Phone, tapes and videos – old-school tech my baby will never know

July 20, 2012

cassette tapeI live in a tech-loving household; there aren’t many gadgets that we don’t have (my mum’s reaction on hearing that the Google Nexus 7 tablet is my husband’s latest purchase: “You’ll never move house!”). I was talking to my friend Nick about this and we meandered on to discussing how technology has changed dramatically in even the past few years, meaning there are so many things that played a huge role in our childhoods that Eliza and babies of her generation will never experience.

It was a very timely conversation in light of the Ofcom report out this week, saying that text messaging is now the most popular form of daily communication between British adults, over phone calls. Nick and I were chatting over iMessage, and thinking about it I don’t even phone my mum any more; we have FaceTime conversations so she can see the baby instead. How long before calls and even texts are consigned to history in favour of something much more instant?

But looking back, my formative years now seem to be a wasteland of 80’s and 90’s technology that’s now obsolete. Here’s some of the things – the good and not so great – that Nick and I could remember from when we were younger:

  • Recording music from the radio onto cassettes, and making mix tapes
  • The genuine surprise of finding out which song was at the top of the charts at 6.55pm on a Sunday
  • Giant, ancient school TVs which we watched in the dedicated TV room
  • Four TV channels
  • Going to the video shop to rent a film as a weekend treat
  • Video tapes with three hours of recording capacity (and spending hours fast-forwarding or rewinding them to get to the right point)
  • Always being on the hunt for batteries for your Walkman
  • Doing homework pre-Google using research books you took out of the library
  • Floppy discs (big) and floppy discs (small)
  • The noise that modems made when connecting to dial-up internet, and your mum always trying to use the phone meaning the connection dropped
  • Waiting till 6pm to use the phone, plus your parents moaning about the size of the phone bill every month
  • Having a static landline phone with a cord that you had to stretch into another room for privacy
  • Knowing all your friends phone numbers off by heart
  • Not having mobile phones meaning you made a time / date to meet your friends and having to stick to it (seriously, how did we manage?)
  • Mobile phones with a tiny memory so you had to constantly delete texts
  • Everyone having the same Nokia phone that only had function for calls, texts and Snake 2

It’s enough to make you feel nostalgic! I’m sure there’s loads more, is there anything else I’ve missed off?


  • Ashley

    July 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    So many good ones. I thought about this the other day when watching the movie Swingers. None of them have a mobi and the key piece of tech that the film is built around is the answering machine. Also their discussion about whether to leave it two or three days before you call a girl back (I was always two, never had the balls to make it three) is so redundant as you’d be checking each other out on social media.

    So tech does make life better, but it robs it of a bit of mystery too

    1. gillian

      July 22, 2012 at 8:44 am

      I wonder how many films and TV programmes have had the answerphone and missed messages as a key plot line? Tech developments will also completely change the story of film and fiction (e.g. Romeo and Juliet would have had a different outcome if they’d just been able to text each other…) So true about it robbing life of mystery – although that might change if Facebook put a stop to profile snooping. P.S. how nice were you only waiting two days? 🙂

  • Emily Dew

    July 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Brilliant Gill -love it.
    Making phone calls after 6 – haha, totally forgot about that.

    1. gillian

      July 22, 2012 at 8:46 am

      It was always agony waiting till 6 to use the phone wasn’t it (to call your friends you’d been with at school each day!). Even now I’ll call my mum in the day and she’ll say “oh this must be costing you a fortune” – haha 🙂 F and E will have no idea about any of it!

  • Kerry

    July 21, 2012 at 9:48 am

    It is CRAZY how much technology keeps advancing! We are going to be so lazy and not have to use our brains in a few years time!!! X

    1. gillian

      July 22, 2012 at 8:39 am

      So true! And we’ll probably forget how to do really simple things even (like handwriting!)

  • shirley Edwards

    July 24, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Sad I remember when no-one had a phone at home and waiting outside public phone boxes for hours (in the rain)for a boy to call you. I also remember not having a TV (now that shows my age!) I heard the first record played on Radio One, a feat after years of crackly Radio Caroline

    1. gillian

      September 25, 2012 at 6:35 pm

      Poor you – at least with mobiles no-one has to get wet outside any more! x

  • Front crawl: encouraging my baby to move forward |

    September 25, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    […] close, but then goes back on herself every time. We’ve been rolling balls, trucks and Angry Birds past her, and putting things ever-so-slightly out of her reach, all in a bid to stop her from being […]

  • The lost love of teenage magazines |

    April 23, 2013 at 9:55 am

    […] knows what the media landscape will look like when Eliza becomes a teenager? But like old-school technology, it’s sad to think there’s a whole part of it that she – and her friends – […]

  • How technology can help you as a parent |

    November 6, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    […] our lives as parents. And for us, it plays a subtle but significant role in our household, from the old-school tech right the way through to the newer […]

  • Call me, maybe |

    January 12, 2014 at 11:24 am

    […] it occurred to me when we got it home that it’s pretty much a museum piece. Like the old-school technology our children won’t experience, fixed line phones with cords are about as relevant to our children as the gramophone was to us. As […]

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Prev Post Next Post