Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Historical Perspectives

Yep, this is me and my girlfriend in 1983, just two
years before we were wed..
Note the Adam Ant t-shirt I am wearing.

I recently read about a young family - husband, wife, and two kids – who, from April 2013 through April 2014, are living like it’s twenty seven years earlier, in 1986, the year they were born. The reason is to teach their young, technology-obsessed children what it was like to live in a time with “no computers, no tablets, no smart phones, no fancy coffee machines, no Internet, no cable, and – from the point of view of many tech-dependent folks – no life.”
They have banned any technology from post-1986.
And they dress the part, too.
What a bunch of crazies, eh? Thinking they can live in the past!
Wait – did I just say that??
Anyhow, my first reaction was “Really? "Back to" 1986? Somehow I never thought of 1986 as being so different from today. To me that year wasn't all that long ago. Not enough for major changes. But after reading a news article about what these people were doing I suppose it is a lot more different than I thought.
And that’s when my mind began to click and clack in such a way to help me put it all into perspective:
1986 – rotary phones - - - - 2013 – iphones/smart phones
1986 – encyclopedias - - - - 2013 – internet
1986 – folding paper maps - - - - 2013 – gps
1986 – vhs - - - - - - - - - - - 2013 – blueray/dvr/downloads
1986 – tablet of paper - - - - 2013 – tablet: a touch screen mobile computer
1986 – 35 mm and Polaroid Cameras - - - - 2013 - digital cameras
1986 – letter writing - - - - - 2013 – e-mail and texting
1986 – 19 “ TV - - - - - - - - 2013 – 60” plasma TV
1986 - radio - - - - - - - - - -  2013 - Sirius radio

Oh, and there’s plenty more changes, but you get the idea.
And then my historical mind took it a step further, and it steamed and hissed as I mentally placed myself in 1913 – a hundred years ago – and began to consider the changes from the same amount of time as the folks mentioned above: twenty seven years previous, from 1913 to 1886.
The most obvious of the changes hit me first, and that would be the automobile in 1913 in comparison to 1886, where the horse & carriage was the main mode of travel. And then there’s the electric light, which was literally in only a handful of homes in 1886, for gas lights still reigned. But by 1913, the electric light was in most urban homes and finding its way into rural homes more and more.
And speaking of electricity, by 1913 a full range of electrical appliances were in use in homes nationwide (again, mainly in the cities and larger towns): vacuums, washing machines, toasters, hot plates, ranges, flat irons, heaters, hair dryers, curling irons, and more.
How about the specialty local photographer in 1886 in comparison to the Brownie camera, which became available to all budding home photographers by the early 1900’s and proved to be very popular? Now anyone could take your picture!
Speaking of photographs, there was no such thing as moving pictures in 1886 as was being shown on movie screens across the U.S. in 1913.
Hey! How 'bout them flying machines!
Many folks had gramophones/phonographs/record players in 1913, while back in 1886, they were still an amazing oddity.
And, yes, the telephone had been around since 1876, but they remained a luxury throughout the 1880’s and the rest of the 19th century.

What a cool room, eh? My bedroom in 1980/81.
I probably still have that Pretenders poster and
Molly Hatchet cut out stashed away. I also see a Rachel Sweet
album to the left. I was a rocker of all sorts!
Because my concentration in history generally lies south of 1900, I rarely give much thought to the more recent social changes. In 1986 I was already married and making my way through adulthood, and I look back on that year and those times very fondly. In fact, I have plenty of home movies showing “everyday life” of the period, and it’s still difficult for me to comprehend that it was as long ago and so different than the way we live today.
But it really was a different time in so many ways.  
Who’da thought?



Ruth Torrijos said...

aSo true! lol I'm not even from the '80's! but this is so true! I watch a lot of old TV shows, so... BROWNING CAMERA! Oh my goodness! I've seen SO many ads for those! haha $3.19 downpayment for a $14.99 camera, right? lol Imagine putting a downpayment on such a small amount!

MissFifi said...

WOW did you bring me back LOL!!
I graduated high school in 1987 and I remember when CD players came out and how expensive they were. The music was some of the best back then. Fashion, only sometimes. I wonder if the family you mentioned is going to immerse themselves in the culture then. So much happened then and it was pretty fascinating.
In some ways, I feel like technology, as great as the advances are, has made people less communicative. Let me explain that I miss writing letters. I consider email the equivalent, but so many people use Facebook as a way to relay major events and random feelings and views now and it depersonalizes so much.