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Are you old enough to remember a time when there were no cell phones, no email, no Internet and no way to keep you connected to the world 24 hours a day? If so, do you sometimes think back on that tim


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Yes, we can look back on it with nostalgia, but we have to admit that a 12 year old doing a school project today has more access to sum of human knowledge at their fingertips than a university professor did in 1990.

I think those of us who remember life without the internet are perhaps some of the most privileged human beings in history to have lived through such a transformative era of human development. It's almost like being alive during the transition from neanderthal to homosapien.

12 ( +15 / -3 )


Small point, but it's important in it's own way: Neanderthals didn't become homo sapiens.

They were a separate species; they died out.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yeah. Three TV channels, broadcast only, no VCRs, so you had three choices on what to watch at any given time. Then we got a 4th broadcast channel!

Après moi, le déluge ...

Too much email and spam now.

4 ( +4 / -0 )


Thanks, Excuse me while I look that up on the internet.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

do you sometimes think back on that time fondly?

Sure do -- every time I go to the gym, a restaurant or the cinema -- or even drive my car since more and more idiots are talking and texting while driving than ever here in the states, especially young drivers.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Yes, and I have been in Japan long enough to remember when you could not get money from an ATM at the weekend. I can also remember when KDD, now KDDI, used an exchange rate of 370 yen to the dollar for phone call rates, which were exhorbitant, so we had call-back systems.

I also remember when you could not send or receive true SMS text messages between here and foreign countries or between different carriers here. Oh, that was only a few years ago.

Now when will tourists be able to walk into any convenience store and buy a SIM for their phone or find WiFi with ease? Japan still has a lot of catching up to do.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Yes, I do miss the simplicity of life back then. I enjoyed being able to go on a holiday without having to check emails. I enjoyed writing letters and receiving them, especially postcards from friends and relatives overseas. I read more books than I do today.

But I suppose everyone generation can say the same thing about the "good old days." My grandmother used to get nostalgic for a time when there were no TVs and the family all had dinner together every night.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Yes I am and yes I do, though sometimes is the operative word. With the kids grown and far-flung, it's great being able to keep in touch with them and other far-distant friends and family. We live in very convenient times, and I don't think I would want to go back.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The Godfather and other popular movies might appear on TV once a year. Any time a James Bond movie or Willie Wonka or whatever came on, we'd be sure to watch it, because it could be another year before we'd have another chance.

No skipping past commercials, either. Kitchen or bathroom break instead.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Communication via telex tape - long, thin strips of paper - very similar language to modern texting but replies the next day; cashing paper cheques at the local bank to get cash pre-ATM; listening to the radio; upgrading from a black and white to a 'gasp' colour television; 45/ 78 rpm singles and 33 rpm LPs; starting a car using both the ignition and a choke; doing sums on paper without a calculator; seen a lot of changes, mostly for the better...

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I remember it. I grew up on the event horizon of modern communications.

Do I look back on the time before this fondly? Well, yeah, there are certain things I liked more back then than now, but that is because I enjoy spending time working things out by myself, generally, in life.

The way things are now though is WAY better. I particularly like being able to call out a persons BS with a simple Google search. I think the way that this is always a possibility nowadays has reduced the amount of rubbish people feel they can get away with spouting, which is a bonus. Linked to this, I absolutely LOVE the way that I am able to instantly find the objective truth about anything medical related, be that correct drug usage, dosage, symptoms, possible complications, etc etc etc. This is especially useful in Japan with the doctors they way they are (offensively incompetent liars on the whole); only last week I walked into a doctors office (well, a curtained off bit of a big open room) and told him to his face that what he was trying to prescribe me was wrong - slammed my phone down on desk and demanded he read what I had searched. He tried to back pedal, after realising I was not willing to take his lies, and rubbish, but the damage was done. Thanks internet!!

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

I'm old enough, too old to remember those times even when TV was in a huge wooden box and tiny screen in black and white. I also trained in technology and built much of my own stuff as a kid, like radios.

Do I miss those times or think back fondly, no way. I love have a super fast internet which costs so little. Computers, tablets, digital cameras. I gave up mobile phones about five years back.

I love being able to Skype my mother every week in Florida without spending a single penny. When I first came to live in Japan more than 20 years ago, my international phone bill was about ¥1 million/year. Now its almost zero.

When I reached school we still used wooden slide rules but before the end basic calculators were out but we were not allowed to use them in exams.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Yea and yea.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Was here in Japan when cell phones had only just started to come to market, there was no internet and we relied on fax machines to do transmit info.

Zichi I remember before we had TV back when were were kids.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Was here in Japan when ... we relied on fax machines to do transmit info.

So like, last week?

3 ( +5 / -2 )


Zichi I remember before we had TV back when were were kids.

Me too! I was several years old before it was available. We listened to the BBC on the radio, read books or listened to my father playing the piano. We even had one of those old phonograms which ended up on the street for the kids to mess with.

An important point was we knew know to entertain ourselves and others without touching a power button.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Why not enjoy the best of both times? I don't let the TV, computer and cell phone take over my life. I conduct 80% of my business by phone and email, but I do it during the hours I am working, it doesn't go home with me. I don't text, or do email on my phone unless it is an emergency. There is not enough time in your life for constant Twitter, Facebook, text, email etc or will end up with a virtual life instead of real life experiences.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Yes, I am old enough. No, I don't look back on that time fondly.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I recall a time when we had 2 channels on black-and-white TVset and 2 or 3 AM radiostations. I remember my first colour TV set with a large screen, CD player, VTR, PC, mobile phone, dial-up internet connection, satellite dish.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I remember listening to the cricket in my grandad's room when England toured Australia way back when.Sitting in a pitch black room,no talking,but in harmony to the ball by ball by Henry Blofeld.And then he later telling me to get back to my room before my gran saw me!! Beautiful days.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Absolutely. Just walking along the street at least half the people we see are either on the pnone or texting. Trying to walk or down steps in the station we are obstructed by people who slow up or suddenly stop completely because they are texting. Yet 15 or 20 years ago there weren't queues of people lining up to use pay phones. I doubt more than a small percentage of these calls and texts are actually necessary. It's just the tendency people have to require passive input to relive the new boredom, rather than thinking or planning anything in advance. Frequently we see young mothers, on the train or in a coffee shop, texting or browsing the internet while their kid or infant in the push-chair is practically abandoned, dying of thirst and receiving no attention at all. Maybe they shouldn;t have kids - just upgrade their 'smaho' instead. Couples or friends meet and go to a coffee shop or restaurant and then sit opposite each other almost isolated with each focussed on their own smart phone. Those of us who don't want to dumb down with the rest of them and play childish online games on the train are no doubt thought of as odd, but it will eventually change again.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

It's almost like being alive during the transition from neanderthal to homosapien.

Shouldn't that read from "homo sapiens to neanderthal"? Note the similar posture of someone hunched over their device while walking.

Thanks, guys, for the trip down memory lane. Loved what you said, Droll Quarry, about enjoying the best of both. It's up to individuals to separate work from personal time in a way that best fits their needs. Some need to be connected to the Borg 24/7. (Be my guest, but don't expect to be invited to my house.)

When I'm working there are so many ways that work today is simplified and enhanced by technology--as well as play if gaming is the way you like to go. Reading, music and multiple forms of entertainment are constantly at your fingertips. But because it's constant (and changing how our brains work) it's also harder to be mindful and attentive and focused on the people who are with you as well as what surrounds you. For that it's also nice to unplug. Sometimes for days at a time and to refresh.

Then again, it's also nice to hear a birdsong (and be able to identify the bird with an app). Win-win wouldn't you say?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Do I think back on those times fondly? Damn right! My friends call me a techno-dinosaur, but when I remind them of how peaceful it is without all those interruptions, they take a moment, nod in agreement, and their phone rings. Go figure!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I do remember. All the "quality" tv like Love Boat, The A Team, Gilligans Island and Dukes of Hazard....argh.

As a young guitar player trying to figure out guitar parts on a cassette.... play, reverse, play, reverse...for hours. I think it made me a better player but it sure is nice to hit Youtube and have a solo down in a few minutes.

I could go on and on....and, don't even get me started on porn...haha.

Some good things though. Late 70's, early 80's were great music years.

The "pre AIDS....mid coke" years were a complete blast!!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have vague memories of looking through a neighbour's window watching them watching the telly, before we got our own.....walking to the public phone box at the end of the street to make calls before we got our own (party) line....my Mum being ecstatic to get her own electric washing machine with automatic wringers....keeping milk and butter cool on a dampened concrete shelf in the pantry before we got a fridge....having one small room in the house dedicated to coal storage for the fire and hot water....recording episodes of Coronation Street on a reel tape recorder for my Mum when she couldn't be home to watch it....and not all that long ago, phoning home to the UK stopwatch in hand because anything over a few minutes cost an arm and a leg.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

That's quite an impressive list, Cleo.

How did you celebrate the Relief of Mafeking? ; )

2 ( +2 / -0 )

OK....Cleo wins... ;)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There also no personal computers, only typewriters. Remember those days fondly. No way.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I remember the days I had to call a girl at home to ask her out but her father would pick up the phone. Nerve-racking at the time but a fond memory now.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

How did you celebrate the Relief of Mafeking? ; )

Didn't even hear about it - no telly, remember. :-)

And when we did get a telly, there were no programmes until the afternoon because of course everyone was too busy to sit and watch it during the day.

I remember my Mum buying special photo paints to turn B&W photos into colour photos.

And when I got my first summer job as a teenager and splurged the money on a new-fangled transistor radio, my Mum couldn't stand the endless pop music blaring out and went round pulling all the electric plugs out of the sockets trying to find the one my radio was plugged into.

It was all good. But now is way better.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Back on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The thing I remember is that people went out to a club or a rave and just had fun rather than constantly checking their phones or taking pictures of everyone. You could get as trashed as you like without the possibility that somebody took a pic or video of you and put it on the internet. Yeah I liked that.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Short answer: Yes. But actually the period I liked best was when there was internet, but dial-up, not cheap broadband yet. At that time, we could communicate world-wide, but it was expensive and it took some effort. So you thought twice before putting things online, and aimless "surfing" did not exist. At that time, there were was lots of talk about some electronic Jeffersonian democracy, where intelligent discussions would take place. Then, cheap broad-band came along, and it was like someone opened the flood gates. Now we online non-stop porn (making up 50% of internet traffic or so), scammers, spammers, phishers, advertisers, "social networks" aka mindless chat, etc etc....

2 ( +3 / -1 )

nope, things have finally caught up to my expectations, but still a long way to go. When I can create a computer program by just telling the computer to create the program via voice commands then things will be where it should be.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You mean when we were more human and free? I long for the days when I don't have to dodge people on the street, heads down, a slave to their mobile master. When we didn't need to spend time slumped over a computer because it is almost the only way to keep up.

"Every advance in technology is not necessarily an advance for humanity."

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Certainly love letters when received were worth their weight in gold, the wait was horrible but upon receipt glorious. Now email has cheapened all that,,, but it has its merits I guess. Your GF can email you in real time that it is over.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I've been in Japan so long, I can remember a time when women didn't bother routinely shaving their legs! It made for some interesting sights when miniskirts were in fashion, that's for sure (some of them looked as though they were wearing thick black legwarmers).

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Yes... I remember a time before mobile phones, before personal stereos and before political correctness. When there were only three channels on British TV and discredited personalities were still popular and loved by the great unwashed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes. No.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Like Probie - yes I am old enough , and no I don't look back fondly. I recall the Sears catalogue bra section being the closest thing to pornography I could get my hands on.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ooh yes definitely I didn't get to use the Internet until I was in High School (around 12 or 13 years old) and that's when I got my 1st email address. Do I think back to it fondly, hmm maybe, I did have a nice childhood. But now that I'm accustomed to always staying connected, I can't really look back now...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Back then was SO boring. When you were waiting in a doctor's office, you were uncomfortable and bored. You don't want to talk to the idiot that brought 5 children to the doctor, none of which seem sick as they run around your legs. And you didn't remember to bring a book. If your car broke down in the middle of nowhere you had to walk miles to get to the nearest pay phone to call for help. And if you suddenly thought of someone from your past you lost touch with, there was no internet or facebook to find them on. If you wanted a hard to find item, you couldn't just order it on amazon and have it shipped to your door... you had to ask around, look through catalogs, and sometimes, just give up. And snail mail... sending letters and bills by the us postal service was awful. First you had to go get a money order. Then you had to get envelopes, and stamps. Then you had to go to the post office and drop it off. Then when it was lost in the mail, you had to cancel the money order, buy a new one while waiting for a refund, and send it out with a late fee because now your payment is late. It was a terrible time.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Yes, we used things called libraries and we did things called reading. Knowledge wasn't a scam and the media took their responsibilities seriously. Today knowledge is a joke, a meme.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I still rarely answer my iPhone. It is irritating. But I do have one. But I love e-mail and the web and Facebook. One just has to watch old Seinfeld episodes to see how far we have come in 20 years. We had the first color TV in the neighborhood and my farm town grandma had a black & white thing with a 4 inch round screen. SChool must be much more interesting nowadays. But I still take trips to remote places on the globe on ships just so I don't have to have internet for 2-3 weeks. Sometimes talking is nice. But we still use the iPad to play Scrabble now on those trips.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Yes, I am old enough. No, I don't look back on that time fondly."

More or less sums up my feelings. Knowledge is power, so ready access to knowledge is everything. Something like Wikipedia is just a mind-blowing concept for anybody old enough to remember when accessing the volumes of an encyclopedia as a kid meant having to ask your parents to drive you to the local library. Wanted to read something about mitochondrial DNA or politics in Poland? Too bad, you'd have to wait to get the chance--unless your family was wealthy enough to have volumes upon volumes of books sitting at home.

Many thanks to the computer scientists and programmers at Caltech, Stanford, MIT, CERN, and elsewhere around the world who made it all possible.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes, I do, and what a great time of life it was. Growing up in the hills of Kentucky, we were outside far more than children and teens are now. I don't mind technology, and even welcome it; many, however, have enslaved themselves to all the electronic gadgets and can't live a minute without them. Tragic...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I can't imagine a city without walkable access to libraries. Growing up and living in a city with 99 libraries it was easy for me to spend time reading sci-fi in the library or science or chemistry. With the same reverent silence of a bookstore, and being curious. I'll still browse or read in the comfy chairs if I don't feel like entering the Internet wasteland. Many people use their phones and laptops in a library though, for the free wifi. But are they reading or just browsing and playing games? While having all access to the world with Wikipedia, how many of you have looked and read anything in the last day, week or month? It seems to create a mental atrophy.

Internet is great for facts, but reading a book is still better for learning. I suppose Youtube and video is trying to replace that. Vlogbrothers success with their teaching channels comes to mind. Khan Academy for math. MOOC's and training videos. The internal monologue of reading is being replaced with more accessible videos, but I still can read as a source of material not just for entertainment. When the power goes out there will still be books.

Libraries turned out to be great preparation to deal with the volumes of data the Internet produces. By remaining focused with a goal even in a library of millions of books is better than giving a kid early access to any piece of data. Like it or not it developed data discipline in us and I can't see how they will develop any. They'll end up like the wifi kids not really doing much

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes. Good days! Modern technology is convenient but nothing will compare to hanging out with friends, drinking beer with no one looking at their cell. Playing cards, darts, pool etc. Doesn`t seem like people do those social things much anymore.

2 ( +2 / -0 )


Very true. Interestingly new Youtube channels have stars playing board games and magic cards. So we're watching other people enjoy themselves. Also some board game cafes are sprouting up. I think this is in response to the inhuman aspect of the Internet and that in the end people want to connect with other people

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It really isn't the as long ago. Even as late as 1993 internet in America was just dialup Service which cost too much to keep active all the time and few had a cell, which was not a smartphone and rarely used because of cost.

Go back to 1986 when I graduated, no one could afford 5000 Dollar cell phones and no internet at all for the public. Computers were primarily apple II, Price hp 86, or something equally useless with just a basic compiler and floppy disks.

Pretty much everyone over 40 can say they remember days with no connectivity or hi tech.

No I would not go back. Anyone who says it was better then is just glorifying the past.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

From 1991 through 1995 I sailed aboard the USS Midway CV-41 and USS Carl Vinson CVN-70. My now wife (girlfriend at the time) used to send me letters "VIA SNAIL MAIL" because it was the only communication option when my ships were at sea. She used to put the number of the letter in the bottom right hand corner starting with No. 1 at the beginning of a long cruise. It was so hilarious receiving, for example, letters 1 and 2 then a week later 5 and 6. What happened to 3 and 4??? Then a week later 3 and 4 would arrive with 7 and 8. Crazy, right? My wife is Japanese and we live in the states now. Our children are aged 8 and 11. Every summer my wife takes the kids to Tokyo and let's them attend Japanese public school. My children have Ipads and connect to their grandmother's WIFI in Japan and we use FACETIME to communicate almost daily. Technology has come so far so fast. When we FACETIME it's as if they're in the same room with me, not on the other side of the planet! When my wife and I explain to our children about life without IPADS, smart phones, email, internet, cable tv boxes without DVR(s), no NETFLIX, etc. they look at us as if we are neanderthals. Funny!

I have made one sad observation, though. I lived in Yokohama from 1995 to 2005 and now I usually visit Japan for two or three weeks annually. Every year I have observed Japanese (and almost every person around the world under age 35) become more and more obsessed to the point of oblivion by their keitai. It started out simply with texting (pre-smart phone era) back and forth followed by the 3G Japanese data services. Now with smart phones accessing the internet at incredible speeds people seem so withdrawn from each other now. This past May during my annual visit to Tokyo I observed on several occasions people at yakitoriya, izakaya, shot bars, etc. in groups of 3 or more friends and all of them were just sitting there typing and clicking away on their smart phones not even having a conservation with each other. It was kind of spooky. Of course this is not a Japan-only phenomenon, but I remember the good old days of Japan when people who didn't even know each other would have friendly animated conversations at street-side YATAI, izakaya, beer gardens, etc. I think I see a common theme here (alcohol.. HAHAHAHA!)

2 ( +2 / -0 )


I see this smartphone island phenomenon as well in college where I'm a mature student. When I was originally in school cafeterias were more animated. Now it's a lot quieter, which is good, but the blank non interaction of youth is creepy. They'll be 5 or 6 people around a table and not a sound. The screens must be obeyed. All I can think about is the Borg from STNG

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There also [were] no personal computers, only typewriters. Remember those days fondly. No way.

Tom Hanks (who misses the sound made by hitting the typewriter's keys) is working to develop an app that will allow the keyboard to simulate the sound of the typewriter. Different strokes for different folks. There's no rational explanation for what a person loves or loathes.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

StrangerlandAug. 20, 2014 - 09:41AM JST Was here in Japan when ... we relied on fax machines to do transmit info. So like, last week?

LOL. Email has not replaced the fax because in various parts of the world an email copy may not accepted as a "legal copy" the way a fax is. Here in the US any company doing business must have both email AND fax capabilities. Legal and Tax documents often need to be faxed.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Not at all, Take me home country road's, no pager's, no cell phone's, we had to drive 6 miles to get to a half burger joint/ half post office, with a public phone, and a little arcade...The first EMP { Electro-magnetic Pulse} and all that electronic fun is gone. My hurricane lighting, and candle's will be back in fashion, and my horse will still get me to town...with out missing a beat.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think back to those times very fondly.

There's a fine line sometimes between useful technology and distractions to a healthy lifestyle. This is going to sound so very cliche, but things were so much simpler before emails, internet, and smart phones. I think having less distractions and less choices allowed us to focus more on certain things.... which is a good thing.

@Jorge Gonzalez: I hear what you're saying, but think of it this way: The only thing that any of the technology you mentioned does is speed up what was already there. Some things in life really need to be faster, especially emergencies. But otherwise, where does it end? If you're bored at the doctor's office, why not think about your schedule next week or where to go on your next vacation? Or, why not pick up a women's magazine? or a community newspaper? Who knows, maybe you'll learn something new by picking up and reading something that you don't usually read.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I remember those times fondly but really appreciate being able to stay in touch with friends and family globally. I do mourn the passing of actually knowing things. Instant access to information just isn't the same as knowing something. Google has all but killed the pub argument.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I still don't carry a cell phone. My wife bought one for me, but I just like the feeling and the freedom of not being available (my life is hectic enough) throughout the day 24/7. It's not all that different from a leash to me. It's also difficult for me to understand this need people have to be in constant contact via cell phone or social media (like Facebook), so I guess that qualifies me as old fashioned by today's standards.

On the other hand, I do find sending/receiving e-mail very convenient, however, I don't care for receiving e-cards during the holiday seasons or for birthdays. I know it's the thought that counts, but I prefer real cards in the mail to e-cards.

Yep! I must be old-fashioned!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

cellphones! I can remember when VHS & Beta video started it was awesome be able to watch movies at home when you wanted instead of on the TV/Cinema. can even remember people carrying around those shoulder bag cell phones in early 90s.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yes I remember. Its when you had to man up and actually talk to a girl and not hide behind a phone and text. My phone had a cord, I could dial 0 and talk to an operator.... About anything. If I was bored to bad, find a stick and start whackin stuff or whatever. If I wanted to talk to a friend I had to get on my bike and go find them. There was no google just a library, with index cards lol it was like a manual internet. Omg I would to see a millennIal try and figure out an index card! Pre internet days were fun, more simple and you had to use your brain to figure something out. I wish we could go back to those days sometimes

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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