The Old Days

This Cold Y Generation thing has me thinking.

Because technology has advanced so quickly in recent decades, the world I spent my first 10 years in and the current world seem like they should be separated by 40 years, not 15.

A description of life and technology in the 80’s seems to have a lot more in common with one from the 60’s than with one from today. I find it painfully easy to picture my future kids laughing at how archaic my youth sounds. The truth is, it would sound like another generation to a current 17-year-old.

I remember my second-grade teacher showing us a black and white Apple IIE in the school computer lab and telling me that it was like a typewriter except it moved to the next line automatically as you typed and you could make it perfect before you printed it, and that it scared a lot of people. A 17-year-old would expect to hear this from their father, not someone a decade older.

So a little lesson for the non-Cold people in Generation Y:

You want to meet your friend an hour before a baseball game outside the stadium:

1988: You set a time and a place. Hopefully there’s a nearby restaurant you both know or a well-known landmark. You plan to meet at 6pm, and decide that if something goes wrong and one person’s not there, you will try back at 6:20, and again at 6:40 if necessary. If there’s still confusion, both people will make sure they have a dime so they can use a payphone to call a common friend whom they know will be at home and the friend will mediate the confusion. Before you leave the house you need to make sure you have your map and your directions. If you don’t know the directions, you need to get them from someone who has been there before.

2008: You plan to meet around 6pm outside the stadium somewhere. You plug the stadium into your GPS or phone so you know where to go, or at worst you print out Google maps directions. When you get there you text your friend where you are and in a few minutes you’ve met up.

You want to talk with a friend who is living in a foreign country:

2008: You email them, or talk to them over Skype.

1988: You call them by dialing a lot of digits and it costs you $650.

You want to know the weather:

2008: You go to and see the whole week’s forecast.

1988: You go outside to see what the weather is. Or you dial 936-1212.

You want to hear a song but you don't have it:

2008: You download it to iTunes or to your iPod and you're listening to it 4 seconds later.

1988: You go to the store, buy the tape, and fast-forward and rewind until you find it on the tape.

You want to invest money in the stock market:

1988: You have to get a stockbroker and mail them a check. If you want to do any research first, you need to use the business section of the local newspaper, which won’t have what you’re looking for.

2008: The stock market is upsetting and you put your cash in a shoebox at home.

You want to know what year Abraham Lincoln was born:

2008: You google “lincoln born” and you learn the date in 4 seconds.

1988: You ask people around you and if no one knows you ask if there’s an encyclopedia anywhere and if there’s not you go to the library and if it’s nighttime you have to guess. 1805?

You want to keep in touch with a random person from your high school whom you were kind of friends with but not really:

2008: You friend them on Facebook and start an exchange. When you’re in the same city you can send them a message and get a drink.

1988: You don’t. You never see them again.

You’re a Red Sox fan and you want to give your Yankee fan friend shit:

You don’t because he’d laugh at you and make you feel bad about yourself.

2008: You don’t because it’s too easy and you feel bad.

You’re out at a bar at 12:15am on a Saturday and you want to get in touch with a girl you know to see what she’s up to:

You can’t. You go home alone like a loser and get McDonalds on the way.

2008: You send a text that says, “What’s up?” She doesn’t want to see you so she doesn’t write back. You go home alone like a loser and get McDonalds on the way. In the morning she texts you, “Sorry babe passed out early last night hope u had fun!”

You want to run a tutoring company:

You correspond with parents and tutors over email constantly. Tutors log lesson notes on your system after every lesson so you can keep up with what’s happening with each student. You train tutors with a PowerPoint presentation and communicate with them through group emails. You can check office messages at any time with your cell phone and call people back on the spot. You can coordinate things with your full-time employees over email and phone easily and continuously. All of your accounting is on the program Quickbooks and all family and company data is stored online, along with all relevant forms and documents. You recruit new tutors online, applicants apply online and it’s easy to view maps of where all tutors and students live using a tool on your system. Interested families can learn more about you or get in touch by going to your website.

1988: I have no idea how anyone ran a tutoring company—or any business whatsoever—in 1988.

You’re in the kitchen. Your girlfriend bought brown rice and you want to make it but you don’t know how. You’re pretty sure it involves boiling water:

You google, “how cook brown rice” and 4 seconds later you see instructions.

You put way too much water in and botch the rice.

You want to watch TV:1988: You turn on the TV and flip around, looking for something you want to watch.

2008: You turn on the TV and all the shows you ever want to watch are neatly stacked and waiting for you.

You want to know how many strikeouts Jamie Moyer had in the game today:

2008: You go on and get the answer in 4 seconds.

1988: You wait until the next morning and then find out in the paper.

You want to see Pele’s bicycle kick:

You go on YouTube and you can see it in 4 seconds.

1988: You imagine it.

You need to research something or learn about something:

2008: You go online and learn all about it easily.

1988: You go to the library and search the hideous card catalogue to find publications or encyclopedia entries about the subject, spend a few hours, and learn one fifth of what you would have learned in 10 minutes in 2008.

You come back from a trip and want to show people pictures:

2008: You come back, load the photos onto the computer, delete the embarrassing ones, throw them on one of the photo sites, and everyone you know can see them next time they’re on the computer.

1988: You come back, go to the photo store, give the guy all your film, and wait a couple days. When it’s done, you pay for the developing, and the only people who see the photos are people that come to your house. Instead of flipping through them really quickly and staring at certain ones for a long time, they have to go through them all excruciatingly slowly while listening to your stories, and they can’t stop and stare for a longer time at the ones they want to.

You want to type a paper in college:2008: You type the paper, edit it, print it out, and sprint as fast as you can to hand it in by the 1pm deadline.

1988: You type up the paper on a ridiculous typewriter, you can’t edit it unless you type the whole thing again, and you don’t sprint anywhere because you’re 6 years old and you don’t know what a paper is.

You want to be productive:

You start working on something.

2008: You can't be productive because there are too many ways to procrastinate.

You want to sell the super-expensive, flashy watch your ex-girlfriend bought you because you never wear it and because she told you when you were dating that whenever she breaks up with a guy, she gives everything he bought her to her sister. This makes you angry every time you think about it:

You go on eBay or Craigslist and sell it easily.

1988: The watch sits there on your shelf for years, and every time you look at it, you think about your ex-girlfriend’s sister wearing all the things you bought your ex-girlfriend and you wish you had bought her more non-material things like that cooking class that she really liked although that random stranger at the class later wrote on a message board that she had seen you two together in a cooking class and then people laughed at you because you were at a cooking class with your girlfriend.

You have a lot of random things you want to get off your chest:

2008: You write this blog.

1988: You talk a lot. Or you write a journal that no one but you will ever read.

So there you have it. None of this is even to mention career specific comparisons—I’m sure an engineer or an animator or a stock trader would have a lot to say about 1988 vs. 2008. The real question is—what will a 2028 technology comparison to 2008 say? Someone in 1988 could have tried to write a predictive comparison like this, but they would not have even imagined most of what actually exists now. So you have to assume that we can’t even really conceive of life in 2028. And definitely not 2048. By 2068 I’ll be 87 and technology will frighten me and I’ll just want people to leave me alone with my old archaic iPhone 8.0.


Anonymous said...

I'm 22 so I'm slightly younger than the cold Y generation but I still remember a little bit of what life was like before cell phones and computers.

I remember whenever we would get lost driving somewhere when I wsas little, my dad would have to keep pulling over to look at his big map to figure out where we were going. I'm so thankful we have GPS's now. By 2028 they'll probably invent a car that automatically drives you where you want to go and you don't even have to steer.

Anonymous said...

Above coment reminds me of Lexus on
A6 which in turn reminds me of ...

2007 Watch Frank and Tim flail arms
on Soft Scrub ad , while initially
stunned ,by 10th view ,very funny.
Denied further viewing when video
removed from net also aired on PAY
so no recording.

2008 Discover on YouTube n' roll on
floor as you flail arms again like
a pair of complete .......s. Humor
somehow enhanced by blog awareness.

Remember ,pain only temporary what
goes up on film permanent.

Every Generation now .....

ps 1988 Tape rules , you would have
had anonymity. 2008 Tape rules.

Anonymous said...

Technology does have its advantages... hehehe.. I can't even remember how we manage to meet up with friends before we had mobile phones...

nice one tim.

Anonymous said...

Uh Tim, were there no TV's in 1988, pretty sure you could watch ESPN for scores in 1988 or you could catch the weather on local news or CNN.

Newman said...

Tim, have you ever looked at one of the booklets that have information about the year you were born?

Jill said...

Tim, I found your old blog while waiting for a new post to appear on Waitbutwhy. I must admit I really like the old Tim -- he's less guarded and not afraid to express his personality. It's as if new Tim feels he has to tone himself down to appeal to a broader audience, but honestly, don't worry about it. Let us have your full Timness, we can handle it, I promise.

Anyway, the reason I wanted to comment is that it's 2017 now and I can't think of anything in your list that has changed substantially from 2008, which is pretty interesting. We're almost halfway to 2028.