Sunday, March 20, 2011

A few changes in lifestyle...

I had a conversation with a group of teenagers, and now I really feel old. I did start to reflect, though, on life when I was 18 years old, which was 40 years ago. At the time, I was working for the Tennessee Valley Authority as an apprentice electric lineman, and had a little apartment. I was comparing things generally then with things generally now, and the teens could hardly relate. Some of the areas we covered follow.
Communications: I had a landline telephone, which at the time was the only kind. I had a dial-type desk phone of course, in basic black; in those days, one did not own phones, they rented them from Ma Bell, and touch-tone phones were more expensive. How did I operate voice mail systems? Well, I didn't, since there was little voicemail then, and the systems with it simply gave a message, and took yours after a certain number of rings. No, you did not press 1 for English; everyone was expected to speak English, since this was the US of A. So there. No, there were no cellphones, so how did I call someone if I was not at home? Look for a pay phone, which was not difficult, since the things were everywhere. How did someone reach me if I was not at home? They generally did not. Texting? What was that? I was a bit ahead of the game with that, though, since I was a Ham radio operater, and VHF FM mobile units were coming into popularity, since repeaters were popping up everywhere, so I generally had communications if I needed it while out in the car.
But how did I email anybody? I didn't, since there was no email. If I needed to write someone, I would commit my wisdom to paper, fold it, place it in an envelope, address the envelope, add a stamp, and take it to the mailbox. It would eventually get to the recipient. Of course, since my handwriting has always sucked, I would generally put my words to paper using technology - a typewriter. No spell check, no cut and paste, no whatever; it was a typewriter.
I had to do this, of course, because there were no personal computers - they did not come around until the mid-1970s, and were pretty much unaffordable to most folks. Of course, when they did start to show up, there were no mice, since there were no GUIs; command line only. There were some telecommunications by about 1980, but generally among hobbiest geeks, on very slow dial-up modems, and by text only. The internet did not become available to the general public until about 1990.
So, with no computers and no internet, how did one do research, shop, or pay bills?
Research was done by going to the library, looking up stuff, and checking out some useful books.
Shopping was mostly done by going to stores. What a concept! If local stores did not have, and could not order, what you wanted, you went back to the library, looked up some companies that may carry what you wanted, and call the company on the phone (usually a long-distance call, though some of the larger companies had the new-fangled "800" toll-free numbers) or write them a letter, and request a catalog.
Bill paying was done, of all things, by writing checks, and mailing them to the biller.
One of my little discussion group said that he eats a lot of pot pies and TV dinners, and was a bit surprised to find out that yes, those were around back in the day, but were not "microwaveable", since microwave ovens were not common. In fact, both TV dinners and frozen pot pies came in aluminum pans, which would not be agreeable with a microwave appliance, so they went into the plain ol' oven.
Yes, a few changes over the years...

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