20 Questions I Have For People Who Were In Their 20s Before Internet Existed

I got my first screen name in the 3rd grade. It was Sammi123. I didn’t even spell my name with an “i,” nor did I really go by “Sammy,” so I have no idea where that screen name came from (nor do I understand where glitrgrl88, messedcheerleadr, & dancer4lyfe45 came from later in life either) but whatever – this has nothing to do with the rest of the “article.” The point is that I’ve been messed up in this world of technology and instant communication since I was, like, 8 years old and it has posed a huge problem for me: I cannot survive without technology.

That’s why it is so hard for me to understand how people lived before the Internet. And cell phones. And texting. And Google Maps. And blogs. And Tinder. Seriously. How did people do it???

Channing_Tatum_-_Confused

Below are many questions I have for people who spent their twenties living without all of the above things mentioned. And before you start rolling your eyes, I know there are actual answers to all of these questions and I know our generation (and basically every generation to come) is privileged beyond belief to not actually KNOW the answers to these questions, but hey — that’s the point. Enjoy.

1. How did you make plans? But seriously. HOW DID YOU MAKE PLANS. THIS REMAINS A MYSTERY.

2. How did you CANCEL plans? So you’re stuck in traffic and you’re not going to make it to dinner with your friend. How in the WORLD did you let this friend know? You didn’t have a cell phone. He/she didn’t have a cell phone. People must have gotten stood up on back then… a lot.

3. How did you know who was calling you before you picked up the phone? Did you just answer the phone without knowing who was going to be on the other end? That sounds so… adventurous.

4. How did you rid of the fear that is calling people? I’m the girl who has skipped appointments and put off apartment hunting just because I have no interest dealing with phone conversations with someone other than my mom or boyfriend.

5. How did you find out information about people before you went on dates with them? Like, you couldn’t Google them… so how did you find out about them? Did you, like, have to talk to them to find out information? What if they lied? How could you trust them? HOW COULD YOU TRUST ANYONE?

6. How did you find people to date in the first place??? It’s hard enough to find someone to date online these days. How did you so many people find significant others back then?

7. How did you keep tabs on exes? Oh wait, you didn’t? That sounds smart. And also healthy. TOO BAD THE INTERNET HAPPENED.

8. How did you keep tabs on what your entire graduating class from high school was doing? You mean that’s was reunions were for? I thought reunions were for seeing all those people you witnessed becoming fat on Facebook in person.

9. How did you look for jobs? And then apply to jobs? But seriously. This is a legit question. And when you did find jobs, how did you apply? Did you manually write cover letters? And resumes? THE HORROR.

10. How did your parents get in touch with you when you were out? This might have been the only perk of life before internet. Less annoying parents.

11. How did your survive waiting for meetings, appointments, trains, or anything without being able to pass time by pretending to look busy on your phone? Like how did you avoid eye contact with people? Did you READ A BOOK? Did you stare at the wall? Did you play with your fingers? Confused.

12. How did you do ANYTHING at work before email? Now if the internet doesn’t work, offices basically shut down. But once upon a time internet didn’t work, so please someone tell me how that all went down.

13. How did you tell co-workers (or someone else you were meeting) that you were going to be late when you were stuck in traffic or stuck on some disabled subway car? Did you just risk getting fired all the time? Or was life better because people didn’t expect you to be in constant communication all the time. Probs that.

14. How did you sign up for classes at the gym? Did you have to like, physically GO to the gym and sign up by writing your name on a piece of paper hours or days before the class took place? Because that’s just, like, a huuuuge inconvenience.

15. How did you know where you were or where you were going ever? Did you have carry around a real live map on you at all times? Did you also have a compass? Were you also John Smith in Pocahontas? I’m onto you…

16. What did you have to do if you broke down on the side of the road? I know, I know. Payphones existed. But did they exist everywhere? Were you, like, the subject of a Lifetime movie where you had to walk the streets until you found a house and hope a rapist/murderer didn’t open the door after you knocked?

17. How did you always have change on you to use these pay phones? Did you really carry a bunch of cash and coins on you??? LOL, WHAT IS MONEY THAT IS NOT ON A CREDIT CARD.

18. How did you research anything for school? Did you have to go through the Encyclopedia? Do youths even know what Encyclopedias are? Because I doubt it. But anyway, how did you pass school?

19. How did you find out about the weather? Did you have to watch The Weather Channel? Because, if so, that sucks.

20. How did you stay in touch with friends? Did you only have, like, 3 friends? Because that is a huge undertaking to keep in touch with any more than 3 people on a regular basis via a phone you could only use at home. I can barely stay in touch with people through texting and gchat and email and Facebook and Instagram and Twitter… Life must have been real hard back then, guys.

So wait. We are all totally screwed now. From my above questioning, you can see that we have mass anxiety and cannot handle the thought of not being in constant communication with anyone and everyone. That is not okay. We also are super lazy and hate the thought of doing anything that involves effort. And we know way too much about everything and everyone. There are no mysteries to life anymore. Excitement is basically gone.

At least this is accurate about life before the internet.

e0fd9915225275ef1f374184385878dc

I’m going to go refresh my Instagram feed now. Bye.

Samantha Matt

Hi I’m Sam. I made this website in 2011 and it’s still going. My first book, AVERAGE IS THE NEW AWESOME, is coming out in January (you can buy it right now on Amazon or from your fave bookstore!). I like pizza, French fries, barre, spin, more pizza, more French fries, and buying clothes. Writing is fun. Follow me on twitter & Instagram at @samanthamatt1... and on this site's meme account on IG at @20somethingproblems. OKAY GREAT THANKS BYE.

85 Comments
  1. I love this. And yes, we managed to make appointments, keep dates, see friends, and more without cell phones and email. As one of my friends told her babysitter: you made an extra effort to be on time. You had to or you missed out. We wrote letters. I have loads of letters from my friends from those post-college 20-something years. Talking long distance cost real money, so it was a luxury, not a norm. (And if you thought you’d use the long distance phone service at your office — you’d better think twice.) Truth is, we probably spent a lot more time actually talking with people for directions, timing, coordination. Thanks for making me smile!

    1. I love GPS, but I still insist on having an atlas or map in my car. I bought each of my 20-something sons the Rand-McNally road atlas and they simply tossed it aside never to be used.

      1. Amen BEdge, I used a Thomas Guide for the 5 years I had a sales job in traffic ladden Los Angeles, and it sharpened my inner sense of direction that serves me well, including how to find an “out” in a awkward social situation. GPS makes you stupid.

  2. It’s easy. For most of these questions WE DIDN’T.

    We made plans by phone, or while working together. Or we had regular repeated activities. Always went to the same bar on Fridays.

    As for meeting people and checking them out? Bars, classes, parties, work. Where I imagine you still meet people. And either trust your intuition or talk to friends you have in common. I always felt going out with someone was to learn about them.

    Parents didn’t check on their kids all the time. Honestly, from the time I was about 7 I was kicked out the house at 9 am, told to come home for lunch, then kicked out again. They didn’t care where we were.

    And work was done with paper. And a phone. Everything was done with paper and a phone. Or in person.

  3. I got a kick out of this. Here’s what we did.

    1. We made plans via the telephone in a series of calls and relayed information akin to the carrier pigeon method.

    2. Same but in reverse.

    3. We would pick up the phone in a foreign accent. If we didn’t know who it was, we’d confuse the caller.

    4. We had no fear about calling people unless they answered with a foreign accent.

    5. Lol. Word of mouth, usually from someone’s sister. And yes we spoke to people to learn about them.

    6. Dances, and something called a “mixer”, where presumably boys would mix with girls in a purely platonic fashion…NOT.

    7. We shunned our exes.

    8. Funerals.

    9. The classifieds ads…then we’d go on an interview with a mechanically typed resume.

    10, Parents had an elaborate network of moles, spies and electronic eaves dropping equipment that rivaled the NSA.

    11. We read a newspaper.

    12. Memos that were delivered by someone named Todd.

    13. Ah…this is a good one. If we were stuck in traffic or in a subway and couldn’t communicate, people would think you were in a terrible accident or dead. Once you got to the appointment they were happy to see you. Then you would opine about your mishaps over a martini.

    14. We drank martinis so we didn’t go to the gym.

    15. Curiously, we used a sextant.

    16. We would walk to the nearest home and politely ask to use the hpne all the while hoping the farmer had a daughter.

    17. We wore money belts with hidden change compartments.

    18. Another good one. We used the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature and pray to God that our professors would be to interested in a young coed to actually research our research.

    19. We’d look out the window. If it was raining we’d bring an umbrella.

    20. Friends?

    And btw, what’s an Instagram? 😉

  4. We knew that “you’re” is not “your” and the surprises of life — not knowing who is calling or finding out about someone through conversation rather than google — made life an adventure. Then there is what we called “delayed gratification” which in times gone by gave us goals in so many aspects of life that were triumphs in small and/or large ways. This generation gets whatever it wishes for immediately which diminishes the pleasures of “finally” and “at last”. Finally, this generation lives in a private world with eyes and ears on themselves. It is a “selfie” world indeed.

    1. I agree. This article makes me happy and proud that I have lived half of my life pre-internet because, “like,” I can carry on a phone conversation, I know how to read an actual map, I know how to communicate with people face to face, I have the wherewithal to survive when and if the internet is attacked or destroyed (it could happen) and I think I still may have some patience left.

      This blogger makes me feel, “like,” particularly sad about the future.

  5. I broke down on the side of the highway when I was 17 (prior to cell phones) and was there 10 minutes before my neighbor happened to drive by and see me, pulled over and took me home. It was excellent that he did, because I would have had to walk 4 or 5 miles before getting somewhere with a phone. (17 year old girl.) After that, I had to tell my dad the route I was driving and what time I would be leaving to come home or when I’d be getting to work so if he didn’t hear from me within 20 minutes after that time, he could come look for me. And that was in 1999.
    We also didn’t have the Weather Channel where I lived in the country. In order to find out the weather forecast, we looked in the NEWSPAPER. Right.
    Most of my friends lived within a mile of my house when I was growing up, so in order to stay in touch we just walked to each others’ houses if they didn’t answer the phone. Sometimes we left their house disappointed.
    I graduated high school and went to college in the big city in 2000, where the internet was alive and thriving, but still didn’t have a cell phone until halfway through 2001. And definitely didn’t have a smart phone until the latter part of the 2000’s.
    Thanks for the laugh!

    1. Holy smokes I forgot all about giving your route of travel to someone else hahahaha

      I did that so many times! And if someone broke down and, gasp, walked the rest of the way in the rain we laughed at them for NOT telling someone where they would be if something happened.

  6. 1. How did you make plans?
    We made plans at school that week, and then called others once an idea was rolling. Then we met up at the place at the time, or the landmark if it was a big area. Usually made plans for the next time while hanging out. Hanging out meant relaxing at someone’s house, watching TV, playing video games, reading magazines together, and just chit chatting about anything and everything. Usually boys. Sometimes we would call boys.

    2. How did you CANCEL plans?
    You didn’t. You just didn’t. You left early. Making a call to tell someone you won’t be there still doesn’t make it right. But, in case that happened, we usually weren’t stood up alone. We had backup by walking to our friend’s house and rode together to meet up with others.

    3. How did you know who was calling you before you picked up the phone?
    Yep, you just picked it up. I always kinda knew when it would be my friends b/c it would be around the same time of day. It was normal to anticipate being available to chat if you picked up the phone. When I lived alone, I knew the phone was for me. Depending on what I was doing, sometimes I would answer, sometimes not. They would just call back later (unless they left a message, but machines came later). I never worried, b/c people just figured you were busy, and tried again later.

    4. How did you rid of the fear that is calling people?
    There was no fear of calling people. Like, what?? If you were afraid to call a boy, it was just a ‘eh suck it up and call him’ kind of moment. Some of the most exciting moments in my teenage life were picking up the phone and hearing “Hey… um, this is *insert crush here*… can you talk?”

    5. How did you find out information about people before you went on dates with them? You dug around for info for people who knew them. Stalked yearbook photos. In my college years you just made sure that you weren’t ever alone with that person. You used your “gut” feeling to feel them out.

    6. How did you find people to date in the first place???
    You just met in person at a party, through friends, organizations, ect. If there was flirting, like the guy would say “I really want to see you again. Can I call you sometime?” And then, about 2 days later… they called, you chatted and got to know each other. Made plans for a date. He picked you up if you sorta knew him, otherwise you met up with him.

    7. How did you keep tabs on exes?
    Same way you found out about them in the first place… through mutual people. Or you’d bump into them at places. Or, some girl would feel the need to fill you in.

    8. How did you keep tabs on what you’re entire graduating class from high school was doing?
    Just running into people and catching up. Like, say you’re at the store and see someone from HS it would go like this: “Hey long time no see! Do you still talk to __? Yes I do, I heard they moved to ___”. And so on. Once HS was over, it was over. You would sometimes hear from your parents about the kids in your old neighborhood. “ohh, did you hear that Debbie’s daughter got married last summer!”

    9. How did you look for jobs? And then apply to jobs?
    You went door to door to door. Walked in, asked if they were hiring (or say you read in the classified ad that they were taking apps) filled out an application by hand, and handed them a pre-typed resume. For hours.

    10. How did your parents get in touch with you when you were out?
    You had to give them a point by point rundown of your plans for the night, down to the time you will be home. They synced up with other parents to make sure that you were where you said you were. Like, if you say “I’m going to a football game, and then to Michelle’s” thennn they eventually chatted later with other parents to make sure you did.

    11. How did your survive waiting for meetings, appointments, trains, or anything without being able to pass time by pretending to look busy on your phone?
    You read a magazine at the Dr’s or waiting for a train, if it was a work meeting you chatted with co-workers. This explains a lot to me. I get so offended that people would rather dig in their phone than chit chat before a meeting when I’m freaking sitting right there.

    12. How did you do ANYTHING at work before email?
    Business letters, memo’s posted on the bulletin board or sat on your desk. Mail guys per floor, actual mail for outside the office.

    13. How did you tell co-workers (or someone else you were meeting) that you were going to be late when you were stuck in traffic or stuck on some disabled subway car?
    You didn’t show up late. You left early. Making a call saying you were going to be late did not make it right. No no no. On the rare chance something DID happen, for instance if they were late, you gave them 15-30 min depending on the situation and assumed something bad happened. You would check your machine when you got home to see if they called yet. Otherwise, there was always a call explaining.

    14. How did you sign up for classes at the gym?
    You went there, and signed up. You committed to a class at the beginning of the session.

    15. How did you know where you were or where you were going ever?
    We read road signs. If I was driving to a part of town I didn’t know, I grabbed the phone book and looked at the city map. I wrote down the directions. When traveling, we used AAA’s maps, that even had construction zones highlighted.

    16. What did you have to do if you broke down on the side of the road?
    You fixed the tire, and or your car. You walked to the nearest store and called your helper, and or AAA. We did not really allow strangers to help.

    17. How did you always have change on you to use these pay phones? Using payphones was a rarity. Only really to call to see if you could stay later at a dance, game, ect. Or to call for help with your car. Otherwise, you called people when you got home. I know some people used it more, but not that much for personal calls. We always had a dollar in change in the glove compartment, or wallet just in case.

    18. How did you research anything for school? We had to hit up the library, and begin with the encyclopedia. We looked up the item like: The Civil War. Read it. Made notes on key things such as battles, or persons… and then looked those up. Made notes. Then usually had to get biography to get interesting facts to make your report different (also read it, and took notes). Took those notes, wrote them in our own words, assembled the outline, and made the report.

    19. How did you find out about the weather? We watched the news. Or read it in the paper. We also had to watch the news each morning to see if our school was delayed or cancelled. Delays were not that common, at all. Sometimes there were cancellations. There had be a LOT of snow for that to happen. If there wasn’t a LOT of snow, thennn you really didn’t need to watch the news for closings.

    20. How did you stay in touch with friends? We saw them at school, in the neighborhood, in our apartment halls and we’d stay in touch when we hung out somewhere, usually someone’s house. Then the phone. We girls would chat for hours sometimes. lol If someone called, you usually had about 24 hrs to call them back. Otherwise, no big deal. If you left a message on their answering machine, that was that. You did not call againnn and leave another message. That would have been considered psychotic. Really.

  7. The weather channel happened after cable tv. Before cable tv, you had to watch the evening news, or, there was a weather number you could call on the phone and get the weather report. Or, you had a barometer and predicted your own weather. Or walked outside and looked up.

  8. I’ll attempt to answer your questions. 😉
    1. How did you make plans? We called people on a landline phone or made the plans in person.

    2. How did you CANCEL plans? You pulled over and found a pay phone. If meeting at a restaurant, you called the restaurant to let them know that way.

    3. How did you know who was calling you before you picked up the phone? You did not know who was calling. Then the answering machine came to be and sometimes you screened your calls by listening to the person leaving the message to decide if you want to answer.

    4. How did you rid of the fear that is calling people? You didn’t. You rode it out.

    5. How did you find out information about people before you went on dates with them? Usually you only went on dates with people you knew. You went on a date with a guy from school or work or someone you met when out. You risked it. And, if you were smart (like you should today) and in your 20s, you met a new person at the location instead of having him pick you up.

    6. How did you find people to date in the first place??? You actually socialized. You went to parties, clubs, bookstores, malls, school, work, and interacted.

    7. How did you keep tabs on exes? In high school, you drove by their house and tried to hide as you did so. Otherwise, you didn’t keep tabs.

    8. How did you keep tabs on what you’re entire graduating class from high school was doing? You mean that’s was reunions were for? LOL! Yes, that’s what reunions are for. Some people actually kept in touch. Also, the newspaper was a good source of info with wedding and birth announcements.

    9. How did you look for jobs? And then apply to jobs? But seriously. This is a legit question. And when you did find jobs, how did you apply? Did you manually write cover letters? And resumes? Yep. You looked at a newspaper for ads, networked with people in the field you wanted to work in, You used a typewriter to write your cover letters and resumes (although with the latter you could get copies made so you didn’t have to type it over and over.

    10. How did your parents get in touch with you when you were out? They didn’t. Or, when you were teen you let your parents know your exact plans. They had your friends’ home phone numbers, numbers to the movie theater, etc.

    11. How did your survive waiting for meetings, appointments, trains, or anything without being able to pass time by pretending to look busy on your phone? You read a book or a magazine.

    12. How did you do ANYTHING at work before email? Work didn’t center around the internet although there were computers and programs you used to do your job (in the 80s and 90s).

    13. How did you tell co-workers (or someone else you were meeting) that you were going to be late when you were stuck in traffic or stuck on some disabled subway car? They expected you to be on time all the time. However, most offices knew about traffic jams going on because the radio might be on in someone’s office. If the traffic was really bad, you might pull off the road and call to let your office know on a pay phone. I know I did that once.

    14. How did you sign up for classes at the gym? Yes. You had to go to the gym.

    15. How did you know where you were or where you were going ever? Maps…the large road atlas with all the states. I still prefer this method.

    16. What did you have to do if you broke down on the side of the road? You pulled over, put on your flashers and waited for a police officer to drive by or someone to pull over and offer to make the call for you.

    17. How did you always have change on you to use these pay phones? Yes. You typically carried change on you or were in areas where you could get change.

    18. How did you research anything for school? Did you have to go through the Encyclopedia? You went to the library and looked in the card catalog as well as reference materials such as encyclopedias.

    19. How did you find out about the weather? In the early 80s, I could call a number for the forecast, or watch the local TV weather, or even look at the newspaper. Once the Weather Channel started, it actually showed the weather, not like today.

    20. How did you stay in touch with friends? I would write my friends…you know, with my hands and mail the letter with a stamp. Calling friends didn’t happen that often because long-distance charges were expensive.

    1. Yes, these questions are disturbing in so many ways.

      The self-centeredness, the immaturity, childishness, the genuinely anti-social behavior that has become so typical and acceptable, and the belief that 20 years ago was ancient history. Read the questions again; so many of them really aren’t questions about the change in technologies but are actually about psychology and behavior. So many of the questions are about fear and anxiety about real-time social interaction with other people.

      Did technology create these attitudes, fears and behaviors? Or did parents of my generation utterly fail to socialize our children, teach them social etiquette, manners, and independence? Isn’t this actually the result of helicopter parenting?

  9. We learned to write, talk, and plan. The twenty-somethings of today “wing it” much more than we ever did. Once you left home, with its telephone, maps, and address book, you were all you had… unless you’d planned ahead and brought maps, cash, phone numbers, etc. There was more plan and far fewer last minute changes. This post and conversation has highlighted why it drives my young adult sons crazy when I ask them for their plan. They don’t have one 90 percent of the time. If they do, it will change with every text, tweet, and message they receive. 🙂

  10. I can understand your frustration, however remember that people communicated for centuries and the method just got faster and easier as time went on.

  11. 1. Land line
    2. Land line
    3. Yes, you didn’t know
    4. That was one of my hardest ones
    5. You met people and talked to them
    6. See 5
    7. You didn’t (maybe through friends or a college alumni directory)
    8. You didn’t (yes, that’s what reunions were for)
    9. Classified ads (in a newspaper), or visiting the employment offices of the firm you were interested in. Yes, you wrote real cover letters and sent them via snail mail.
    10. They didn’t. This is the one that blows my mind as the parent of young adults.
    11. Read books or magazines (I still do this)
    12. I have actually pondered this one a lot. We had a land line phone and a typewriter. That’s it.
    13. You didn’t
    14. Yes
    15. Yes, a map
    16. I don’t know. Fortunately I never did.
    17. Yes, you carried cash.
    18. Yes, libraries, encyclopedias
    19. I don’t think I worried about it too much – local TV weathermen I guess
    20. Letters and long distance phone calls

    Any other questions? 🙂

  12. I still want to know how did you let someone know you were running late? OR how did you not get fried for being late? How did the boss know it was really an accident not your hair was a mess so your late? I didn’t have a cell phone til I was 17 and before then yes my parents wrote notes saying I could come or not to a party or why I was absent at school. We did have a home phone but when I had to talk to a boy on one I was SCARED…the parents could pick up and hear it if they wanted…Gosh no! Well im still friends with that said boy so it worked out!

    1. We really just weren’t late. I think having cell phones and Internet access 24/7 makes a lot of people more lax about being on time, because they can always text the person they’re meeting with to say they’ll be late. That doesn’t make it right, though.

      If an accident happened and you really couldn’t make it, you called as soon as you could or explained when you finally got to work, etc. If you were meeting someone in a restaurant, you called the restaurant. Since people weren’t habitually late, everyone would assume you had a good reason and would forgive you.

      I still don’t have a cell, so I’ve had to call a restaurant a couple of times! On my landline. 🙂

  13. People were nicer, they smiled more often and everyone was in the same boat. Blood pressures were lower and people would actually have meaningful conversations instead of chatter. Now….I purposely lose my phone and turn it off. I enjoy life then so much more. Just dou try to get ahold of me after hours or on a weekend.

    By the way, there are still parts of this country that you can’t get internet or cell service. I go there on vacation every chance I get.

  14. While I was not in my 20’s yet before the Internet or Cell Phones, I was a border-line young man who watched it all unfold and – to this day – still have not adapted 100% to the “metro” generation of how things are done.

    COMPREHENSIVE ANSWERS TO ALL YOUR QUESTIONS:

    1. How did you make plans? But seriously. HOW DID YOU MAKE PLANS.

    — I called people up from a little oddly-shaped beige colored box covered with either a spinning ircle with finger holes – or a bunch of square buttons. This box had a spiral cord connecting to a huge receiver that laid on top of two other round buttons that – when pressed – turned off or ended a call. It used to be called a telephone, but now is referred to as a “land line.” We called and spoke (more often, called, spoke with their parent or sibling, and waited to hear the parent or sibling shouting for the person to “Come to the phone”) – yeah, that’s just insane by today’s standards. We made plans by talking on this “phone” and maybe even planning to meet somewhere in person.

    2. How did you CANCEL plans? So you’re stuck in traffic and you’re not going to make it to dinner with your friend. How in the WORLD did you let this friend know?

    — In this situation, there were 3 options… Use a PAY PHONE, Go back home and try calling, or continue to the place and be late.

    I suggest you look at the “Bill & Ted” movies to understand this one:
    OPTION # 1: On every other street corner, and at every gas station there were these big metal and glass boxes – about the size of an apartment closet. These contained “Landline” phones connected to the ground and were called a “Phone Booth.” You could stop your car, get out of the car, walk up to the phone booth, lift the receiver to your ear and hear a dial tone, insert COINS into the top (anywhere from 10 cents to $1.00 in quarters) and pay cash to make a phone call.
    But of course, this would require the other person being at home by their own land-line to receive the call, or – if they were at the meeting place, you would have to know the phone number or open a big book with yellow pages – very conveniently called “The Yellow Pages” and try to find the phone number for the location you were meeting.

    OPTION #2: Return home and hope the person you were meeting answers their phone at home or just wait until they all you in disappointment.

    OPTION # 3: get to the place late and explain how you were stuck in traffic.

    3. How did you know who was calling you before you picked up the phone? Did you just answer the phone without knowing who was going to be on the other end?

    — IN THE BEGINNING, there were people (usually women) sitting at the Phone Company or at Operator facilities who spoke with you the moment you picked up the listening device and spun a crank (like a Jack-in-the box toy handle). These women and men were called “Operators” and asked you what city and address you wanted to call. they physically plugged in your phone cord to the interchange communication terminal that connected you to the city, then spoke with an operator at the other location, who rang up the person you were calling and told them you were on the line. Then you had the conversation – sometimes with one or both operators listening in… Yeah, scary.

    Later on, Operators were reduced to answering what phone numbers were for businesses or people by dialing 4-1-1 on your phone. Then they were reduced to you dialing “0” and they picked up and helped you dial a “collect” call – where you paid nothing for the call, but the person you were calling paid triple the cost of the call.

    4. How did you rid of the fear that is calling people?

    — Fear of calling people? Calling people (or, as AT&T put it – “reach out and touch someone”) was exciting – being able to speak with someone half-way across town without having to drive, walk, take the bus or a cab to see them in person… FUN! Fear and nervousness of calling someone you were wanting to ask on a date? That fear has always existed.

    5. How did you find out information about people before you went on dates with them? Like, you couldn’t Google them… so how did you find out about them? Did you, like, have to talk to them to find out information? What if they lied? How could you trust them? HOW COULD YOU TRUST ANYONE?

    — Information on people was gained by asking their friends at school or work, their siblings, their mom and dad – yeah, really… And then, asking them about every little thing – actually asking “what did you do today?” and listening to them talk for a while.

    What if they lied? well, that is always the risk people take when trying to trust someone else. Is that person lying, embellishing the truth, or telling the facts? You just have to try trusting them. Giving them the benefit of the doubt that they are honest.

    6. How did you find people to date in the first place??? It’s hard enough to find someone to date online these days. How did you so many people find significant others back then?

    — Several ways: in school, you dated people who you saw in class, in the halls, etc.
    Other people posted text messages in print form on pages willed with printed-out text messages – pages labeled “Want Ads” – hat were included in huge sheathes of paper that were called Newspapers. Want Ads were basically a fully printed-our version of Craigslist – and these papers were usually delivered to your home every single week-day.

    7. How did you keep tabs on exes? Oh wait, you didn’t?

    — Exes were left to their own devices, or – you spoke with mutual friends – placing them in awkward positions of dishing the gossip and happenings of your ex. If you were on good standing, you just called them on the landline and asked them how they were doing.

    8. How did you keep tabs on what you’re entire graduating class from high school was doing? You mean that’s was reunions were for?

    — If your high school friends left town for college or work, then you either kept in touch via landline telephone, write letters on pieces of paper (think Twitter or Facebook Chat – only the messages take 4-5 DAYS to get to the other person). Reunions were also coordinated via phone calls and letters. Planning these sometimes took MONTHS, instead of a 2-hour chat session.

    9. How did you look for jobs? And then apply to jobs? But seriously. This is a legit question. And when you did find jobs, how did you apply? Did you manually write cover letters? And resumes?

    There exists still a place commonly called “The Unemployment Office” that – even today – has bulletin boards (think a printed-out version of your Facebook News feed or Twitter Feed) filled with lots of “Now Hiring” fliers (like Memes but with job opening information).

    Also, people would pull out a typewriter (think a computer keyboard that spits out paper with the letters as you hit the keys) and type up a Resume, then retype it letter-for-letter until they had a whole bunch of them. Later on, copy machines existed and people typed only one and then made copies of that one. Oh, and the font choices: 1 font only: Courier.

    So these typed resumes would be put in a folder and people looking for a job would drive, walk, and go into every single place they were interested in working and give one of their resumes to the manager inside. The manager, if interested, would have the person sit down and fill out a paper form (like your paper ACT/SAT). This form would need to be filled out in black ink or blue ink pen, and you would have to know all of your work history (including dates and phone numbers and names) as well as your education information. JUST CRAZY, RIGHT?

    10. How did your parents get in touch with you when you were out?

    — They either knew where you were at all times and CALLED THE STORE OR RESTAURANT – causing your name to be broadcast throughout the store or mall on the loud speaker that usually plays music… or they called your friend’s parents if you were with a friend.

    11. How did your survive waiting for meetings, appointments, trains, or anything without being able to pass time by pretending to look busy on your phone? Like how did you avoid eye contact with people? Did you READ A BOOK? Did you stare at the wall? Did you play with your fingers?

    You could bring that Newspaper, a magazine, a book and read it, or you could quietly sit there ignoring everyone for fear of embarrassment, or you could strike up a conversation with a complete stranger.

    12. How did you do ANYTHING at work before email?

    — Drop the “E” and you have the answer.

    13. How did you tell co-workers (or someone else you were meeting) that you were going to be late when you were stuck in traffic or stuck on some disabled subway car? Did you just risk getting fired all the time? Or was life better because people didn’t expect you to be in constant communication all the time.

    — Again, this is solved by Phone Booths being on every other street corner and at gas stations. Pull over and grab some coins, all and tell them. Out of coins? Then you’re screwed.

    14. How did you sign up for classes at the gym? Did you have to like, physically GO to the gym and sign up by writing your name on a piece of paper hours or days before the class took place?

    — You could call and make an appointment, or you could go physically and sign up. And there were almost no gyms anyway. There was pretty much just the YMCA. The YMCA had swimming pools, workout equipment, and – only in the 90’s – treadmills. If you wanted to run, you just put on some sweats and went outside and started running – for FREE EVEN!

    15. How did you know where you were or where you were going ever? Did you have carry around a real live map on you at all times? Did you also have a compass? Were you also John Smith in Pocahontas? I’m onto you…

    — There were these things called MAPS – paper versions of your GPS without a voice or arrow to point you in the right direction. Most street corners have little green (or other color) signs on them with the street names. You would look at those and then find them on the map yourself. They even had city street maps in your phone books after 1987.

    16. What did you have to do if you broke down on the side of the road? I know, I know. Payphones existed. But did they exist everywhere? Were you, like, the subject of a Lifetime movie where you had to walk the streets until you found a house and hope a rapist/murderer didn’t open the door after you knocked?

    — If you were in a city, you used a payphone. If not, you walked until you found someone to help or a payphone.

    17. How did you always have change on you to use these pay phones? Did you really carry a bunch of cash and coins on you???

    — Many people (even men) carried a tiny container made of fabric, leather, rubber, or plastic that held a handful of coins. This was called a “coin purse” and kept the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters from falling out of any potential hole in your pocket. Rubberized versions were usually free at your local bank, insurance agent, post office, or car dealership. And yes, cash was key. Credit cards did exist, and if you had a bill you could never pay, filing for bankruptcy cleared your credit card debt completely. Now, though, many credit cards can never be cleared through bankruptcy.

    18. How did you research anything for school? Did you have to go through the Encyclopedia? Do youths even know what Encyclopedias are? Because I doubt it. But anyway, how did you pass school?

    — Ever been to a library? Reference section… Information desk… Newspapers, Encylopedias, Microfilm, Microfiche…

    19. How did you find out about the weather? Did you have to watch The Weather Channel? Because, if so, that sucks.

    — The local news at 6pm and 10pm has a weather forecaster (now called Meteorologist) who told you what the weather would be over the next few days. Later on you could all a “Time and Temperature” hotline and a recorded voice would give you the information on the landline phone.

    20. How did you stay in touch with friends? Did you only have, like, 3 friends?

    — MAIL – write a letter on paper, fold it, put it in an envelope, write your friend’s name an address on it, put a stamp on it, drop it in the mail and wait days or weeks to get a reply.
    — PHONE – call them and talk from your landline. That was the fastest option.

    LIFE was not hard, just more simple, slower, and more relaxed. If having a simple conversation took 2 weeks to complete via “snail” mail, then everyone was cool with that.

    1. Ok, seriously did no one ever do the collect call from, “my car died on North street near taco bell” or collect call from “call 555-555-5555 right now”? Spoke really fast to fit it in?

      Also pre caller id days, my mom would call us at home to check on it’s, but ring through once, hang up and call back. Then we knew to answer.

  15. Truly, you cannot comprehend the annoyance that meeting someone at a large crowded place like Six Flags was. It usually went, “Ok, I’ll meet you at the carousel at 10.” And then you’d get there and realize that 9834 other people were meeting their friends at the carousel at 10, and the carousel is sooooo big that you can’t see around it, so you’d end up slowly circling it, looking for your friend, while they’re slowly circling it 180 degrees opposite you, caught in a sea of 9834 other friends looking for each other, like the worst zombie drum circle dance ever. The struggle was real.

    But also, the struggles were universal. We had much more patience with one another for tardiness or missed appointments, because, yeah, there was just no way to let someone know that you were going to be late unless you could find a phone. But also also..payphones were indeed everywhere, at all gas stations and libraries and schools and often just on the streetcorner. And yes, you’d make sure you had a quarter for a phone call when you were out. Since our options back then, as kids, were cash or checks (our parents had credit cards, but no one had debit cards yet), we always had at least a few bucks in cash on us. And a quarter for a phone call was within the realm of polite mooching; if you didn’t have one, you could usually find some sympathetic person to give you one.

    I’m sure your kids will be asking how you ever got along without neural implants and bionic leg enhancers. ^_^

  16. How did *you* survive before “like” became a ubiquitous and irritating place-holder for those who don’t speak English?

  17. I don’t think it would be possible to live in today’s world without a cell phone because it’s a way of life. However before they existed we actually could go out to dinner and enjoy conversation without someone being on there phone. We did have to personally go sign up our children for events but we had more time because we weren’t constantly checking email or Facebook. Time spent waiting for an appointment or waiting to catch a plane was usually spent reading a book or magazine or actually having a conversation with people around you. You did watch one of the three channels available to you for the weather and they were about as correct as they are today. But you had no way to check the weather in another state you were going to visit except to call someone who lived there or the local chamber of commerce. Times were certainly different back then some might say better in some ways others would disagree. Me, I’m glad I got to discover both worlds and can’t wait to see where technology takes us in the future!

  18. Being now in my 50s, I was your age three decades ago, but I still clearly remember those days. I’ll give it my best shot!

    1. How did you make plans?

    LOL! We used something called a “telephone.” It was in our house and there was only one of them for the whole family. It rang and we picked it up, otherwise the caller had to try again if we were not there to pick up. It rang with an actual bell, and didn’t bloop or beep or play our favorite song or the theme of a movie. Otherwise, we plans IN ADVANCE! In person! With our REAL LIFE friends! We had something called a SOCIAL LIFE before there was SOCIAL MEDIA! Imagine!

    2. How did you CANCEL plans? People must have gotten stood up on back then… a lot.

    Yeah, it happened. But we were considerate and made our best efforts to be on time, and we didn’t make excuses. If someone stood you up one time too many, you “unfriended” them in real life.

    3. How did you know who was calling you before you picked up the phone? Did you just answer the phone without knowing who was going to be on the other end? That sounds so… adventurous.

    Yeah, it sort of was. You’d get prank callers and weirdo ex-girlfriends and other unwelcome callers who you could not identify in advance. But thankfully, you did not have 3 million telemarketers ringing your phone all day, like you do now.

    4. How did you rid of the fear that is calling people? I’m the girl who has skipped appointments and put off apartment hunting just because I have no interest dealing with phone conversations with someone other than my mom or boyfriend.

    Making cold calls was scary back then too, especially when you were calling about a job or maybe some girl you liked. But we dealt with it, because that’s just what you do.

    5. How did you find out information about people before you went on dates with them? Like, you couldn’t Google them… so how did you find out about them? Did you, like, have to talk to them to find out information? What if they lied? How could you trust them? HOW COULD YOU TRUST ANYONE?

    Wow, you actually do all that? You cyber-stalk people before getting to know them???? That’s REALLY CREEPY! So glad that I was married to my wife before you even born! I’d hate to be the dating pool today! As for trusting others, I think people were generally more trustworthy in decades past, but how can you trust anyone today, even after googling them? Like is full of risk, getting out of bed is risky business. We were not sheltered from that reality back in the old days. My own parents grew up in a world where one could die from a toothache. There are no guarantees, now or then.

    6. How did you find people to date in the first place??? It’s hard enough to find someone to date online these days. How did you so many people find significant others back then?

    It was a challenge, and we were limited by the local “gene pool” in our hometown, unless we travelled or relocated. But there have been dating services (not online) since the 60s. We always thought those were lame, for people who were hard up. I also don’t think my generation had as much turnover with dating like today. I knew a lot of people who married their high school sweeties, and probably never had more than one or two couple sexual partners in their lives, and are still happy together after 35+ years. That’s gotta be better than how Taylor Swift does it today.

    7. How did you keep tabs on exes? Oh wait, you didn’t? That sounds smart. And also healthy. TOO BAD THE INTERNET HAPPENED.

    LOL! You hoped they didn’t call your house, since there was no caller ID. For the most part, people from the past went away forever (thankfully), unless you shared a kid with them.

    8. How did you keep tabs on what you’re entire graduating class from high school was doing? You mean that’s was reunions were for? I thought reunions were for seeing all those people you witnessed becoming fat on Facebook in person.

    LOL! It’s become that, since we passed our 30th anniversaries! We kept in touch with the people we wanted to keep in touch with, which, for most of us, meant not many people.

    9. How did you look for jobs? And then apply to jobs? But seriously. This is a legit question. And when you did find jobs, how did you apply? Did you manually write cover letters? And resumes? THE HORROR.

    Yeah, like that. We filled out a paper application with a pen, and/or submitted a paper resume through snail mail, and followed up with a cold call on the phone. I would dread having to look for a new job in an era of LinkedIn. Hope I retire or die before having to look for a new job!

    10. How did your parents get in touch with you when you were out? This might have been the only perk of life before internet. Less annoying parents.

    *heh heh*! My mom had no idea where I was back in the freewheeling days of the 1970s! But the concept of a “helicopter mom” was not invented yet.

    11. How did your survive waiting for meetings, appointments, trains, or anything without being able to pass time by pretending to look busy on your phone? Like how did you avoid eye contact with people? Did you READ A BOOK? Did you stare at the wall? Did you play with your fingers? Confused.

    Yeah, paper books, newspapers, magazines, “non-volatile media” in general, or else you actually struck up conversations with other people in the waiting rooms or bus stops. You should try it, it still works. Most strangers are actually quite pleasant when you stop being paranoid of them.

    12. How did you do ANYTHING at work before email? Now if the internet doesn’t work, offices basically shut down. But once upon a time internet didn’t work, so please someone tell me how that all went down.

    Back in the 70s and 80s. we heard all these wonderful stories about how, “someday in the future, there will be computers in every home and office, and they will improve efficiency and solve every problem.” Well, we all know how that worked out! We communicated by picking up the dreaded phone and making more horrifying cold calls! And/or we got our lazy butts out of our chairs and walked two doors down the hall to speak with coworkers in person! Can you imagine?

    13. How did you tell co-workers (or someone else you were meeting) that you were going to be late when you were stuck in traffic or stuck on some disabled subway car? Did you just risk getting fired all the time? Or was life better because people didn’t expect you to be in constant communication all the time. Probs that.

    Um, well we showed up on time and did not make excuses! We planned ahead If the weather was bad or if we heard an unfavorable traffic report on the radio, and left the house early. This also still works today whenever it’s tried!

    14. How did you sign up for classes at the gym? Did you have to like, physically GO to the gym and sign up by writing your name on a piece of paper hours or days before the class took place? Because that’s just, like, a huuuuge inconvenience.

    LOL!!! Oh my, things today are worse than I ever thought! Um, yeah, that’s what we did.

    15. How did you know where you were or where you were going ever? Did you have carry around a real live map on you at all times? Did you also have a compass? Were you also John Smith in Pocahontas? I’m onto you…

    This is the part of your generation which boggles my mind the most! For one thing, we knew where we were going! We knew about something called “direction” — north, east, south and west. And yeah, we did (and still do) keep paper maps handy if we need them, which we usually do not (especially guys). Generally, we cultivated our own skills, were self-sufficient, and did not require some gizmo to tell us how drive one mile in a straight line. God help us when your generation is changing our diapers when we’re in the nursing home!

    16. What did you have to do if you broke down on the side of the road? I know, I know. Payphones existed. But did they exist everywhere? Were you, like, the subject of a Lifetime movie where you had to walk the streets until you found a house and hope a rapist/murderer didn’t open the door after you knocked?

    In those days, cars were simple enough that you could work on them yourselves, and fix many common problems. Most men kept tools in their car, and spare oil and radiator fluid and such. If you had to leave the road, yeah, you walked, and discovered that most people who owned homes were nice and friendly and helpful, and were not rapists or murderers.

    17. How did you always have change on you to use these pay phones? Did you really carry a bunch of cash and coins on you??? LOL, WHAT IS MONEY THAT IS NOT ON A CREDIT CARD.

    Many of us were Boy Scouts and learned at a young age to “Be Prepared.” Credit cards were a hassle, and were only used for special purposes. At stores, we put things in “layaway” which meant making payments BEFORE you took them home! Imagine a world of deferred gratification!

    18. How did you research anything for school? Did you have to go through the Encyclopedia? Do youths even know what Encyclopedias are? Because I doubt it. But anyway, how did you pass school?

    Having done considerable “old school” research myself, this is another area where today’s young generation boggles my mind. I would do research at the library, following hints and clues, pouring for hours through microfilms and dusty volumes, only to ferret out small nuggets of information. Imagine a world where the entire sum of human knowledge was not available after a three second keyword search! I really hope that your generation does not have to go back to the way things used to be!

    19. How did you find out about the weather? Did you have to watch The Weather Channel? Because, if so, that sucks.

    Um, we looked out the window! We took a raincoat or umbrella if weather was threatening, or else we got wet, dealt with it, and changed clothes when we got home. There was TV and radio forecasts, but those were just as bad then as today.

    20. How did you stay in touch with friends? Did you only have, like, 3 friends? Because that is a huge undertaking to keep in touch with any more than 3 people on a regular basis via a phone you could only use at home. I can barely stay in touch with people through texting and gchat and email and Facebook and Instagram and Twitter… Life must have been real hard back then, guys.

    As mentioned above, we called people or just dropped by unannounced at their houses! THAT must sound REALLY freaky today! We didn’t have 900 Facebook friends, but we did have a smaller circle of genuine friends, who you could trust and count on. We ran into them at bars or church or school or the bowling alley or wherever we hung out. There were lots of spontaneous run-ins, since we did not pre-plan everything we did. Life was good like that. Wish we could get back to the sense of community that used to exist.

    >>>So wait. We are all totally screwed now. From my above questioning, you can see that we have mass anxiety and cannot handle the thought of not being in constant communication with anyone and everyone. That is not okay. We also are super lazy and hate the thought of doing anything that involves effort. And we know way too much about everything and everyone. There are no mysteries to life anymore. Excitement is basically gone.

    I had some fun with you above, please take my comments in the light vein that they were intended. My kids are in your generation and I always have fun like this with them and their friends. I recommend reading a book called “Technopoly” by Neil Postman. Read a paper edition and not the Kindle version. Learn about how technology invades our lives and creates techno-dependency. It’s not hopeless! At least it does not have to be! There is hope since you perceive a problem and sense that there is another way!

  19. The fax machine was the best invention of all. It took days to get answers. I used to be afraid to go out of the house for fear that a boy was going to call me and I would miss his call. I’m glad for the new technologies. I still don’t have GPS, but it would be nice to have it.

  20. I love this, too. We talked on the phone a lot more then than now. There was a phone number to call and find out the weather forecast! There was a tacit agreement that if someone was more than 20 minutes late, he/she was stuck in traffic/on subway and you should move along. Your parents worried about where you were A LOT (as an annoying parent now, I very much appreciate devices in this regard). You found jobs in the paper (I even found my best job in the Village Voice). Yeah–it was more boring being in a traffic jam or in a doctor’s waiting room. Maybe it was good for the brain to have downtime, albeit less interesting. You definitely lost track of exes, which was a good thing!

  21. Simple answer. You met at the mall. I got my first cell phone in college, so the teen years had to revolve around showing an ounce of responsibility. In high school, you met in the mall. No matter what… you had a time and place (usually in front of The Gap). If you rolled in 30 minutes later, you missed out and had to call your parents to come pick you up. Also, if you drove somewhere, you called whenever you got to that person’s house. If you didn’t, your mother freaked out and you were the loser having your parents call around to all your friends. There were also pagers, so if you had one, and your parents or friends paged you… you scurried to the nearest payphone or house phone and called them.

  22. When you are in your mid forties, like I am now, you will be reading a similar article from a twenty something asking how you survived during the 2010s without current technologies. I remember doing research for my thesis using microfiche to find articles from older periodicals. I also remember having a phone for my car in the mid 90s; I was the first of my friends. It was used for emergencies only! It was way too expensive to use to kill time on long drives. I think every generation asks similar questions to prior ones. You are right when you say there were definitely some benefits without all this technology. I feel sometimes the progression of technology is moving much faster than what we can mentally and emotionally embrace, especially in terms of communication and intimacy.

  23. The answer to pretty much every one of those questions is “You just put on your big girl pants and figured it out.” You went to the library, you made phone calls, you wrote letters, you joined clubs. Same thing people in their 20’s do now, just you know, face to face and non-electronically.
    For #2, you just had to respect people’s time and stick to the plans you’d made because once people left home, there was no way to contact them to change things. You couldn’t flick your friend a last minute text because you decided to try out a new hair style and ended up running 20 minutes late, because if you left your friend sitting in a cafe for 20 minutes, she would just leave. Much as I love Google maps and the internet, I really miss that part of pre-cell phone society. The idea that because we all have smart phones now, you can just cancel plans at the last minute is so rude. Just because you text someone to tell them you’re cancelling doesn’t make them less annoyed with you when they’re sitting somewhere waiting for you.

  24. 1 – You talked to people, either in person or via your land line telephone. This meant you hung out with people whom you knew from school or your neighborhood or sports team or any other activity you participated in.
    2 – There were phones in every restaurant or location where you’d go, so you called those places from your home or pay phone to tell people you were in an accident, or got sick, or whatever. The people who worked there would get a message to them.
    3 – You didn’t know who was calling before you picked up. It was adventurous!
    4 – If you didn’t like talking on the phone, you didn’t do it. It didn’t happen nearly as much then as now. Most people had face to face conversations for most things.
    5 – You talked to them and asked them whatever questions you had. OR you asked people who knew them about them. Reputation was a BIG deal.
    6 – Again, face to face talking was something people did a lot of back then. Someone knew someone and you met, or you were both in ___ group and got to know each other…
    7 – You didn’t unless someone told you something. That old song, “Heard it through the grapevine”? yeah…
    8 – You had a few close friends that you kept in touch with and the rest went their own way. That’s why they had reunions.
    9 – There was a Want Ads section in the newspaper that you looked through, or signs in the window, or you knew someone who was hiring. That’s how I got my first job – a friend’s mom needed help in the office where she worked. You applied in person with a paper resume with a cover letter. That’s why dressing right and eye contact and shaking hands was so important – it was the job’s first impression of you.
    10 – My parents gave me parameters with consequences. I was to be home or to call by a certain time or there were consequences. There was a lot more freedom without strings back then, but also a lot more trust in kids. Sometimes that trust was misplaced, but a lot of times kids rose to the occasion. People now are SO protective of their kids.
    11 – We read books, made conversations, learned to wait patiently on our own without needing to be entertained every single moment. Eye contact wasn’t a bad thing at all. It was a necessary and good part of life.
    12 – It was ALL on paper. With typewriters. By phone. Meetings happened and you took notes.
    13 – You weren’t expected to be in constant communication all the time and you were cut slack for traffic, etc. People would wait up to a half an hour for you if you were late, sometimes longer. There was grace extended to you because eventually it happened to everyone and people understood.
    14 – You physically went and signed up on paper for everything you participated in. And you got to know the coaches and teachers ahead of time as well as often some of the other students. It wasn’t an inconvenience – it was social interaction.
    15 – We always had a map in the car with us and learned to read them. Gas stations used to sell them too so you could usually easily figure where you were and how to get where you were going. Gas station attendants (they used to have those) were often good with directions as well.
    16 – People used to stop and help other people all the time. People were most often kind when someone was in a difficult situation, especially if that person was female. There was a sense of protecting women that is gone. The internet hasn’t helped that at ALL in my opinion.
    17 – We really did carry change on us. It simplified things. Often someone was around who could give change for a dollar or something. Most things didn’t cost more than a dollar.
    18 – Libraries and encyclopedias. Card catalogs. You earned, for sure!
    19 – You watched TV and listened to what the Weatherman said.
    20 – You wrote or called. I have SO many sweet letters from my husband, then boyfriend, from when we were apart. If you weren’t too far away you called each other by phone. You didn’t have too many friends, but the ones you had you were close to.

    It was a good time. Simpler. Friendlier. More people-focused.

  25. This article makes me feel very fortunate I know how to read a map (thanks Mom, for being a great co-pilot to Dad and teaching me). I actually always had a Rand McNally road Atlas of the United States in my car and it was penned and highlighted all over. I also learned (thanks Dad) how to change a tire when I was 14. And when I got my first car I learned a few things about how to fix certain things that might “break down”. I still keep jumper cables in my car and have surprised a few youngsters (I’m 38 by the way) when I can start their cars without them calling their Dad or AAA.

    I’m still never late for “plans” because when I was young I didn’t want to be left behind.

    I still love libraries which were essential for researching anything when we were kids, even after we go a set of Encyclopedias.

    I don’t miss the countless hours spent circling, in red, jobs in the “want ads” and calling each one individually and then typing a cover letter for my resume (which had a typo that I couldn’t fix because I already spent my budget making copies at Kinkos) and driving to that place to drop it off.

    If there was a weather channel in the 80’s, I didn’t know about it. You watched the Al Roker or your local news.

    I still pick up the phone when I am not sure who it is. What if one of my friends is in danger (by the side of the road without their phone) and they have to borrow one from a stranger. I would hate to think I didn’t pick up and they were found by a serial killer shortly thereafter.

    Your parents didn’t get in touch with you while you were out. We had a curfew and if we weren’t home on time. Grounded for 2 weeks. No going out at all. No phone calls.

    And yes, we called our friends at night and talked for as long as the rules of the house allowed.

    I have no idea why I am taking the time to reply to this. I have to check my Emails, and Facebook to see if I have plans tonight.

  26. 1. Plans were made in advance, usually before one of the people left their house, so the others could call them and see what the plans were. If plans changed, you often left it in the greeting on your voice mail. They’d call you, and your voice mail greeting would tell them the new plans. I don’t know how they did it before voice mail.

    2. You would try to get to a pay phone and call the bar, restaraunt, whatever, and have the bartender, hostess, etc, tell your friend you were running late. Sometimes you just didn’t show and you’d have to explain hours or days later.

    3. You always answered the phone, regardless. Scary, i know.

    4. My mom always got someone else to do it for her, my dad, me

    5. You had to ask their friends. Otherwise, you had to be careful whom you dated.

    6. Chance meetings mostly. Although there was telephone dating: You called a number and created a profile, then listened to the messages of people who fit the description of who you were looking for. If someone sounded interesting, you could leave them a message and then they might call you back, or leave you a message.

    7. Only if you had mutual friends.

    8. I lost track of all but two of my graduating class until facebook.

    9. Newspapers were the main source of job listings. It was tedious. Everything was done on paper and by snail mail.

    10. Some people’s parents made them call every two hours from a pay phone or the phone of their friend’s house, but most paretns’ just let us go. Remember, they’d been letting us play by ourselves since preschool age, so it was nothing new for them to let us be.

    11. Newspapers and magazines often filled this role, but books too, and pocket video games. Going all the way back to 1981, we had game and watch pocket games.

    12. We actually go more done before email. My boss spends three hours a day doing email. His predecessor would have spent that time actually getting things done (reviewing actual projects, providing feedback, walking around assisting team memebers)

    13. You told them when you arrived. It was normal.

    14. Paper, like you said, although you could just call ahead by phone and book the class with your credit card.

    15. The map was mostly in your head. For new places, you needed someone who knew how to get from where you were to the new place, and hopefully they gave you GOOD directions, usually not. We go lost a lot.

    16. Yes, knock on the door and hope the people were cool. I sat at the kitchen table of this dude as he drank can after can of PBR waiting for my dad to come help when my car broke down in the middle of nowhere. He was twice my age and it was really weird and awkward. Hopefully my son will never endure anything like that.

    17. Not only change, but we had calling cards, which were like phone specific credit cards. You picked up the pay phone, entered a special number, entered your card number, and bingo, you could talk to anyone, anywhere without the need for change (sometimes you would need the initial quarter to get started).

    18. One word- Library. And it sucked. BTW. Especially if your library was a small one.

    19. Radio or TV was most popular, but we didn’t have a weather channel, they would tell you the weather once an hour or so.

    20. We did lose touch with friends a lot, especially if both people moved at the same time. Knowing extended family memebers (parents and grandparents) phone number and addresses helped, but sometimes you just lost touch, until facebook.

  27. I’m in my late 30s. This is fun but makes me feel ancient!

    1. How did you make plans?

    Phone and just talking at school. That’s not to say there weren’t frustrations…I remember once my family made plans to meet up at the beach with some family friends, who were going to bring a picnic lunch for all of us. When we got there, it was more crowded than usual, and they weren’t by the lifeguard tower where my mom thought we’d agreed to meet. We walked up and down the beach about 5 times, waited about half an hour…and then left. It turned out they thought we’d agreed to meet a little farther down the beach at a different lifeguard tower, and were there waiting for us all along. We must have walked right by them at least once, but didn’t see them as it was so crowded and they weren’t where we thought they’d be. None of us had any way of contacting each other.

    2. How did you CANCEL plans?

    You were either late, or you’d call from your house. I am a very punctual person, but there were many times I’d be waiting for a friend who would show up an hour after I expected them.

    4. How did you rid of the fear that is calling people?

    I have that same fear. Very few of my friends had their own phone lines, and in jr. high/high school, calling a guy you like is bad enough without the possibility of having to have an awkward conversation with his parents first. Another thing that always bothered me was that when I would call a friend and they weren’t home, I’d have to leave a message with their parents/siblings. Not everybody wrote things down…so maybe you had tentative plans to get together with a friend that weekend, or you wanted to invite a friend over for a sleepover. You’d call her house, and if she wasn’t home her mom would answer and say “I’ll tell her you called”…and then hours later you still hadn’t heard back from her. Do you…(1) call back, assuming she never got the message, even though she could not be home yet or be blowing you off, and you’ll look like a desperate loser, or (2) not call back, and miss out on your plans because her mom forgot to tell her you called. These were the problems that kept me up at night in the late 80s/early 90s.

    5. How did you find out information about people before you went on dates with them?

    I never went on any pre-internet blind dates, so everyone was vetted through friends or I met them through school.

    8. How did you keep tabs on what your entire graduating class from high school was doing? 

    In college, we wrote letters. Long, multi-page letters about what was going on, classes, relationships, etc. It was kind of awesome – I had a whole box of fun stationery, and it was so great to get to your mail box and have big fat envelopes from your friends with letters (and, often, mix tapes!). Freshman year of college was the first time I ever used really used email – it was just starting to be somewhat widespread/popular with people getting dial up internet with AOL and Prodigy (which you’ve probably never heard of, it was similar to AOL) accounts, and colleges offering email accounts. So we kept in touch that way a bit too, but nobody had a laptop/wifi so you had to go to the computer lab to do it – I maybe checked my email once every few days. Before joining Facebook 6-7 years ago, I had no idea what most of my high school class was doing, except a few people through word of mouth/parents.

    9. How did you look for jobs?

    Newspaper ads, and for summer retail/fast food type jobs, just going in the store/restaurant, asking if they were hiring, and filling out an application. By the time I was writing cover letters/resumes, I had a computer, but I’m sure before that people typed them on a word processor or early computer (we had a Commodore 64 with printer starting around the mid-80s).

    10. How did your parents get in touch with you when you were out?

    They didn’t. I had to tell them where I was going, who I’d be with, and approximately when I’d be home, so I suppose they could have called me at wherever I said I’d be, but they never did that I can remember as I was generally a pretty responsible/respectful kid.

    14. How did you sign up for classes at the gym?

    I only went to one gym pre-internet booking, and they did have sign up sheets for equipment and classes. We would usually go about 1/2 hour before the class we wanted started, sign up, and then sign up for a machine and do 1/2 hour of cardio before the class. It wasn’t a super busy gym though. I took other fitness classes, but for those you signed up/enrolled for the entire “session”, which was usually 3 months (by filling out a form and mailing it in – if the class filled up, the people who got their forms in first got in).

    15. How did you know where you were or where you were going ever? Did you have carry around a real live map on you at all times?

    There was these maps called “Thomas Guides”. They were basically big spiral bound books with detailed maps for an entire major metro area – you’d look up the street in the back and it would give you the corresponding map page. Everyone had one in their car, and they were easier to use than unfolding a big map. If I was going somewhere I wasn’t familiar with, I would generally look it up in the Thomas Guide, write the directions down on a small piece of paper, and then tape the paper to the steering wheel. If you were going on a road trip outside your metro area, you’d call AAA and they would put together a “TripTik” for you with maps for everywhere you would be traveling.

    16. What did you have to do if you broke down on the side of the road?

    There were (I think maybe still are?) these emergency call boxes at regular intervals on the side of major highways. Otherwise you were screwed and had to take your chances with someone who stopped to help, or walk to find a phone. My dad’s car once broke down on a freeway on-ramp in a sketchy area near his office during evening rush hour, and he had to walk back through said sketchy area to a sketchy bar to find a pay phone to call AAA. By the time he got back to the car, someone had already stolen his hubcaps, broken the window, and stolen his “Club” (which was a safety device that locked over your steering wheel so the car couldn’t be hot-wired/stolen).

    17. How did you always have change on you to use these pay phones? Did you really carry a bunch of cash and coins on you???

    Yep. If it was somewhere like a gas station where there were other people around, you could ask if they had change for a dollar, and you could also call collect in a pinch. I think there were directions on the pay phones for how to do that/get an operator, but I’m a little hazy. When I started driving, my parents required that I keep a roll of coins in the car for meters and pay phones.

    18. How did you research anything for school?

    Encyclopedia. Card catalog. Books. Microfilm and microfiche. Handwritten papers.

    19. How did you find out about the weather?

    The newspaper, the radio, the evening news, and there was also a phone number that you could call (for free) and get the current time and weather for your area.

  28. 1. We called each other on the phone or spoke to each other in person.
    2. We made sure we left plenty of time to travel in case there was traffic; we were conscientious about being late, which no one cares about any more. There was a 20-minute rule; we waited 20 minutes, then left.
    3. We didn’t know who was calling before we answered the phone. It didn’t matter. It never occurred to be so rude and antisocial as to avoid a phone call from someone.
    4. Fear of calling people?! That’s conditioned anti-social behavior afflicting your generation. Grow up.
    5. And 6. Information about new dates; we usually met people at school, work, or through family or friends. We didn’t date total strangers. So we weren’t constantly shopping for the Bigger Better Deal, because who we met and dated was limited to who we actually knew, or someone we knew actually knew.
    7. Generally, we didn’t stalk our exes. Especially once we were out of school and older. We let go.
    8. We didn’t. We stayed in touch with only our real friends. But most schools had an alumni association run by students that we could sign up with.
    9. Employment ads in newspapers. Ever seen a newspaper in print?
    10. Our parents didn’t. We learned how to be on our own for hours at a time as children. We learned how to be responsible for our time, our belongings, and getting to where we should be. We learned how to make decisions on our own and be responsible. When I was in college, I went weeks without talking to my parents on the phone. We were much more mature when we graduated high school than you are.
    11. I can’t stop rolling my eyes. How did we pass the time while waiting? We had conversations with the people around us; yes, we chatted with strangers. Many of us had a magazine or book, or work with us and we read that. I always had a paperback book in my purse to read while waiting for the subway. We read a lot, that’s why we have a larger vocabulary than you do.
    12. This may be really hard to believe, but we learned how to read and write and spell and type and talk to people on the telephone in real time. We made phone calls. We wrote documents; we learned how to spell and write in school. We read printed material. WE READ A LOT. We sent letters and documents by mail. There were no “constant communication problems.” That’s ridiculous.
    13. See #2. People were expected to be on time. Showing up late for work was forgiven for a limited number of times. If you were often late, you were fired. Grow up; you are not entitled to be late. You are expected to be on time, and be responsible for showing up on time.
    14. We signed up for anything by going there in person, calling on the phone, or mailing in a registration.
    15. We learned our way around. It’s not that hard. We also used printed maps when traveling.
    16. There were far more pay phones around then there are now; most have been removed. Yes, you had to walk to a pay phone. If we had a car, most people had AAA membership. Also, most people learned how to change a tire, either in driver ed or our fathers taught us. Everybody who drives should know how to change a tire.
    17. Yes, of course we had cash and change in our wallets. And I had a little change purse for subway tokens.
    18. We went to the library. In person. For hours. WE READ A LOT.
    19. We saw the weather report in the evening TV news, on the radio, or read it in the daily newspaper.
    20. We talked to our friends on the telephone. For hours. And we actually got together with our friends in person and did things together and paid attention to each other when we were together. Because a friend was and still is someone that you talk to, not someone on your list on a social media website.

    1. I was born in 1960. I was in college from 1978-1982. When I was in college, we put messages on paper on our dorm room doors for our friends.

  29. 1. We made plans by calling them, or we did this weird thing called “hanging out” where we actually made plans for future days and kept those plans.

    2. When a friend was late, we never assumed they were standing us up…We were more concerned that they were ok…But we never canceled plans because traffic was “too much”. We valued our friend time more than that…And the friend waiting had this uncanny thing called “patience”.

    3. We didn’t know who was calling, so we didn’t know who to avoid. Adventurous indeed.

    4. We were not afraid to communicate with other people…Which is ironic, because now there are more ways to communicate, but no one is actually using it for that.

    5. We took a chance. We asked THEM the questions. We got to know THEM. We didn’t have to dance around the idea of a person, because we were forced to get to know THEM, not their profile.

    6. Dances, parties, on the street, at the mall…People were everywhere, and still are today. You just need to look up from the phone and you might see someone trying to get your attention.

    7. Ex’s are ex’s for a reason, right? So why is it so important how they are doing if we didn’t want them in our lives anymore? I think the real question should be is why do people break up and then “keep tabs” on each other? Sounds like time for a hobby. 🙂

    8. I didn’t keep up with people from high school…I was too busy keeping tabs on my own life and dreams..

    9. Newspapers, word of mouth, signs…It wasn’t that bad, actually.

    10, Parents didn’t keep tabs on us…We just knew to go home when the street lights came on. It was freedom, we learned to socialize, we learned to be independent. That is what a parent’s job USED to be…To create people who were able to be ok with themselves and survive on their own.

    11. We didn’t avoid people. People were not scary. It was common to have a conversation with a stranger. It’s amazing how much bigger and more wonderful the world was when that happened.

    12. Memos, phone calls…Or the crazy idea of walking over and talking to them.

    13. Refer to #2 and replace “valued our friend time” with “valued our jobs”.

    14. Who needed a gym? We rode bikes, played games outside, ran, jumped, skipped…And it was all free..

    15. Again, we were adventurous…Sometimes getting lost was half the fun.

    16. We were taught basic vehicle maintenance before we ever learned to drive..If it was something serious, we went to a pay phone and called a tow truck…The rest is still the same today.

    17. Since carrying cash was more prevalent than credit, yes, we had a lot of change at all times.

    18. We used libraries. It’s where I met my first girlfriend. She wasn’t trying to avoid eye contact with me. In fact, she was trying to get my attention by staring and giggling a lot with her friend. You should try it. It’s more of a rush then getting a thumb’s up or a “swipe right” on Tinder.

    19. We would look outside? Maybe even watch the news? Listen to the radio? But personally, I never worried about the weather…it goes back to that whole adventurous thing.

    20. We didn’t have to stay in touch with friends…We made the effort to BE friends…Friends should always do this, or why call them friends?

  30. This was cute lol. The pre-internet era wasn’t that bad. We managed just fine without all of the stuff we have now, but the new technology does make life a bit easier. Disconnected, but earlier 😉
    S/N – Why did I read this and keep hearing Hannah Horvath’s voice in my head asking these questions???

  31. This is hilarious! The older among us have already answered your questions, but let me say this–there are some things the younger set are missing out on because of technology. Two main things–1-Talking to people. In person. On the phone. As teens we went out-went anywhere we could find other teens (park, movies, mall, mini golf, etc.) and we all talked. Face to face. To people we’d never met before even. It was fun. We also dated. People we hardly knew sometimes-because we’d never texted them before (maybe we just met them the weekend before at the mall). It wasn’t a big deal and not everyone knew your entire personal life because there was no technology to record it. 2-We never had to unplug. The world stopped and you could get away from school, from work, from life. I try to teach my kids to do this as there is nothing as peaceful as living totally in the moment and unplugging from the rest of life for a bit. Great post.

    1. That’s a great lesson that parents should give up on! I’m in my mid 20’s and i got rid of my smart phone because I was sick of the burden and always having to be ”plugged in.” Instead I have a regular phone that I share with my husband and a tablet that I use if I want to play a game or use apps. I use Skype if he wants to call me during the day too. Such a simpler way of life and much less stress. I dont miss my droid phones anymore but it was tough getting to this point. It’s been 3 years now and I’m not looking back!

  32. It really is amazing how much things have changed and how quickly. One point of clarification though, caller ID existed before cell phones. I think it was sometime in the late 80s or early 90s.

  33. I think that one really awful, terrible thing that the Internet & technology have made happen is that a lot of truly poor writing that shouldn’t be read gets your attention and you find, tragically, that you’ve wasted your time reading it.

    In the past, it was a lot harder to get so much bad writing in front of a large audience.

  34. 1. How did you make plans? YOU USED THE TELEPHONE. A LOT. And you know what people did before the telephone was common? They wrote letters. Read Sherlock Holmes stories: there were 4 or 5 mail deliveries a day in London, and Holmes is always writing letters and getting a reply later the same day.

    2 & 13. How did you cancel plans or say you were going to be late? You stopped and used a pay phone. I’ll tell you what made me decide to get a cell phone, rather later than many people: it was when I could no longer easily find pay phones to make calls like these.

    If you were stuck in the subway or somewhere else without a phone … you just didn’t. The person expecting you learned you’d be late when you didn’t show up on time. It could be frustrating. Read some literature. Think of how the entire tragedy of Romeo and Juliet could have been avoided if they’d had cell phones.

    8. Keeping tabs on your graduating class … the main reason I don’t belong to Facebook is that I don’t WANT to keep tabs on them, or worse, for them to keep tabs on me. I didn’t like high school, and I’m glad to be far gone from it.

    9. How did you look for jobs? Newspaper classified ads. Trade journals in your field would also run job ads. The price of these ads is what kept newspapers going financially for a long time.

    15. Where were you going? Yes, you had maps. Or you asked for directions. There was a whole category of jokes about male reluctance to ask for directions.

    16. If your car broke down and there was no phone … yes, you walked until you got somewhere. Or flagged someone down. This was no less dangerous then than it is now, but we weren’t deluged with horror stories on 135 channels, so we didn’t worry about it so much.

    17. Carrying change for the pay phones? Easy. Phone calls used to cost ten cents. It wasn’t hard to carry enough change for a lot of phone calls. If you didn’t have a dime, someone might lend you one.

    18. Research for school? Started with the encyclopedia, yes, just as you start with Wikipedia now. And, as now, you had to look a lot further than that to do a good job.

    19. Find out the weather? Newspaper. Updated daily; for most purposes, that’s good enough. Radio stations for emergencies like major storms. But forecasting in general was very poor until satellite viewing became common, so people didn’t expect much from weather reports.

    20. Stay in touch with friends? Phones and letters and visits. To pass along fast-breaking news in a social circle, there were what were called “phone trees.” Each person would have a designated couple of other people to call, and the news would trickle down.

  35. 1. How did you make plans? Called them on the land line, or caught up with them in school. Or rode the bicycle over to their house to ask.

    2. How did you CANCEL plans? Well… you were late a lot. If you stood them up, you called (or caught up with them or rode the bike over) to apologize profusely. If you were smart, you had rules, like “if someone is more than 15 minutes late, the other party has the right to leave”. And there were these things called pay phones that existed on every corner where the Starbucks currently exist. For a dime (or a quarter), you could call the number and let them know. Or call collect, if long-distance/far away/had no dime.

    3. How did you know who was calling you before you picked up the phone? You didn’t. And if you missed the call, they had to call back.

    4. How did you rid of the fear that is calling people? You just never picked up the phone.

    5. How did you find out information about people before you went on dates with them? You asked people who knew them, and you took your chances. And you used this little thing called “gut instinct”, which is out of service now that we have Google (but gut instinct is far more reliable). Basically, you wouldn’t go out on a date UNTIL you knew stuff about them. Weeded out the losers a lot easier.

    6. How did you find people to date in the first place??? Church. (I’m kidding.) Bars. Common interest clubs. Through friends/neighbors/relatives. At school. At your after-school job. Walking the dog in the park. Being out for a walk with friends. See, if you put down the phone and LOOK UP AND LOOK AROUND once in awhile, you actually SEE that there are other people nearby. Then you can walk up to them and actually talk to the real live person.

    7. How did you keep tabs on exes? Oh, we did. We rode our bikes past their houses. Drove past their houses. Employed our friends to spy on them for us. You’d be surprised how stealth we could be and how much information we could obtain without benefit of social media. We had to be creative and use our brains to come up with strategies.

    8. How did you keep tabs on what your entire graduating class from high school was doing? We didn’t, because once we graduated from the bubble that is high school, unless we stayed behind in our provincial little towns, we simply forgot about all of them except our best friends, and moved on and made NEW friends. And then we laughed at reunions and wondered why we ever worried so much about their opinions. Besides, social media takes all the fun out of it. If you’ve kept tabs on all 400 in your class, you miss out on the shock of seeing that the captain of the football team who was so dreamily hot in senior year has turned into a grossly-obese, sweaty bald insurance salesmen on his third (failing) marriage, and you no longer feel upset that he turned you down when you asked him to prom.

    9. How did you look for jobs? There is this thing called the newspaper. And this other thing called a typewriter. And McDonald’s used to have paper application forms. You’d look in the newspaper, or if you saw a Help Wanted sign, you’d inquire within. For newspaper jobs, you’d type up a letter and a resume, and put them in this thing called an envelope (the actual physical item upon which your email icon is based), and then you’d grab this little square thing called a “stamp”, lick the back of it (with your tongue—the stamp has glue on it that activates when wet), stick it on the envelope, and put it in this physical metal object at the end of your driveway called a mailbox (which is where they got the name for the email thing). Then you’d wait by the landline phone for a call to come in for an interview.
    10. How did your parents get in touch with you when you were out? They either drove over to track you down (and you’d better hope you were actually where you said you were) or they stayed up until 3:00 AM wondering where in God’s Green Earth you were, and were about five minutes away from calling hospitals. And then you were grounded for a week or two.

    11. How did your survive waiting for meetings, appointments, trains, or anything without being able to pass time by pretending to look busy on your phone? If you were introverted, you sat quietly and kept to yourself. Or you brought a book with you. You know, an actual physical book with pages in them (not a Kindle or e-Reader). Or you brought along your knitting or crocheting. Or you doodled. Or if you were extroverted, you’d strike up a conversation with people around you who were equally chatty, and sometimes meet some of the most interesting people (and potential dates). Or, you people-watched (especially fun in busy stations). There are some real weirdos out there worth having a gawk at.

    12. How did you do ANYTHING at work before email? You did actual WORK. And there were memos. Lots and lots of memos, typewritten with that typewriter thing, and mimeographed (kind of like a xerox). And people talked to each other while looking at each other rather than at screens, and there was again that thing called a telephone or landline.

    13. How did you tell co-workers (or someone else you were meeting) that you were going to be late when you were stuck in traffic or stuck on some disabled subway car? See #2 above.
    14. How did you sign up for classes at the gym? Yes, you had to like, physically GO to the gym and sign up by writing your name on a piece of paper hours or days before the class took place. Yes it was, like, a huuuuge inconvenience. But no more than the inconvenience of actually going to the gym once signed up. I mean, what did people DO before workout videos, YouTube, and apps for that? Magosh…

    15. How did you know where you were or where you were going ever? Yes, you had to carry around a real live map if you were going someplace far away. No, we did not also have a compass. We were far more aware of this thing called “our surroundings” than Text Zombies are nowadays, and we also felt safe stopping at gas stations asking for directions. And we paid attention to stuff around us, like street signs, position of the sun in the sky, landmarks. Basically, we PAID ATTENTION to that thing called the “outside world”. It was super amazing.

    16. What did you have to do if you broke down on the side of the road? You walked to the nearest exit to find a gas station and pay phone. Or, you sat there and waited until someone helpful came along (usually the police). You probably knew how to change your flat tire, but if it was overheating or something else, you were SOL until police or helpful stranger came along. And yes, it was really dangerous. The one benefit of cell phones is that this isn’t as much of an issue now.

    17. How did you always have change on you to use these pay phones? Yes, we carried cash. Or traveler’s checks (when traveling—think of it as the paper version of a pre-paid travel card). You wonder how the “worn pocket” look came about—it was authentic, from carrying around wallets filled with cash (in the back pocket), or a lot of quarters and dimes (in the front).

    18. How did you research anything for school? Did you have to go through the Encyclopedia? Yes. Encyclopedia. And books dedicated to the subjects. We used card catalogs, magazine indexes, that thing where you can read newspapers… and we had to work very hard, and study a lot, and couldn’t buy term papers, didn’t have cliff notes, had to actually read the books and write the synopses ourselves (typed, or in very neat cursive), do math on paper or in our head rather than on a calculator… and walk five miles uphill to school both ways in hip-deep snow.

    19. How did you find out about the weather? It was pretty easy to tell that it was snowing when it was all white and cold outside. And the newsmen at noon and 6:00 did about as good a job of predicting stuff as anyone does nowadays. I mean, it’s the weather. There was less “Snowmageddon-induced grocery store chaos” than there is nowadays thanks to social media and sensationalism. Though it would have been nice to have more warning about the Blizzard of 78, a storm that was truly worth panicking about (stranded, five days, no water, heat, electricity or TV. ONLY the landline phone worked).

    20. How did you stay in touch with friends? In life before social media, our connections were more intimate and personal. We met face to face. We had lunch. We went out. We looked at each other and saw each other. We didn’t see the manufactured persona we all nowadays post online—we could look into our friend’s eyes, and see what they were going through without them saying a word. It was much more real then. We may not have had 500 “friends”, and we were local versus global (though faraway penpals were a thing), but the friendships we had were real, and they withstood the test of time. We were also able to keep some details private, things that could spell the end of a fragile friendship in its newest stages. Today, everyone posts everything they eat, sleep with, like, dislike, believe in, hate, want, have, don’t have, and think on a minute to minute basis, giving the world a far more close-up look at stuff we wouldn’t share with strangers, yet we post it publicly for the world to see.

    Aww, now you’ve gone and made me all nostalgic for how life used to be.

  36. 1. How did you make plans?

    No mystery, by phone or word of mouth.

    2. How did you CANCEL plans?

    (see above)

    3. How did you know who was calling you before you picked up the phone?

    We didn’t. At least, not until Call Display came out. If you had a problem with a caller you would hung up and call the operator to make a complaint about the last caller.

    4. How did you rid of the fear that is calling people?

    Not entirely sure what you mean by this. Must be a new thing with people who are accustomed to always texting.

    5. How did you find out information about people before you went on dates with them?

    Unless they were acquaintances, you didn’t. And unless people have suddenly started telling nothing but the truth via internet, then people are still the same.

    6. How did you find people to date in the first place?

    We would meet them — in bars, the park, at a friend’s gathering/party, work, school, conventions, etc…

    7. How did you keep tabs on exes?

    Depends on how seriously you wanted to keep tabs. You might know someone who knows someone, or you were really concerned you could hire a private eye.

    8. How did you keep tabs on what your entire graduating class from high school was doing?

    To this day, I still don’t know what everyone in my graduating class is doing, and I’m really not that concerned. Keeping tabs on people is almost like cyber stalking… wouldn’t you agree?

    9. How did you look for jobs? And then apply to jobs?

    The classifieds section of newspaper of course — which still exists btw. You type out your resume and mail it to them. Also, colleges and universities had placement offices providing assisstance.

    10. How did your parents get in touch with you when you were out?

    Unless they knew where I was, they didn’t.

    11. How did your survive waiting for meetings, appointments, trains, or anything without being able to pass time by pretending to look busy on your phone?

    We usually had a book or newspaper with us. If waiting in an office, there’d be a magazine rack.

    12. How did you do ANYTHING at work before email?

    We used inner office memos typed out on a typewriter, or we send letters by mail. This was the norm. Actually, even by today’s standards, the office does NOT shut down just because the internet is out, we can still perform tasks on our computers.

    13. How did you tell co-workers (or someone else you were meeting) that you were going to be late when you were stuck in traffic or stuck on some disabled subway car?

    You could either stop and use a pay-phone or you simply didn’t. It happened.

    14. How did you sign up for classes at the gym?

    You’re kidding right? It’s the same today as it was back then, you drop in and check out the place. If you like it, then you sign up. Are you telling me you sign up for a gym online without checking it out. How then do you get to the gym if it’s such a bother to go there??

    15. How did you know where you were or where you were going ever?

    Printed “maps”. People used them, and still use them, to find their way around. I keep a Perly’s in my car. If you were not sure exactly where you, you’d just ask somebody. Gas station attendants always got asked.

    16. What did you have to do if you broke down on the side of the road?

    You waited for someone to drive by and ask for help. Or you would walk to the nearest town/service station. And yes, pay phones were more prevalent back then.

    17. How did you always have change on you to use these pay phones?

    People generally carried cash on them. If you didn’t have change, you’d ask someone if they could break a dollar.

    18. How did you research anything for school?

    The library — either in the school or the local public library. Many people had encyclopedias in their home.

    19. How did you find out about the weather?

    Radio or the weather report from the night before.

    20. How did you stay in touch with friends?

    (see question 1)

  37. I’m in my mid 50’s, so I know life with and without cellphones and internet.
    The main thing I can sense from this article is FEAR and LAZINESS !!!
    NO FUN from real living adventure….Playing it safe all the time, is a bore and keeps your mind closed to anything that might actually end up being EXPERIENCE !!!
    No wonder all this allianation and solitute and agresivness that leads to extremes like killing schoolmates…. It’s sad and pathetic…
    And NO, you’ll never know who others are, if hidden in a coccon behind your own thumb like an ostrich and never learn how to cope with difficulties of daily struggle, which makes it impossible for you to survive after parents are gone or internet fails for good.
    Do YOU STILL BELIEVE YOU’RE IN A BETTER PLACE ???
    USE YOUR HEAD/MIND FOR ONCE AND START LIVING !!! t
    LIFE IS FASCINATING EVEN WHEN IT SOMETIMES SUCKS !!!!!

  38. Hilarious. I just wanted to say that yes, when you broke down, you did indeed have to go up to someone’s house or hope for a drive by. I have knocked on many a door after dark.

  39. Cell phones really took off when I was in grammar school and it was a very strange time. Only some of actually got them, it was mixed. Eventually I had to forced my mother into understanding that I would be safer with one since I was always at some sport practice or a friends house and I didnt want to be stranded …alone.. again (which happened a LOT back then!) Old school cell phones that didnt have internet and apps and stuff, just the ones that called people and texted (before video messages too) were much safer in my opinion. The big thing back then (we’re talking 90’s) was getting them for when you’re out driving alone in case you were in an emergency and that’s what they still should be for. Speaking from experience here, we’re talking high school & college when dating and friends and drama is going on…cell phones and smart phones made things worse! Now in stead of people driving to be safe, people are driving while reading texts or watching videos or whatever. It’s just not safe. I got rid of my smart phone. I’m so sick of hearing that someone else died from texting and driving.

    So your question of what it was like back then (90’s) growing up without a cell phone… it was safer. It was simpler too. People went to the park and found their friends their because that’s where your friends would be on a given tuesday after dinner. Or you’d find your other friends at the local diner at 4pm because they’re parents were getting home soon and chicken nugget weds was very popular. Being got stood up a lot but people took things like ”I promise to meet you under the arch at 4pm” very seriously. You didnt break those meetings unless you wanted a very upset friend. Or worse yet, they would leave without you and you would have to go to the movies alone. People rode bikes everywhere so there weren’t as many health issues. Regular cell phones made life much easier and it was like giving kids freedom. Now it’s like a giant burden handing kids smart phones and hoping they dont walk into a wall or off a bridge. Sure, it’s convenient. Sure, it’s tech savvy and cool. It’s not safer though.

    Once I got out of college and the iPhones were at their peak in popularity I got rid of my smart phone. I was so sick of the hype. I can’t even tell you how many driods I had, i had so many. Smart phones got rid of kids trying to spell correctly, it ruined what little culture this country had. I’m a millennial and I’m glad I noticed early on because it was a bi***ch to give mine up. I have a dumb phone that I share with my husband and a Fire tablet hdx that I carry with me in case I need to talk to him. I also have skype on my computer that I keep up 24/7 in case my mom has to call me. If I leave, I bring my tablet with me w/ skype on. It’s a simpler life. I dont have people blowing up my phone anymore. I dont have a distraction on the roads. I still have my apps and internet w/ my tablet and laptop but I DO NOT have a stupid smart phone =) and I feel FREE!!

  40. You missed one of the most horrifying. Before the internet, you had to either use a travel agent or call up the airline to book plane tickets. And then they mailed an actual paper ticket to your house.

    Though the flip side, people without plane tickets could get through airport security to drop off or pick up their friends/family at the gate. That’s also how you found the person picking you up at the airport. Or else you had to arrange to meet somewhere else ahead of time.

  41. Yes!!! Life did exist, in a very social one-to-one way, before these ‘conveniences’. And….. yes…. we called each other on land-lines (and were thrilled to leave messages once answering machines were available) and answered the phone, for good or bad. My aunt had a party line (cheaper) – shared a line with someone else who just picked up the phone and listened to their conversations! You went out on dates with strangers or met through friends, at work or at a party; didn’t care about ex’s or found out them through mutual friends. At some point, Personal Ad dating became available in the newspaper. Parents found out what you were doing by talking to your friend’s parents. Strangers spoke to each other at train stations/ bus stops to pass the time (often very enjoyable!!), you looked each other in the eye and said ‘hi’, and you helped others in need because you might need a hand one day. At 18 years old I once loaded a whole family, mom, dad & little kids, into my little car at 1am when I saw they had driven into a ditch, and drove them home- it’s what you did……. and felt good about it. You used pay-phones (yes- had change on hand); used a map book which was kept in your car; watched the tv or paper for weather; called a rec centre on a land line to join a class; went to the library for research and ordered books; and had to use a travel agent to make your travel arrangements! Not that any of that was a better or was a more social time than today; but it was truly different. Of course – it worked – it always does!!!

  42. I guess this is not curiosity as much as a generation looking at its belly button and being unable to imagine other belly buttons. Sad.

  43. General answers: telephones, newspapers, and an acceptance that we wouldn’t necessarily be in the know all the time. We got lost, made mistakes, and got caught in the rain without an umbrella–then lived to tell about it.

    For some reason, this is the one that bothered me the most:

    2. How did you CANCEL plans? So you’re stuck in traffic and you’re not going to make it to dinner with your friend. How in the WORLD did you let this friend know? You didn’t have a cell phone. He/she didn’t have a cell phone. People must have gotten stood up on back then… a lot.

    Plans were not cancelled unless something serious occurred. By serious, I don’t mean bad traffic–that just made you late and we were forgiving enough to wait and move on once our friend arrived. I mean serious as in death or dismemberment. Plans were not cancelled just because of one burden or “I didn’t feel like it.”

    I can think of one time I was stood up and that friend had to rush her boyfriend to the ER due to an asthma attack. So, no, being stood up didn’t happen “a lot” at all. It was very rare because time was valuable.

  44. My husband and I have been discussing this blog column a lot (we’re in our 50’s).

    When I was in my 20’s ¬¬— in the 1980’s ¬— I had several conversations with my father about what his life was like growing up before the technology that I had (this was before cell phones and PCs). My father was born in 1924 and grew up in Brooklyn, NY.

    He said homes typically had one telephone, located in the kitchen or hallway. Everybody in the family used that one telephone and there was no privacy. Of course, no answering machines or voice mail. There was always a notepad and pencil by the phone to makes notes if someone had called for someone who wasn’t home. That was the same in the 1980’s. Some families didn’t have a telephone. They went to a friendly neighbor’s house to use the phone, or went to a pay telephone on the corner or in a candy store or restaurant to make outgoing calls. [Bear in mind that “suburbs” weren’t built back then.]

    Their social circle was primarily family and their neighbors, and people they knew at temple or church. Family members didn’t live so far away. People socialized with people who lived nearby. They would stop over at each other’s homes and stores often, unannounced and uninvited, but it wasn’t considered inappropriate. It was friendly and people welcomed the visits. Of course, they didn’t know if someone would be out, and they’d leave a note. People got dressed every day, nobody hung around at home in their pajamas or underwear. Because that was not appropriate, and you never knew who might stop by.
    People chatted with strangers everywhere all the time. People asked directions, made new friends, asked someone out on a date, etc. People wrote letters to friends and family, and it was so exciting to get a letter! (That was still true in the 1980’s.) Kids played outside in the street all the time with lots of other kids, and they were always making new friends and in and out of each other’s homes, rounding up other kids to come out and play.

    My father said what was most different was the independence and responsibility of children. Children were often home alone without an adult or baby sitter. Kids kept their house key on a shoe lace around their neck so they could let themselves into their house or apartment after school if their mother wasn’t home. Nobody thought this was neglectful parenting. Kids were taught to cook, use kitchen knives, wash dishes, clean the house, etc., and they were expected to do those things with their family. Kids were expected to do all sorts of chores and responsibilities that parents now won’t even ask teenagers to do.
    My dad said that by the time boys were 10, most had some sort of job after school to earn money; a newspaper delivery route, mowing lawns or raking leaves or shoveling snow, washing cars, washing windows, bicycle messenger, or working at the family business or store. Girls were babysitting, or helping at home cleaning, doing laundry and making meals.

    For entertainment, they listened to radio shows and they went to movies a lot, they went to the park. They went out without their parents. Their parents told them to be home by a certain time, and they were.

    It seems to me what has changed is much more than technology, and more than the result of living with the communication convenience of mobile phones and the internet.

  45. A few thoughts that haven’t been addressed above.

    3. There was a thing called “Caller ID,” so you could see who was calling before picking up. If you didn’t have that, you could screen calls with an answering machine.

    6. Meeting new people has never been easy. There were personal ads (far as I know, these still exist) that worked like Match.com or OkCupid. You could browse the ads and set up a date with a person who looked interesting. There were also dating agencies (these still exist). Mainly, you just lived an interesting life and paid attention to the people around you.

    8. Not interested in my graduating classmates.

    9. Newspapers. And these are still around, too. They were the original Internet – the morning paper contained job listings, weather predictions, stock quotes, and you read the thing to get loaded up with information for the day ahead. Now most of us have a few Websites we check in the morning, but it’s much like scanning a morning paper.

    10. They didn’t. You’d mention about what time you were likely to be home.

    11. I always carried at least one book with me at all times. Leaving the house, you grabbed your keys, your wallet, some change (for payphones), and a book. People who didn’t do that and got stuck in a line had to just stand around, blinking, thinking whatever bizarre thoughts they might have had.

    14. Classes at the gym? I knew a few people who went to gyms, but I have no idea what they did there. Or why.

    15. You’d get directions. Keep a map in the car. Some people did carry compasses but if you pay attention you always know what direction you are traveling.

    18. In school we used the library. In the publishing companies I worked for, pre-Internet, we had in-house research libraries, stacks, which we used like Google. It was time-consuming and slow. The Internet solved a lot of problems, but it also cut down on the number of people needed to publish books and magazines.

    The answer to a number of your questions is the same: You promised you’d be somewhere, then you made every effort to follow through.

  46. Grew up in my 20’s in the 80’s in NYC

    1. How did you make plans? You called them at home or work.

    2. How did you CANCEL plans? Same thing, but usually no one ever cancelled plans, nor did they run late. You just spoke a few days before, set up a meeting place and everyone showed up.

    3. How did you know who was calling you before you picked up the phone? You didn’t and you always answered the phone.

    4. How did you rid of the fear that is calling people? No fear.

    5. How did you find out information about people before you went on dates with them? Through friends or family, or your own common sense you learned (see question 10)

    6. How did you find people to date in the first place??? There are people everywhere. Look around you.

    7. How did you keep tabs on exes? You didn’t, and didn’t care to. You were too busy having a life to care about what they were doing.

    8. How did you keep tabs on what your entire graduating class from high school was doing? Get togethers, and we did have phones. We also wrote letters and postcards and mailed them all the time and I have boxes and boxes of birthday, christmas, congrats, etc. greeting cards I have saved. We always mailed cards.

    9. How did you look for jobs? Newspaper, phone, mailed resumes, head hunting firms.

    10. How did your parents get in touch with you when you were out? They didn’t, at 10-12 years old you went out after breakfast in the mornings, went out to play for the day or went to school and were told if you were not home by 5-6 for dinner, you weren’t eating. Then you learned the politics of your neighborhood, and people, and the shop owners and made your own way making your own decisions and your own mistakes which taught you to know about people and situations and suffering your own consequences. By 18 years old, most of us went off to college or work, getting our own places with roomates and never went back home.

    11. How did your survive waiting for meetings, appointments, trains, or anything without being able to pass time by pretending to look busy on your phone? How did you avoid eye contact with people? You always looked people in the eye and conversed. Conversation was never interrupted by a person too busy to talk to you about what book they read, movie they saw or news in the world. Also, you always felt you had peoples full attention.

    12. How did you do ANYTHING at work before email? Phone calls. How did they build the Colosseum, Pyramids, Eiffel Tower, or Empire State Building?

    13. How did you tell co-workers (or someone else you were meeting) that you were going to be late when you were stuck in traffic or stuck on some disabled subway car? You didin’t get fired, people know that things happen beyond your control.

    14. How did you sign up for classes at the gym? Did you have to physically GO to the gym and sign up by writing your name on a piece of paper hours or days before the class took place? Yes, it was tough driving to the gym, and physically having to move your body to get there, LOL. We also had to go to places like MSG, Capital Theatre, Rockefeller Center and wait on line to buy tickets to a show.

    15. How did you know where you were or where you were going ever? Yes, we had to look at a physical map and write the directions down.

    16. What did you have to do if you broke down on the side of the road? Payphone and people always stopped to help.

    17. How did you always have change on you to use these pay phones? It was always a dime.

    18. How did you research anything for school? Went to the library.

    19. How did you find out about the weather? The news on TV and newspapers.

    20. How did you stay in touch with friends? Phone calls. And, you actually hung out with them A LOT. We were never home, or looking at a computer or a phone. We were always out doing stuff, always.

  47. I sure do hope these questions are for entertainment only or I’d have to agree with Clint Eastwood that this really is the P**sy generation. We are not that far away from the time we didn’t have hand held devices, but here are my short answers. 🙂

    1. How did you make plans? With a pencil and a calendar.

    2. How did you CANCEL plans? You picked up the phone. If you were already on your way, your friend assumed you were stuck in traffic or dead in a ditch somewhere if you didn’t show. When you finally made it, there was no anger.. just relief. Anger only came if it was habitual. But….here is the clincher: you very rarely canceled! Cancelation meant a you were in your death bed.

    3. How did you know who was calling you before you picked up the phone? You didn’t. It was a lovely surprise.

    4. How did you rid of the fear that is calling people? You sucked it up!

    5. How did you find out information about people before you went on dates with them? Your father or your brother would take care of that.

    6. How did you find people to date in the first place??? In person.

    7. How did you keep tabs on exes? If you were obsessed enough to want know, it was through a network of friends. But, you moved on!

    8. How did you keep tabs on what your entire graduating class from high school was doing?You didn’t. You had a life so you didn’t have to keep tabs on anybody unless they were your closest friends.. If you happen to bump into one while out and about, that was great. You had a happy chat, maybe invited them to a barbecue and then went on with your life.

    9. How did you look for jobs? Classifieds! Or you walked into the business and asked if they were hiring.

    10. How did your parents get in touch with you when you were out? My mom found me anywhere in the world at any time. But, it was rare that she had to because you called your mother to let her know you were safe wherever you were or suffer the wrath when you got home.

    11. How did you survive waiting for meetings, appointments, trains, or anything without being able to pass time by pretending to look busy on your phone? You didn’t avoid Eye contact. You talked to people, read a good book or magazine, knitted or crocheted or caught up on your post card and letter writing.

    12. How did you do ANYTHING at work before email? The telephone, a typewriter, and a phone fax. You typed forms, hand wrote memos and actually talk to a human being and walked to a persons office to talk.

    13. How did you tell co-workers (or someone else you were meeting) that you were going to be late when you were stuck in traffic or stuck on some disabled subway car? You weren’t late. If perchance you were once… It didn’t happen again.

    14. How did you sign up for classes at the gym? What classes? You were there to work out. When they started adding classes, you signed up while you were at the Gym.

    15. How did you know where you were or where you were going ever? You knew how to read roadmaps or take directions. You also knew how to find addresses based on the number and the street. If there was a question, you rolled down your window and actually asked somebody to help you.

    16. What did you have to do if you broke down on the side of the road? People that saw you on the road would actually stop at the next convenient store and call the police for you. On most highways, there was a police call box every mile. There were also police driving back-and-forth checking for stranded cars.

    17. How did you always have change on you to use these pay phones? Your mother always gave you a quarter or two in case you had to call. If you spent the quarter on candy or a soda, you asked a storekeeper if you could use their phone or a friendly passerby for a quarter.

    18. How did you research anything for school? Did you have to go through the Encyclopedia? You went to one of the many beautiful libraries in your community or your schools fully equipped library. Encyclopedias were plenty, teachers were actually scholars that you could ask.

    19. How did you find out about the weather? You walked outside. For extended forecasts, Willard Scott or the weather channel.

    20. How did you stay in touch with friends? You called them, wrote hand-written letters or bumped into them while out and about.

  48. Hmmm…not sure if this article is serious, but here goes.

    People called from home or work, looked things up in the newspaper or at the library. A lot of things (like keeping track of exes or classmates), just weren’t done. Good friends stayed in touch through phone calls and letters.

    Specifically:

    1. We make plans by calling each other or talking at work or school. Smart people planned ahead by looking at a map or meeting at a landmark instead of saying, en route, gee, how do we get to the airport? Or, Washington Park is huge, I wonder where my friend could be?
    2. Rude people cancelled plans by just not showing up. (Still happens.) Classier people called from home or work–they might even call the restaurant where you were waiting. If someone didn’t show up, you waited for them until you got tired of waiting and asked them later where they were and why they didn’t call.
    3. In the days before caller ID and *69 and after stalking became a thing, it could be adventurous to answer the phone. Still, we soldiered on.
    4. We generally only called people who might want to hear from us. It was good manners to identify yourself, ask if the person you were calling had a moment to talk, and get on with it. It was such a part of daily life that I never heard of anyone having a fear of using the phone.
    5. You found out about people by talking to them and observing them, which is what people should do today. It’s not like people can’t lie on the internet.
    6. People met through school, work, and classified ads.
    7. Some people did keep track of exes. If you took it to an extreme, it was called stalking and you could go to jail for it.
    8. Good friends from high school kept in touch through letters and phone calls. But everybody else? It used to be a saying (directed to high school students) that in a few years, you’re not going to care what any of your classmates are doing. If you really did care, people would have looked at you like you had two heads.
    9. We looked for jobs in the newspaper.
    10. Parents didn’t try to contact us when we were out unless there were firemen, police or paramedics involved.
    11. People passed the time waiting by reading, doing crosswords, or talking to strangers. Yes, they did.
    12. We filled out forms and planned ahead and it was way easier.
    13. I’m not sure how calling to let your boss know that you’re late makes your lateness any better. But back in the day, sensible people left early enough to allow for traffic and bosses cut some slack to punctual employees who were late once in a great while. Dumb people got in trouble for constantly having “car trouble.”
    14. We signed up for things by phone or in person.
    15. You got a map or asked for directions if you didn’t know your way around. Most people knew their way around the city where they lived.
    16. If you broke down, you could go to a nearby house or business and call for a tow truck. Or a tow truck or cop found you.
    17. People usually used their home or work phone. And we weren’t constantly calling each other. A pay phone was something most people use in a pinch.
    18. We did research at the library. You might have even interviewed someone.
    19. We got weather reports on the local news or in the newspaper. When I was a kid, most of us didn’t have cable TV. Weather forecasting was about as horoscopes back then. Between that and volatile weather where I live (Denver), you kept a coat and umbrella in your car if you were careful.
    20. Again, good friends kept track of each other through phone calls and letters. And they didn’t discuss every trivial thing that happened to them. The sheer lack of volume made it easier to be friends with more people. But casual acquaintances moved on and you didn’t hear from them again. Why would you want to?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.