It’s hard to imagine life before the digital age. What if you had to get through a day without the help of the internet? What about going on a road trip without Google Maps? Or buying a gift without the use of Amazon? That all probably sounds nearly impossible these days.
In case you don’t remember life before technology took over and made everything “easier,” here’s a glimpse of how different the world was in the 20th century.
This was life before technology
1. The Atlas
Instead of google maps or a navigation system in the car, we just had to reply upon a trusted, and usually dog eared, atlas. Spiral-bound and numerous pages, these atlases contained highway and road information for whatever part of the country you wished to travel. Navigating from point A to point B was still tricky because the atlases were only updated roughly once a year give or take, so information wasn’t always accurate.
2. Writing Letters
Before the internet and emails we just wrote letters. If you wanted to send a message to someone without actually talking to them before the 2000s, you had to write them a letter by hand, with paper and a pen or pencil. You had to then go to the nearest post office to buy stamps and wait several days to see if you got a reply. Then and only then would you actually know if they had received it.
3. The Phone Line
Before WI-FI we used the phone line to connect to the internet. Long before Wi-Fi was a reality, the only way to go online was with dial-up internet access, and everyone remembers the noise you’d hear as you dialed in! You needed a regular landline, which you would then pluck out of the wall socket, and connect the cord to your machine and you’d also need a monthly internet subscription. But lets take a minute to remember the fun part – If you have only one phone line, you have to make sure nobody else in the house picked up the phone to dial while you were connected to the internet, or your connection would ‘drop’ and you would have to dial in again. “Get off the Internet so I can use the phone” – A constant gripe at home!
4. The Original Camera
Before digital cameras, we’d wait a week for film to develop and with film, seeing what you photographed was anything but immediate. You would post away the film or you took it to a film developer or chemist and you would eagerly await its return. Then you’d see if you had anything in the right colours – you would even get some photos back with a sticker across it if it wasn’t in focus. You only got one shot to capture that perfect photo!
5. The Printer
Before iCloud storage, we printed everything! Even when personal computers became the norm, we still didn’t entirely trust technology to keep our files safe and secure. If there was an important document you absolutely needed access to, you would tend to print it out on paper, just incase. Just recently on Instagram, people went viral on reels whereby they said that those under 35 who where supervising homeschooling, don’t own a printer.
6. The Cinema
Before Netflix and Amazon Prime, seeing the latest movies during the 20th century wasn’t as easy as streaming it on your mobile phone or adding it to your queue on Netflix. You had to go to a cinema. If you didn’t catch a film during its original run, you’d have to wait for it to air on TV in an edited form with commercial interruptions and that would take months… or even years!
7. Live Television
Before streaming services or on demand, programmes had to be watched in real time. If you weren’t available to watch your favourite show live, you were out of luck. There was no Iplayer or ITV Hub service to catch it on the next day. Anyone born before 1990 probably remembers that gut-wrenching feeling of 90210 not recording, or learning your parents had taped over your favorite episode while trying to record NYPD Blue.
8. The Library
Before kindles, if you wanted to read a book you would have to borrow it from the library or buy it in a shop. There was also no reading during a car or plane trip unless you remembered to pack a physical book. Same with going on holiday, those big heavy paperback books took up half the space in your suitcase, and then you had to trail them all home again.
9. Fashion Inspiration
Before Social media platforms like Instagram we would have to watch music videos or read magazines for fashion ideas. We didn’t really know what was on trend until we visited a local department store or high street chain. As a result, a lot of fashion choices were based on what the mannequins were wearing or what the sales assistant would bring to the fitting rooms.
10. The Long Distance Phone Call
Before Whatsapp or Skype we actually cared about the cost of a long distance call. Phone call fees were often based on distance, the closer you lived to the person you were contacting, the cheaper the call and the first minute was always the most expensive! The other factor was the time of day. Calls were cheaper on weekends and late at night. When you went abroad you would have to buy a phone card and use the prepared card to ring home just to discuss the weather with your family.
11. Maintaining Relationships
Keeping your social circle, well, social, required a bit more effort for past generations. In the 20th century, you had to call someone on the phone and then make plans to meet them and if you missed the call, that person could eventually fall out of your life, for better or for worse. You could go years, decades even, without ever hearing from your old school friends or all your ex-partners. You had no obligation to interact with any of them, nor could you online stalk them or tag friends in their antics! Back in the day, you had to put the effort in to keep your friends.
How often do you hear your elders say “They don’t know they are living” whilst shaking their heads? In todays digital age, technology has made things so much easier for our generation and even more so for the generations to come.
When the street lights came on you knew it was time to go home after playing with your friends – no text message from your parents was required.
What do you often reminisce about from your childhood that people today wouldn’t even understand? Let me know in the comments or over on my Instagram post about the blog.