Being a child of the eighties I grew up without the luxuries of laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Computers back when I was little were hefty machines which required almost an entire desk to support their sheer size and weight, there was nothing ‘portable’ about a PC back then…
I was around eight years old when we first got a computer – an Atari ST 520 which was hooked up to a small-ish Osaki television. The Atari was classed as a games console, though it was no use saving your game progress as although the Atari read floppy disks, it forgot almost everything it had ever done once the power had been pressed. Still, it was great fun using the joystick to play games like Bombjack, Pacman, Dizzy Treasure Island and all those classics which kids nowadays would no doubt laugh at.
Whilst the Atari was all about gaming, we also got ourselves a dot matrix printer and a hand-scanner which we used to scan incredibly pixelated images from – even as a young girl I was already a geek in the making!
A few years later I was incredibly lucky to get a ‘Sega Game Gear’, which was a hand-held, portable games console which either required plugging into the mains or at least eight AA batteries to play for a few hours… Whilst progress still couldn’t be saved, the games had progressed somewhat with the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog and Magic Boy. Even better, I had a special adaptor for the Game Gear which enabled me to watch terrestrial television with the aid of a gigantic aerial.
Eventually, we bought a family PC which had a couple of games including Theme Park but otherwise was used for work purposes. I clearly remember using software such as Windows 3.1, Microsoft Works and Lotus Notes to complete my homework whilst at secondary school.
A few years later we bought a 14.4k modem and began dialing up to the internet using AOL’s ’10 free hours’ whilst occupying our phone line. It wasn’t exactly fast but let me assure you it was fairly thrilling as a thirteen-year-old never having seen nor experienced the internet before!
Having being deafened by the hideous squealing, crackling, dialup process which sounded like an angry cat being forced down my phone line, I will never forget the sultry sound of Joanna Lumbly’s voice calmly announcing “You are online”, that and “You’ve Got Mail” which just for old times sake, I have added to my iPhone XS Max as my email alert sound!
Later still and many modems and PC upgrades down the line we had become custom to using the internet on a regular basis, although we still relied upon dialup services from Demon, Tiscali, Pipex and whoever was offering the cheapest deals at the time. It feels odd thinking back to those times, there was no 3G, 4G, or 5G, there was only Ali G and he wasn’t entirely impressive even if he worked alongside Madonna!
Floppy disks were still all the rage, though CDs were beginning to take off as an alternative storage solution with an option to read/write if you could afford a cd-writer! It was around this time that Mini Discs came into play and being Music mad I had to have one!
Mini-Discs didn’t last all that long though, as MP3s came around, enabling the ‘radio-cassette-record generation’ such as myself to download the latest tunes not necessarily legally through software such as Napster and Limewire.
Once downloaded, the MP3s could be played through software such as Winamp which had some seriously awesome skins, though it wasn’t until a few years later that MP3s became a portable option which I was going to suggest was thanks to Apple and their legendary iPOD but my husband gave me ‘the glare’ as he disagrees…
By this point we had reached Windows 95 or 98 perhaps, either way, things were looking a little less pixelated, we were still miles from HD however.
Believe it or not, social media wasn’t really ‘a thing’ back then unless you downloaded software such as mIRC (Internet Relay Chat), ICQ (I Seek You) or were willing to use internet chat rooms provided by your ISP (internet service provider). I spent quite some time lurking around ‘Undernet’ or ‘DalNet’ chatting to my friends dependent upon when my folks required the phone line.
There was no Google, there was no Facebook, there was no Twitter, no Instagram, no Snapchat and certainly no YouTube! If you wanted to search for something then you’d be asking Jeeves, yelling for Yahoo or getting lucky with Lycos…
The internet had become more popular by this point and people were beginning to migrate from fax to email, that and to create their very own websites with services such as AngelFire and 121. Meanwhile, shopping online became more accepted with the likes of Amazon’s online book store and eBay (the internets first auction house).
It was around this time that blogging first came about, I personally began by using a snazzy, social website aimed towards teenagers called Bolt. I later moved from Bolt to LiveJournal, where I first came across CSS coding to create pretty, pink blog themes. I rather enjoyed writing although given that I was an angsty teenager, much of what I wrote was probably drivel.
Socialising online was now ‘the in thing’ with sites such as MySpace and FriendsReunited striking up business, it was around this point that Microsoft Messenger also came about, another social service which enabled anyone with a Hotmail or Microsoft based email address to correspond directly through instant messaging.
Not long after other popular messenger services such as Yahoo Messenger and AOL Messenger arrived on the scene, sending ICQ and IRC to the internet graveyard.
Whilst it was far easier to communicate by this point, mobile phones were still the size of house bricks and barely anyone other than businessmen had such things.
It wasn’t until I was fifteen that I first got a mobile phone, it was a Motorola Vodaphone brick which had a small, green and black screen upon which it was possible to make calls or to send an sms message at 12p a time! There were no games, barely any ring tones and more often than not, there was no signal whatsoever!
A year or so later I upgraded to a BT Cellnet Philips Diga, yet another brick with a basic screen which had the option for longer SMS messages and free calls to one landline number – swanky! I then went through a succession of mobile phones including yet another BT Philips handset, a Nokia 3310 (when games finally came about with the success of Snake), a Nokia 3330 and many many more Nokias including the 8210.
I then finally got my first ever color-screen mobile phone, a Samsung T100 which flipped open ‘Bond Style’ and had a range of games including my very own cyber pet – as you can imagine I was fairly pleased with my purchase.
Cameras and video cameras were now becoming digital and services such as truprint and snapfish were becoming a popular option for printing photos. It was around this time that Google and YouTube came into play and I created my first-ever Vlog!
During this time, I was at University studying for my degree with a rather dated and chunky PC (with a 17″ monitor which sat pride of place upon my desk). It wasn’t portable nor preferable given that I was driving up and down the motorway most weekends. My parents, therefore, made things a little easier and very kindly bought me my first laptop – a Compaq Armada with Windows ME! It was the bizz!
With ADSL (broadband) now available as an ‘at home option’ I required further hardware in the form of a chunky, wireless adapter card which slotted into the side of my laptop, enabling me to finally become ‘mobile whilst online’. Not only did I have the ‘Sex In The City’ style laptop, but I also had the capability to watch the TV series on my very own DVD player which I had cracked of course as VHS finally died a death.
Games consoles had certainly upped the ante with the Sony Playstation 1 being all the rage, that and the Gameboy Advance should you fancy a hand-held alternative. I was lucky to have both of these devices and fondly remember playing Mario Kart and bouncing around on a dance mat playing ‘Konami’ dance games.
A few years later I moved onto playing with the Nintendo Game Cube and following this switched from consoles to my newest addition – a Dell Inspiron laptop, upon which I first became a ‘Sims’ addict.
Having finished and qualified from my degree, I returned home yearning for yet another mobile device as camera phones were first introduced.
I went through various handsets over the years including the Sony Ericsson T610, another Nokia something or other, a Samsung D400 and a Samsung D600, all of which I used to capture images upon, said photos were then stored in the phones very limited memory until either tethered to a PC with very specific software to remove said images or deleted – it wasn’t ideal but I found another option… Moblog!
I signed up for the moblog service back in 2004, whilst sending my pictures to this service was costly it was worthwhile as it offered a storage solution come picture-blog which I rather enjoyed compiling. I’d like to think of Moblog as the first Instagram, only a little less popular.
Whilst my phone had now replaced my camera, I still required storage for Music for which I used an Archos MP3 player – I’d have loved an Apple iPOD but they were so pricey back then!
As for gaming- the Sony PlayStation and Nintendo Game Cube had been exchanged for an XBox 360, the Gameboy Advance had long gone and was now replaced with a Nintendo DS Lite. Games consoles suddenly came thick and fast at this point as Sony, and Microsoft began battling the market.
Nintendo was nowhere to be seen in terms of consoles, that was until they introduced the Nintendo Wii – the first console to get people off the sofa and up on their feet – well should you fancy buying the balance board which took active computer play to a whole new level. We adored our Nintendo Wii though we upgraded for the XBox Kinnect, a fully immersive option which we never really fully immersed ourselves into!
Back in the land of laptops I had now made my way through two further Dell models and was now using a beautiful Sony Vaio which was my pride and joy.
Facebook was now a fad, followed shortly by Twitter which seemed well-timed considering that I’d had kids by this point in my life and had just bagged my first smartphone – an IPhone 3GS which literally had an app for almost anything so it seemed…
I wasn’t all that bothered by consoles nor gameplay unless it involved angry birds, farming or crushing candy! I’d much rather sit and fiddle with my laptop or my phone, which now had the option to take not only pictures but short video footage, making my once much-loved JVC Everio redundant.
With smartphones and tablets (which we had collected three of by this point!) now dominating the market, YouTube suddenly exploded – no longer was the service a small community – it was now the in-thing that every man and his dog was uploading to and watching.
As technology expanded and evolved gadgets galore began to hit the market, one of which I couldn’t resist from buying. The Nabaztag was an incredibly cute, bunny-shaped, oversized version of Alexa which could alert you to new emails, read the news, follow RSS feeds and play radio stations Worldwide. Sadly it wasn’t quite so well funded nor as popular as Alexa and after a year or so became bin fodder.
Over the next few years, I experimented with a range of smartphones including the HTC Desire but always went back to Apple and have had the 4S, 6 Plus, 7 Plus and most recently upgraded to the Apple IPhone XS Max which really is everything – a phone, a computer, a music device, a camera, a video camera and much, much more.
I have such a love for Apple that I eventually saved enough pennies to hand over my latest wide-screen, deep pink, Dell Inspiron and purchase an Apple Macbook Pro, something I have always wanted and seemed to make sense given that I had an Apple iPhone and an Apple IPad (Mini).
I most definitely agree with the phrase ‘Once you get a Mac you don’t go back’ as I adore my Macbook and couldn’t imagine life without it!
My son, much-like myself is a geek in the making. He purchased his first-ever games console last week – a Nintendo Switch, a hybrid console which can be either handheld or docked in its ‘toaster’ to be played on the television.
Both J & E are tech-savvy having being brought up with the luxuries of iPADS, and laptops, they will never understand nor know the battery power or patience required for the likes of vinyl LPs, cassettes, VHS videos, Teletext, CDs, mini discs, and even DVDs as like so much media, they too are now facing technological redundancy.
Crikey – our kids don’t even have to wait to watch the television or to listen to Music, they can pause TV should they fancy or they can just hit the demand button and do exactly that -DEMAND anything and everything they fancy!
It’s quite scary listening to a five-year-old giving Alexa what for, our kids have literally everything at their fingertips or say so- God help them if there should ever be a blackout!
Looking back at this rather lengthy post, technology has certainly moved on since I was a kid. I no longer feel tethered to my desk, I am now fully mobile with my phone, my laptop and should I fancy playing a game or two – my Nintendo 3DS! It’s crazy how the World has changed in such a short space of time, imagine the technology that our children will see in their lifetime, imagine all the things that the future has to bring!