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'You Had to Be There': As Technologies Change Ever Faster, the Knowledge of Obsolete Things Becomes Ever Sweeter (theatlantic.com) 546

Alexis C. Madrigal, writing for The Atlantic: There's a question going around on Twitter, courtesy of the writer Matt Whitlock: "Without revealing your actual age, what's something you remember that if you told a younger person they wouldn't understand?" This simple query has received, at this date, 18,000 responses. Here is just a tiny selection: A/S/L, pagers, manual car windows, "be kind, please rewind", "Waiting by the radio for my song to come on so I could record it on a cassette tape", floppy disks, the smell of purple mimeograph ink, WordPerfect, busy signals, paper maps, Winamp, smoking in the hospital, the card catalogue. Our favorite response, "The remote to change the channel on the TV was attached to a box that was attached to the TV", which elicited a response, "What about the remote that was really a clicker... In that it clicked like a frog toy",
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'You Had to Be There': As Technologies Change Ever Faster, the Knowledge of Obsolete Things Becomes Ever Sweeter

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  • first (Score:5, Funny)

    by bigger ( 133511 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @03:47PM (#55638617)

    Remember when calling 'first' was cool?

  • by 31415926535897 ( 702314 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @03:54PM (#55638677) Journal

    What is this, the yearbook?

    Oh crap, it just hit me, are we all about to die?

  • Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @03:54PM (#55638689)

    Pagers: doctors and first responders still use them. Some work via satellite, meaning there are no network dead spots.

    Pretty sure I've been in a car with manual windows (and manual transmission, even!) in the last year.

    Busy signals? Pretty common when calling a business -- once there's a call on call waiting and one on the line, 3rd caller gets a busy.

    Paper maps -- maybe road maps aren't as common, but any hiker typically gets a paper maps of a park, and maps of buildings like museums are often given out.

    • once there's a call on call waiting and one on the line, 3rd caller gets a busy.

      Multiple lines and a PBX are cheap these days. It's almost a rounding error among the other typical expenses.

      You can even do VoIP with a virtual PBX to avoid an upfront capex.

    • I prefer a manual transmission. They are hard (but not impossible) to find these days. I am stuck with an auto for the time being however.
    • If you learn to drive and pass your test in an automatic, you are not eligible to drive manual in UK. Only those who have to have automatic (usually medical reasons, but there are those who deliberately choose it) learn in a car that has it.

      • My dad made me learn on a manual. Itâ(TM)s a useful skill to have. I still drive a manual to this day. Makes a dandy car theft deterrent too.
    • I drove to work today in a manual car. It's only 5 years old too.
      I bought it so that my son could learn to drive one, but he's a lazy so-and-so and won't learn.
    • by Shotgun ( 30919 )

      Pretty sure I've been in a car with manual windows (and manual transmission, even!) in the last year.

      Been in one? Hell, I bought one earlier this year.

    • by havana9 ( 101033 )

      Pretty sure I've been in a car with manual windows (and manual transmission, even!) in the last year.

      In Europe most car are sold with manual. In Italy you are required to make the driving exam.
      Anyway small cars like the Fiat 126 [wikipedia.org] with an engine ripped from an underpowered motorbike have to use a manual to have a decent torque. Actualy the first model of 126 and the older 500 and 600 have an unsyncronized manual gear. yuo had to do "Double clutching". Anyway I have always had manuals, becaue I haved had small or compact cars, made by Fiat or Renault.

      Busy signals? Pretty common when calling a business -- once there's a call on call waiting and one on the line, 3rd caller gets a busy.

      Paper maps -- maybe road maps aren't as common, but any hiker typically gets a paper maps of a park, and maps of buildings like museums are often given out.

      I have a VoIP landline with unlimited national calls on ot

  • by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2017q4@virtual-estates.net> on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @03:55PM (#55638693) Homepage Journal

    Technology my tail! What about things changed by our caring, loving, and omniscient government? When traveling — by air or train — without registering with authorities was possible? When being mistreated at the airport would cause the mistreater to be disciplined, rather than the victim — arrested [copblock.org]?

    When one could buy health insurance for about $140/month (just over $200 in today's money)? Remember?..

    • Pretty easy to take the train without ID in the US -- just buy Amtrak tickets using a pre-paid credit card. If you go up to the window, they might ask for ID -- last time, I pulled out an expired university ID just to fuck with the guy and he grunted something and sold me the ticket. I've never been asked for ID on the train itself.

      Commuter trains never ask for ID, nor would it really be possible for them to do so due to time constraints.

      • by mi ( 197448 )

        I've never been asked for ID on the train itself.

        I have. Conductors do not have to ask for it, but may choose to — at their sole discretion. And you must comply or they can call police and kick you off the train at the next stop.

        Commuter trains never ask for ID, nor would it really be possible for them to do so due to time constraints.

        Just [cnn.com] you [motherjones.com] wait [buses.org].

        • Yep, these articles were from 2011-2012. TSA attempted to make themselves relevant in this area -- Amtrak politely told them to go fuck off, that they already have their own security and don't need more.
          • by mi ( 197448 )

            Amtrak politely told them to go fuck off, that they already have their own security and don't need more.

            And yet, Amtrak (itself a government agency) continues to ask your name, and to assert the right to check your ID at any time. They constantly remind passengers about it on the stations too.

            More to the point, the commuter rail, buses, etc. aren't safe either. You can be asked to identify yourself — on pain of being denied boarding or worse. The dreaded "papers please" has materialized and history wi

            • No: it started during the reign of G. W. Bush's idiot son. I grant you that Obama didn't do enough to roll it back. BTW- I've taken commuter rail in the US regularly in the past 10 years, and have never been asked for ID and usually pay cash for tickets. I suspect the risk of being required to show ID is about as high as when walking in public -- some cop could harass you for "acting suspiciously" or whatever, but this isn't common.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by mi ( 197448 )

                it started during the reign of G. W. Bush's idiot son.

                Bush signed the law creating TSA [wikipedia.org], I'll grant you that. But it was meant to merely transfer airport security from private firms to government employees (a Fascist streak so common to all people in government [ronpaulinstitute.org]).

                Obama didn't do enough to roll it back.

                Obama not only didn't roll it back, he presided over the Agency asserting a role much wider than imagined 10 years earlier. The agency smugly reminded [nytimes.com] us all, that it is in charge of all transportation — n

  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @03:58PM (#55638731)

    Oh yea, I lived that one. It was one step up from the crank, talk to the switchboard operator thing...

  • There was a time when a President of the USA accepting money from foreign governments was serious enough that he'd at least try to hide it.

    • There was a time when a President of the USA accepting money from foreign governments was serious enough that he'd at least try to hide it.

      So do you have evidence of a US President accepting money from a foreign government?

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @04:01PM (#55638747)

    At a previous job, we used to get NOAA ocean data on tape. Along with the tape came a piece of paper telling you what the header and record sizes were on that tape because none of it was standardized - the (FORTRAN) program I'd written to read the tape had to be tweaked each time.

  • BananaCom, ICQ, Powwow, The Palace, Tsunami, connecting to BBSs after midnight to download .mod songs, Dr. Sbaitso, Fantavision.... I could go on and on

  • Every month or two, it seemed, when the TV started having problems, my Dad and I would take all of its glass tubes out of their sockets and take them down to the drug store or hardware store to test them. Usually, we found one that was weak or bad, and bought a replacement on the spot. My Dad preferred RCA tubes, but I liked the look of the Philips boxes better. We took them all home and put them back into the TV. It always worked after we did that. A couple of times, while I was still in grade school, I wa

  • More and more roads are going electronic toll only. Fortunately, there's still generally an option to buy and top up the toll tag itself with cash.
    • by SteveSgt ( 3465 )

      Communities will only eliminate the cash option if they want to totally discourage tourism by automobile.

      • Well, we're already doing this by Draconian border rules for tourists to the US.

        This being said, availability of cash payment options is one of the benefits of illegal immigration in the US. As long as there's an "unbanked" population, cash won't entirely disappear, especially not in areas that have a large such population.

      • What are you on about? I've travelled all over the world without worrying about crap like "cash" at a toll machine and never once considered the fact that I don't need to carry around useless local currency as a discouragement.

        • by SteveSgt ( 3465 )

          So you have bought the transponder for a dozen different municipalities, or have you just not gone anywhere that only accepts pre-payment by those transponders. You apparently had some vending machine to stick your card into?

          There are systems around the USA where if you cross a bridge or drive on a toll road without a transponder, they will photo your license plate and fine you for toll evasion.

        • by gtall ( 79522 )

          A wad of local currency can come in handy. Once in Poland I had left my passport at the hotel, but I found this out on the train to Warsaw. I got off at the next stop and attempted to purchase a ticket back to the town of the hotel from the woman behind the glass at the station and promptly handed her my credit card. No good, I try a second card. Nope. A third card, nope. I didn't speak Polish and she didn't speak English. After much English and Polish back and forth, when I finally cottoned on she couldn't

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      Here they made it difficult to pre-pay rather than allow automatic billing... you had to putz around on the website and read a long document to figure out how. Also, if you pre-pay and your account runs dry, they fine you more than they would charge a pay-by-plate driver who never entered the system, which is bullshit.

      I think they have a cash option even still, but what they really want and try to get is the ability to draw money directly out of your account. After all, what could possibly go wrong? ....

      • Here, literally every pharmacy and cell store takes money for toll refills. You can also buy pre-paid toll tags and don't have to tie them to a plate # at all -- nice if you have a rental car and don't want to pay the exorbitant fees charged by the car company.
  • by Nick ( 109 )
    I remember all of these examples
  • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @04:07PM (#55638807)
    Whichever of us kids was closest to the TV.
    • Two knobs. One for UHF Chanel's (2-13+VHS) and VHS (14-72?) you would switch the knob to the correct channel and then there a dial behind the know to adjust the analog single to get optimal strength. If you played with the dial enough sometimes you can pick up channels outside your normal viewing range, they will be fuzzy but you can get some sound and image.

      • >VHS (14-72?)

        At one point it went into the 80s. Later on the high channels got reassigned to 60 (In Toronto, CITY-TV started out as 79 and was later moved to 57). I'm not sure if that was due to problems with interference or simply a re-purposing of the frequency range.

    • Whichever of us kids was closest to the TV.

      Also, voice-child-interface-latency aside, TV channel changes where *INSTANT*.

      None of that waiting a second in case you're typing a multi-digit channel number; which was bad enough...

      And none of that taking for f-u-c-k-i-n-g E-V-A-H HDMI/HDCP/whatever-it-is negotiation/hand-shaking.

      Bloody modern technology! Back in my day... etc... we may have only had three TV channels to choose, and even those only transmitted during the day... but we was happy then!

      Lawn etc etc.

  • (1) Programming was done on a typewriter (a what?) like device that punched holes into paper cards, one line per card, or a paper tape, that you fed into another machine, etc ... (Note: I still have an actual, regular, typewriter at home.)

    (2) The term "dial-up" meant you manually dialed the phone -- on a phone with an actual dial -- then put the receiver into a device when you heard the wobble tone. (Pro Tip: You could also dial the phone by quickly pressing/releasing the hook: 5 times for 5, pause, 3 t

  • my thing young people wouldnâ(TM)t understand is the time before things like chain topics âoewithout revealing your age post some old shitâ where front page tech news.
  • Degaussing monitors. Strafe Jumping.
  • Not just that TV had antennas but when you changed the TV channel, you had to adjust the antenna to get the picture to come in.
    • TVs still have antennas if you have over-the-air HDTV. I pay for a very basic Internet package, so I don't have a cable box. I have an HDTV antenna used to pick up signals -- gets the basics like CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, and PBS.

      I watch maybe an hour of TV per week, so dropping $60/mo+ on a cable package doesn't make sense to me.

  • There were no home computers, no Internet, no cell phones (of any kind), no CD/DVDs, no (home) videotape, no cable TV, only 4 television channels: ABC, CBS, NBC (on VHF) and PBS (on UHF) that you received via an antenna on a television set with actual (and only) knobs to change the channels.

    And I'm just talking about the early 1970s - when I was 10.

    • And if you woke up too early, there was nothing on. Not that there were no interesting programmes, there was literally no show available to watch; just test patterns or static.

  • by mark_reh ( 2015546 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @04:24PM (#55639017) Journal

    to play on my Edison Standard Model B player.

  • Most new TV for the Past 20 years or so, don't show static. They just give you the blue screen. Back in the old days if the channel wasn't available you get static visually and audio. Often very jarring noise as there isn't anything limiting the volume.

  • actually looking at the neon vacancy/no vacancy signs when deciding where to sleep on a long road trip instead of booking ahead online, science museums that had motorized miniatures and hands-on exhibits instead of a bunch of touchscreens and videos, being able to learn something by watching the History, Discovery, or Learning channels, TV news that was actual news instead of a bunch of people sitting around a table in NY or DC talking at each other, newspapers with actual information content, phone calls t
    • When driving out West, outside of major cities, I found there was little (or negative) benefit from booking online. You could book a motel for $50+tax online, or show up with cash and give the desk guy $40 for the night. After a while, I just started to look for "vacancy" signs. This was in 2015.
  • Oh...and using the Univac CP-642B from my first duty station...the one with the Front panel of Control registers where we entered the boot strap sequence in assembly code so it could go out and access the 7-track tape unit with the System Control Program(SCP) tape and load up the OS we used at the time.

    http://ed-thelen.org/comp-hist... [ed-thelen.org]

    Good Times...Good Times...

  • by Tempest_2084 ( 605915 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @04:27PM (#55639047)
    It sounds stupid, but sometimes I honestly miss being bored. When you got bored you got creative to keep yourself entertained. That sort of creativity by necessity has died with the rise of the Internet and 24x7 continual entertainment. Kids growing up today will never know that sort of creativity.

    I also miss being able to go completely off the grid. If you wanted to get away from everything (and everyone) you actually could. Now days there's really no easy way to do that. You're always under surveillance and you're always tethered to 'the system' somehow (your phone, your credit cards, etc.).

    The last thing I really miss is having conversations with random people. Yeah that seems strange to say, but 'Back in the day' when you were waiting in a line or at a bus stop or something, you'd generally make friendly conversation with the person next to you, if just to pass the time. Today no one actually talks to each other anymore, everyone has their face down in a phone (I'm guilty of it myself) or have their headphones on. We're losing the art of human interaction. Hell, I've been with a group of friends who were actually texting each other rather than talking even though we were all right there. It was both eye opening and sad. Those days are gone I suppose.
  • Slashdot has become Facebook.

    I can't count the number of times I've seen this question/meme on my FB newsfeed.

    And yes, I can count, I was a math major waaaay back when before I became a CS major.

    • > And yes, I can count, I was a math major waaaay back when

      So was I, yet decimal places are my mortal enemies...

    • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @05:10PM (#55639525)

      Slashdot has become Facebook.

      I can't count the number of times I've seen this question/meme on my FB newsfeed.

      And yes, I can count, I was a math major waaaay back when before I became a CS major.

      It's not Facebook or anything in particular.

      South Park sort of nailed it on the head with their Memberberries [wikia.com] episodes.

      There's been a huge wave of nostalgia going on in the last few years. Remakes, reboots, alternate universe settings, etc.

      We got remakes, reboots or sequels for Star Wars, Blade Runner, Jurassic Park, Jumanji, etc.
      We got classic videogame consoles from Nintendo and others.

      I think Agent Smith was sort of telling the truth in The Matrix when he said the peak of human evolution was around the mid 1990's.

      After that, we had businesses, marketing and governments take over everything, so everything is depressing and sucks, thus the urge to recall the "simpler modern times" is very strong... and businesses are marketing the hell out of it while the government is making notes of who's eating memberberries.

  • Heathkit

    CB Radio

    8mm video cassettes

    MiniDisc audio recorders

    Cameras that used film.

  • Most reliable server OS....... .... in the world
  • Was when I was in high school - made a few extra bucks doing keypunch. Tedious as hell.
  • My current car has manual car windows and I would be willing to pay a premium for that feature in the future. Electric windows fail often.

  • When I was a kid we'd play army with realistic looking plastic guns or Daisy BB guns. Almost every kid I knew had a BB gun (except me... dad: "you'll shoot your eye out kid!", because he almost did when he was a kid). Older kids were getting 22 rifles. Schools had rifle clubs and you could bring your gun to school. Plinking after school wasn't a big deal. And mass shootings were extremely rare (no 24 hour news cycle to beat you over the head with it either).

  • ... from Radio Shack to store/recall BASICA programs (using the Kansas City method of mod/demod) fot the TRS-80.

    • I think on the Model I they ran something like 300 baud. I remember playing a TRS-80 game that came on a cassette. It came with a flyer with step-by-step instructions on how to load the game and a quip at the end that said something like "loading will take awhile. Go make a sandwich."

  • Oh the fun we had carefully typing each card, one mistake and you had to go to a new one. You fed your cards into the reader and listened to the musical whirrr as it zipped through the cards. Then you carefully took them out and put them into your box because if you got one card misplaced, your program wouldn't work. Then about an hour later, your output would magically appear in a folder deposited by some computer gnome. Scan the oversized output which included a listing of your program and its output (if

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @04:49PM (#55639341)

    ... on cable TV.

  • by coolmoose25 ( 1057210 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @04:56PM (#55639399)
    You know, the monsters like that 70's show's Vista Cruiser. Mine was a Buick Le Sabre Estate Wagon, with the rear facing 3rd row seats. For reference, see the movie "Used Cars"
  • Clicker? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @05:16PM (#55639579)

    When I was a child I WAS the remote, you insensitive clod!!

  • by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <.gro.oc-onpt. .ta. .ydenneks.> on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @05:19PM (#55639599) Homepage

    "It's like the internet, only local"

    "Why? Couldn't you connect to a BBS across the country?"

    "Well, you could, but you'd be hit with long distance charges like you wouldn't believe"

    "Long distance charges?"

    "Damn it, get off my lawn"

    • by slew ( 2918 )

      "Well, you could, but you'd be hit with long distance charges like you wouldn't believe"

      Clearly, you weren't doing it correctly ;^) There were "numbers" you could dial get around that... ;^)

  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Tuesday November 28, 2017 @05:32PM (#55639713)
    EPROMs you had to erase under ultraviolet light
    Keying in the bootloader on your minicomputer using front panel switches
    Taking your card deck to the "computer center", then waiting a few hours to go get your printout
    Turning off the TV and seeing the picture collapse to a little bright dot that slowly fades away
    Mylar punch tape for those programs you either couldn't afford to lose or that you loaded over and over and over again
    Wall-mounted punch tape rewinders
    Computers with a vast array of front-panel light/buttons representing registers, which you could alter by pressing them
    Calculators that had stations wired to a base unit via half-inch-thick cables, and that cost more than your car
    Guys who'd come to your house with dairy products and leave them on your doorstep
    Drive-in movie theaters
  • by dwarfking ( 95773 ) on Wednesday November 29, 2017 @07:58AM (#55642879) Homepage

    So many of the comments here talk about technologies from the 80's an later that I have to give my story.

    I remember back in 1969 sitting in front of the television in July watching the news on the first Apollo moon landing. When the space ship was returning to Earth I recall the anticipation of where it would actually splash down in the Pacific but not totally sure where.

    Then in 1981 I watched as the Columbia space shuttle launched from Florida and 2 days later landed exactly on target in California.

    And sadly in 2003 I watched the same shuttle burn up.

    And then watched as the shuttle program was shutdown.

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