It’s now hard to imagine a world without everything you need available to you in a flash at your fingertips. How did we get around before Google Maps? How did we know stuff without Wikipedia? And yet, hard as it is to believe, it wasn’t so long ago that we survived without these things just fine. Still, given how quickly technology has developed, we can guarantee that the following 20 things will all seem alien to the kids of today.
20. Video cassette recorders
Before the existence of TiVo, there were two choices available to you if there was something you wanted to watch on TV. You could either view a show as it was broadcast or tape the program to enjoy later using a video cassette recorder (VCR). The more sophisticated VCR models even had a timer, negating the need to manually start the recording yourself. Fancy!
19. Video rental stores
And, as many older folks know, pre-recorded tapes of the latest Hollywood movies and TV shows were once available. Blockbuster existed as a kind of library for video cassettes, for example, and for a monthly fee, you could take away any feature films you wanted to watch at home. That’s provided someone wasn’t already renting the movie you desired, of course…
18. Limited TV channels
With today’s seemingly endless choice of channels covering all sorts of genres and specialist subjects, it’s hard to believe that the small screen could ever have been otherwise. Yet once upon a time, people only had access to a limited number of channels on standard TV frequencies.
17. Credit card imprinters
Most people will have seen the terminals that read credit cards and print out receipts at restaurants or retail stores. Prior to these, though, we had credit card imprinters. During the payment process, an imprinter was swiped over the surface of the credit card. This created an impression of the card’s surface on the receipt, which itself was then checked and signed by the payer.
16. Floppy disks
Before Bluetooth technology, cloud services, flash drives and Wi-Fi-enabled devices, the way to store and transfer data was by floppy disk. Yet while these were neat gizmos for the time, the average disk could only store around 1.44 megabytes of data – which seems rather pitiful today.
It would have taken very many floppy disks, then, to store all the info available to us today on the internet. Fortunately, we had books, and when we wanted to know everything about anything, we turned to the encyclopedia. To get an idea of such a relic, imagine Wikipedia printed out, filed alphabetically into multiple volumes and bound in leather covers.
14. Library card catalogs
If the library was once the place to search for information, then the institution’s catalog was practically the equivalent of Google today. Through these cards, you could navigate all the rows upon rows of shelves that stood within the vast temple of knowledge that is your local library.
If a person wasn’t au fait with their personal computer, simple tasks – like writing documents – may have initially been quite daunting. Fortunately for Microsoft Office users at least, Clippy was there to help. Clippy was a seemingly sentient paperclip who would pop up on your screen whenever you started typing and offer his assistance in whatever task you were undertaking. And yes, he was as annoying as that sounds.
12. Slow-starting computers
Of course, in the time it once took for a computer to boot up, it may have felt as though you could have written the letter by hand and delivered it in person. We take it for granted today that computers are active almost at the flick of a switch; not so long ago, however, you would have had to sit through reams of commands that kicked your device into life.
11. Dial-up modems
Then came the internet. Today, it’s a technology available almost anytime and anywhere courtesy of underground cables and satellites in outer space. Back in the day though, the world wide web was accessed via a cable plugged into the telephone network – and the ear-splitting noise a modem made when looking for a connection had to be heard to be believed.
10. Logging off the internet if someone wants to make a call
Way before smartphones ever existed, the internet was mostly accessed at home via your phone line. And if your mom wanted to call her sister while you were researching for your homework, you had to get offline before she could do so – until you or your family ponied up for broadband, that is.
9. The novelty of not knowing who’s calling
When somebody phones in 2018, there’s a good chance the caller can be identified before you answer. But telephones didn’t always have screens, nor did everyone have caller ID. Every time the phone rang, then, there may have been a palpable sense of excitement – or, indeed, fear – at not knowing who the person on the other end would be.
8. Using a directory to look someone up
Today, almost every business – and, indeed, person – has a presence on the internet – whether it’s via a website or just a humble Facebook profile. It’s easy, then, to look up anyone from a local plumber to your high school crush online and comb through the results. Way back when, though, you would had to have resorted to a physical directory such as the Yellow Pages to do so.
7. Phones with cords
Before wireless and mobile technology, telephones had to be plugged into the wall in order to work. This meant that the distance you could wander was limited to the length of the cord of the device. And forget about ever calling someone while on the move unless you were swanky enough to have a car phone…
6. Fax machines
Nowadays, we take email for granted. But what happened in the past when we needed to get a document to a remote location pronto? Well, we used the humble fax machine. The fax operated via the phone network and transmitted data to the chosen destination; a document was then printed out at the other end, just like magic.
5. Hairstyling tools that took forever to heat
Given the speed of computers and general communication for anyone pre-2000, people were forced to develop the patience of saints. That was the case when it came to looking good, too, as hairstyling tools such as crimpers, rollers and straightening irons always took what felt like hours to get to their optimum temperatures.
4. Film canisters
You finally got to looking fly and wanted to show the world. But, wait – no Instagram! So, what was to be done? Well, first, you would take a photo, then you had to send the film in your camera away to be developed into prints. Patience, remember? You also had to be sure to get the shot right first time, as you couldn’t easily delete the image and go again.
3. Passing notes in class
Back in the days before texting, there was one more or less sure-fire way to get the attention of your middle-school crush. How? Well, by passing a note in class, of course. And doing so sufficiently sneakily was a bit of an art form. Best hope you’d succeed, though: if the teacher caught you, they may have made you stand up and read the note to everyone.
2. Overhead projectors
Also to be found in the classroom, overhead projectors were used to save from writing more complex texts or diagrams on the whiteboard. Anything written on a piece of transparent film was – through light and mirror trickery – then projected onto the wall. And the student chosen to operate the overhead projector was the envy of pretty much the whole of the rest of the class.
1. Free toys in cereal boxes
However, in some ways, it’s hard to believe that people ever made it through childhood unscathed. In the past, for instance, it was fairly common to find a free toy in your big box of cereal. And if you think that sounds like a recipe for choking, then you’re not alone – indeed, that’s probably why such giveaways have been largely phased out.