Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Pace of change is making me feel old, nostalgic
I was a boy in the 1960s and came of age in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
I remember an advertisement for McDonald’s restaurants in the early 1970s that touted “Change back from your dollar” when you ordered a hamburger, fries and small drink. And I chuckled when McDonald’s started serving breakfast in 1971 – like a hamburger joint could make eggs and pancakes.
The ’70s and ’80s were a simpler time. We grew up without self-service pay-at-the-pump gas and ATMs. And we used travel agents to book flights and hotel stays.
While in high school, I worked in the catalog department at the Sears store in Vernon Hills, Ill. (1979-80). People would order items from the catalog and pick them up at the store. Sears stopped printing its general catalog in 1993 as online sales took off. (See Sears Archives and Wall Street Journal.)
When I was in college, the federal government broke up the AT&T phone monopoly in 1984. People used to lease their phones like a cable TV box. After AT&T was split up into regional Bell operating companies, people could buy their own home phones.
From the late 1970s through the 1980s, my friends and I spent a lot of time in video game arcades. I wasted a lot of quarters on games like Space Invaders, Asteroids (see photo), Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Q-Bert. But home video game systems put an end to the arcades.
Students didn’t have personal computers when I went to college (1980-84). Many brought typewriters. The computers at my college, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, were mainframes that processed punch cards. Those machines were in high demand and were part of the coursework for science and business students.
We played music on vinyl LP records and cassette tapes in college. Compact Discs were just coming out then.
VCRs didn’t become mainstream until around the mid-1980s. Before then, if you missed a television episode, you had to wait for reruns or you were out of luck. Now VCRs are gone, replaced by digital video recorders and streaming online video.
Baby boomers like me are starting to wax nostalgic for all the things that are going away.
You can see it in the news stories about Kodak getting out of the camera and film businesses, and the disappearance of book stores.
Things on the endangered list include paper newspapers and magazines; the U.S. Postal Service; DVDs; alarm clocks and wrist watches.