother for her.

Just a few decades ago cell phones didn’t exist. A decade ago the internet didn’t travel with us in our pocket. Emails were letters and going viral was word of mouth or getting sick.

It makes me wonder what was it like before.

Games

I’m an 80’s kid so starting with iconic games is definitely where the nostalgia kicks in for me. These were the days when you couldn’t save your progress, the characters were rather one dimensional and the music is the same the entire way through. Of course with the exception of when you die, then you get that awful sinking music. Oh but how awesome it was. Still to this day I get filled with joy listening to the old Sonic the Hedgehog music and I’d recognize the Super Mario music anywhere.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TP4UXvIZdBo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia8bhFoqkVE

I think for many these were the good old days of gaming however there is an entire generation of big games that came before. Pac Man has got to be the one I hear of most. I’m no good at playing it however it is strangely addictive and a great deal of fun. Below is a short video of what Pac Man used to look like along time ago. A lot has changed :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL2p2ANFlQ4

I missed these games so much that I built a retro games station. I installed an emulator and played all my childhood favourites.

Computers.

Floppy Disks, green screens and screen savers. I remember them all and all the jokes we couldn’t help ourselves making with the poor choice of computer terms. Adverts like the one below from Xerox shows just how far we’ve come. (Now if I’m not mistaken the devices they were describing in their research centre is “the Internet” which is truly amazing to me.) I suspect not many will know how instrumental XEROX was in those early days of computer technology.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uY3I-tbpFGA

What was it like for my grandmother. She didn’t have a computer. She used a typewriter. She would have used a “modern” typewriter because were developed in the 1860’s. She was born some 70 years later! I imagine typewriters would have been very common place – for those who could afford them.

The typewriter was a truly magnificent invention, its keyboard on the other hand was not. The keys would constantly get caught amongst themselves and jam. In 1872 the moden QWERTY keyboard was introduced. Common keys were spaced further away from each other to help the user avoid any collisions. It was a great success, as users learnt the key configuration they were able to type faster. Personally, I find it rather funny how a design out of necessity in the 1870’s still dominate the computing world today.

Communication and the Smart Phone revolution

News traveled slowly in the good old days. You couldn’t pick up a phone or send an email or tweet. In Greek times the soldier Pheidippides had to run to the nearest town “Marathon” a great distance to announce the defeat of the Persians. The invention of the telephone must have changed the world overnight. Suddenly one person could speak to another at a great distance from each other. For a little bit of nostalgia watch the short clip below :). As for the fax machine, well the real good old days were years before that.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-eFFd5BmpU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXWeL3Dvn6Y

My grandmother could use a phone. She would occasionally phone family and if anything important happened she would be notified by telephone. She didn’t need more! Then along came a cell phone a big heavy device that allowed you to talk on the phone from anywhere.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MCrfXDiQWs

After watching that advert who would have thought that those devices would be carried with us wherever we go. We would also use them to receive email, browse the internet, chat via text message, listen to movies, play games, make notes, calendars, tell the time and sometimes talk on the phone! They even have cameras so no matter where we are we can store memories.

I have a few thousand pics on my phone. A far cry from the days when you had a spool with film and you could only take something like 12 pics. Everyone had to be smiling, the scenery had to be perfect and you had one chance. Oh and then you needed to take the pics to be developed – it could be weeks before you got them back. You also didn’t know what was on the film, sometimes used film was reused and you had two images on the same film ruining both.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMelY3CoXjo

If I consider technology has always been with us. The steam engine became the internal combustion engine. The days of the caveman who needed fire and better methods to hunt to something as simple but astronomically brilliant as the wheel. The fact of the matter is that technological change has impacted every single generation. I think the major differentiating factor is the pace at which technology has changed for current generations. The last 30 or so years have seen the equivalent of multiple generations worth of change. Instead of slow and steady change at least for my grandmother it has seemed like an insurmountable challenge. I imagine for her missing pieces of the technology chain caused her to lag causing her to miss further pieces which resulted in her being unable to catch up. Have some fun with tech, the pace at which things will change is only going to get faster and you certainly don’t want to get left behind.

I’d really like to hear about your nostalgic good old days techie stories. Please leave your comments below.