Before and after ‘constant connection’

by Rhode

What it feels like to be the last generation to remember life before the internet

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that all of us were born before 1985. According to Michael Harris, the author of The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection, we are the last generation to know life before the internet. We remember the Before and After, as he puts it.

So how has that shaped your life?

Do you remember working when you had a room full of typists clacking away? Or have you only ever worked on a computer or word processor?

Do you use Back In My Day to discuss life before 24/7 communication? Other than the typical eye rolling, have those stories elicited a response/conversation that’s beneficial?

Do you miss a time when you weren’t connected 24/7?

And lastly, Michael Harris talks about “analog August” where he went off the internet grid for a whole month to finish the book. Back in 2014, his publisher promoted the book by having readers go off the grid for a weekend. Could you do it? Have you done it? Did it change you?


126 thoughts on “Before and after ‘constant connection’

  1. I was born before 1985. Growing up, my family was always late adopters to technology. Didn’t have CD’s until 1996, no PC until 1999, no cell phone until 2002,no DVDs until 2003 (how do I remember this but ask me about my weekend I’ll give you a blank stare LOL)

    I do deal with the fear of missing out, yes you can catch up later, but then you’re not part of the conversation.

    I do often log off from technology when I travel. It is great.

  2. I went from all paper to having to learn how to use a computer (and learn how to type) when I came to the U.S. I was probably the last generation of urban dwellers of the home country to be so behind the developed world. Now, all my relatives including older ones are on Facebook and other social media, have access to a computer or tablet and can connect to the internet. Many people there, bypassed landlines and went straight to cell phones. So, the rate of adoption of new technology all over the world is way quicker than it was before.
    The one thing I have noticed is that previously, in the absence of instant communication, no news meant good news (the only way people could communicate were the occasional and expensive phone calls or letters). Now, no contact means something is wrong and we wonder what’s wrong with someone or we expect constant communication. I am overwhelmed with communications from my kid’s school because there is overmuch of it, where every single detail is sent via email, newsletter, texts etc.

  3. Do you remember working when you had a room full of typists clacking away?

    No, but I did start my first adult job within months of them finally sending the last of the smokers outside and of them hooking everyone’s PC up to the internet.

  4. Cell phones were not widely available or smaller than a brick until I was pregnant with DD#1. So, I made it all through college and early career with just a landline and for a couple of years with a pager.

    When my kids go with another family, school group, GS group, etc. I am not concerned if I don’t hear from them…no news is still good news. However, when they are travelling unaccompanied, I want to hear from them that they made any necessary connections and arrived at the final destination and made contact with the appropriate adults there.

    I am sometimes frustrated by the expectation that I am checking email at least every hour and responding to it. This is not unrealistic during working hours, but other organizations seem to expect me to be checking during the workday. There are some penalties for not doing so – like creating more hassle because you didn’t get the before or after work parent teacher conference slots, or instead of stopping at the store on the way home from work, you are running out later in the evening. I find myself nagging other people in my household to regularly check their email *(daily for kids, once in the AM and once before the end of the school day for my partner) because if they need me to transport them or purchasing something, or attend something, I need to know when they get the notice, not 10 minutes before the event.

  5. Yes, I STARTED WORKING before 1985. No computer in my first office job. Everything done by hand then given to someone to type, give back for proofing/correcting, retyping, etc. Hell, fax really hadn’t caught on…it was telex. And no voice mail!

  6. “Cell phones were not widely available or smaller than a brick until I was pregnant with DD#1.”

    I remember in college people were getting so excited about how small cell phones were getting. At an outdoor restaurant, two guys had their phones on the table and the waitress commented “OMG, look how small they’re getting.”

    A decade-and-a-half later, we’re on vacation this summer and my brother asks to borrow my iPhone. He then starts making fun of me for having the standard model with the small screen. “You can barely read this piece of junk.”

  7. I graduated high school before 1985. I remember seeing my first fax at a summer job during college. At that job, we used radios to communicate, not even the higher ups had cell phones..

  8. In the home country once we got copy machines we never said the word copy – it was always a “Xerox” and “Xeroxing” like Googling is used today. Prior to that there were typewritten copies using carbon paper.

  9. I started college just around the time that companies such as MCI were starting to provide cheaper long distance service. I was homesick and I had to wait to use a pay phone to call home. Collect. I couldn’t talk in my dorm room because it would take 2 weeks until some former baby Bell would hook up a phone in my dorm room.

    I used to like when I came back from
    lunch when I started my first job and the receptionist would hand you while you were out slips

  10. There is nothing more satisfying than to alert others to the fact that I will be entirely off grid for x number of days during a remote trip.

    I use text for all real time interpersonal communication, not voice, not email. DH is hard to reach because he doesn’t really know how to mute his flip phone, so he turns it off all the time and forgets to turn it back on. Or it runs out of juice. Or he leaves it on the dresser. I can deal with being out of communication. (I was the mother of a teenager in 1985). However, my rrecurring but infrequent nightmares (in which I am isolated and apparently invisible in the midst of a bustling world) often involve pay phones that eat all my money. However, I have become accustomed to the ability to find an answer or location or translation instantaneously. That I would miss.

  11. Everything done by hand then given to someone to type, give back for proofing/correcting, retyping, etc.

    Refer to page 280.

    It looks like the daytime rate for a 5 min call between NYC and SF in 1985 was $2.33 or $5.15* in today’s money. So, I assume it wasn’t all that common to spend an hour on a call (which would cost $50?) to get a quote from a vendor or hash out a minor dispute? I assume you’d dictate a letter and have your secretary type it up and mail it?

    I’m just trying to get my head around how corporate America functioned. I assume it was a lot of the same stuff just done on paper with a really long turn around time?

    * Note how the rates peaked in 1955 at $3.80 for 5 min. That’s 33.74 in today’s money! For 5 min!

  12. And I was a typist in my first job (I worked full time in an office for 15 mos at 19). We didn’t use thick reusable carbon paper (we were modern). We used Letterex, really thin colored sheets for the various file copies stuck behind an even thinner sheet of disposable carbon paper. If you made a typo you had to erase each one. Departments were charged something like 15 cents a copy to use the one Xerox machine in the mailroom. Since I was paid 105 dollars a week (the African American typist, no college, at the next desk got 90) 15 cents was a lot of overhead.

  13. I used to like when I came back from lunch when I started my first job and the receptionist would hand you while you were out slips

    There was a scene in a Woody Allen movie where some big mover and shaker is in NYC in the 70s and he’s on the phone with his secretary, and said something like, “From 12:00 to 1:00 I’ll be at Le Circ, from 1:30 to 3:00 I’ll be in Joe Smith’s office at Skadden Arps.” etc. And, back in those days a fancy restaurant would bring a phone to your table if someone tried to cal you.

  14. Some parents would leave the phone number of a restaurant in case I had to call when I was babysitting. I couldn’t stay on their phone all night because they would get a busy signal if they called me to check in.

    My college roommate used to type papers for people to make money. It was a decent business. I started to use a floppy disk to write papers by junior year. We had to go to a lab and sign up for computer time. The disk was soft and it used to get damaged! Life got a little easier when the disk was made of a hard material as long as you remembered to save. The work was printed on a dot matrix printer. I think there were a handful for an entire undergraduate business school.

    I hated the old Compaq “portable” computers. We used to travel with it, and it was so heavy. It was such a pain until real laptops became the norm for business travel.

  15. Louise – I still say “xerox” to mean copy.

    Lauren- Loved those little pink slips too!

    At my first job out of college I learned how to do an FTP. File Transfer Protocol I think? To send a document electronically to New York City! There was a full page of instructions but it seemed like magic.

    I miss people really trying to be on time. Now that you can text it seems like people aren’t as timely as they were.

    Rhett – I didn’t have a phone Senior Year because I still owed C&P Telephone like $300 from Junior year. I just toughed it out and used the hall phone which was right across the hall from my room.

  16. In 1989, I spent 6 months backpacking around Europe by myself. I would occasionally call him (quick call from a payphone) and I sent postcards home intermittently. My mom seemed fine with this level of sporadic contact (out of sight, out of mind). 10 years later, my youngest brother spent his junior year of college in Japan. By that point, we were all using email. My mom would freak out if she hadn’t heard from my brother for a couple days. I would remind her that she wouldn’t hear from me for weeks at a time and when she did, it was a postcard that she received a week or two after I mailed it. But her standards for when she expected to hear from us had drastically changed.

  17. Another story in the other generational direction. When DD was 10, she was lobbying hard for a cell phone. She thought she had found the perfect argument when she demanded to know how old DH and I were when we got our first cell phones. Our answer: 34 – and we paid for them ourselves.

  18. I started working real internship/career jobs in the mid-90’s. I worked as an intern for a Fortune 5 company, and 3 of us in the Accounting Department had to share one computer with Microsoft Office and email/internet access. We all had our own AS/400 green screens connected to the company systems, but they were dumb terminals. One of the marketing finance guys with 30 years of experience that I worked with had green ledgers on his desk where he calculated all his share numbers manually with an adding machine. He would staple the adding machine tape to his ledger paper to prove out the math. It is nuts to think about that now.

    The thing that really stands out to me though is how much the practice of killing time has changed. Back then, if you were killing time/procrastinating, you would chat with co workers, take a walk around the building for no reason, etc. Now, if people are procrastinating, they are more likely to be on the internet or gossiping via IM or text.

    Moxie – I also miss people being on time. I think that this has gotten worse with texting.

  19. I don’t miss the pre-technology days at work though. I will gladly take the flexibility of having a laptop & a cellphone to check from the comfort of my own home over being chained to my desk to do anything. I think that’s resulted in a net gain for me, by far.

  20. Rhett – When my in laws moved overseas as young newlyweds, they called home ONCE during their entire stay of several years, to tell their parents that they were expecting DW.

  21. Yes, business back in the day was slower in some ways. You wrote it by hand, had it typed, did some other work while it was being typed or later “word processed” on a dedicated machine, edited it, had it retyped. There were things you decided to live with more often because of the time and effort to make a change on page 5 that meant the following 185 pages had to be retyped. You changed things because they were WRONG not because that sentence could be worded better. You also tried to write neatly because not being able to read your handwritting could lead to a lot of retyping, which had a clear cost.

    You did not make long distance calls often or for very long. When you did, you knew all about the rates, which dropped at 7 pm and then again at 11 pm, but went up at 7 am, IIRC.

    In theory – all the technology we have at home and at work, was supposed to result in having more leisure time. Instead, we use it to produce more per person.

    My first job, I would vacation out of the country because my boss was way too cheap to pay for the international call to contact me. Email did not exist and faxes were rare and pricey as they used similar long distance rates. I knew no one from the office would try to contact me during that 1-2 week period.

  22. Even though I am on the old side of things,I actually can’t remember pre-Internet very well. I think that is because I was on the Internet, and its precursors, much earlier than the general population. I first started using email and messaging extensively in the early 80’s – my university had a rudimentary email and messaging capability on the server that we CS majors used. My mid-80’s MS thesis involved writing a system that moved Unix processes around machines connected via TCP/IP, the same networking protocol that still underlies the Internet today. We grad students emailed extensively. We would have long philosophical discussions via email even when we were all sitting in the same TA bullpen. My then BH, now DH, went to the Netherlands to do research for a while, and we kept in contact completely via email. Around 86 or 87, my father also got email, and we completely switched to that. In the early 90’s, I used gopher, telnet, and ftp to get to stuff on the Internet. Weather Underground already existed as a telnet server in the very early 90’s and was my go-to for weather. There was a contradance server hosted at Univ of Hawaii with an ftp interface that I used to get dance schedules in NYC. In the early 90’s, my mother and sibs also acquired email access, and my phone largely went silent after that. I have an archive of my mother’s email messages that I saved in a file after she passed away, which I look at sometimes to remind myself of her.
    Mosaic showed up in the mid 90’s, and after that, everything was Internet.

    So my last pre-Internet years were actually high school, in the late 70’s.

  23. “all the technology we have at home and at work, was supposed to result in having more leisure time. Instead, we use it to produce more per person.”

    Both are true. We use it to produce more per [working] person, and there’s a lot more total leisure time based on the increasing numbers of people who aren’t working.

  24. I never actually owned a typewriter, even in college. I could type fast enough to qualify for temp jobs specifying “light typing”, but for my own use, I always did papers using a computer based word processor. There were rudimentary ones which ran on IBM mainframes by 1980. I cannot remember the names of those systems, alas. In fact, one of my class projects when I was an undergrad was to build a simple word processing system. When I hit grad school, I switched to LaTeX. I htink I could still write the LaTex commands if I needed to, believe it or not.

  25. I went to college with a word processor and we had to go to the computer lab to check our e-mail (which was my first experience with e-mail). I had a big cell phone (a hand me down from my mom) for my last two years of college because I drove back and forth myself but I was only allowed to use it while driving. My oldest and I were talking about food from the 80s this morning as I was packing her lunch and the differences between growing up now and back then. She said she would have liked the food I describe (I think I said that we always had a jar of Fluff in our cabinet and there was really no emphasis on health food) but having to wait for shows to come on at specific times and not having phones and tablets with readily available games would be awful.

  26. My senior year of college, our business communications prof arranged for us to go to the library and learn to use their new PCs and WordStar. For those of you who recall, you put the program floppy in the left side and the data floppy on the right side. You had to use the DOS prompt to activate the software and you underlined the word “work” by typing “^Uwork^U” Only when you printed it out did you have a decent idea of how the format really looked.

    High school and college to that point were manual typewriters. Though my job in college/grad school had IBM selectrics.

  27. We had a typewriter at home and I remember using our group secretary’s typewriter (IBM Selectric with the correction function…no need for white-out) to complete my grad school applications in late 1981/early 1982.

  28. I recall a relative from the U.S. visiting us in 1995. He talked so much about Windows (I presume it was Windows 95). At that point the only computers we knew of were in these computer training centers and I think they ran on DOS. Couldn’t understand what was so special about Windows.

  29. My first experience with a GUI based computer was on a Solaris system running XWindows, in the late 80’s. My department had a grant for a whole room of them, and I was making extra money as the sysadmin. Even to this day, I still think XWindows is uber-cool – one of the absolute earliest GUIs, written originally by a bunch of MIT undergrads, and completely based on a networked view of the world. You could sit on a Unix box in the US, and run GUI based programs on a computer in Germany, all the while displaying in a window on your US machine. When I went to Germany for a summer of research, I was using a high powered solid modeling system for some of my work. I could sit in the lab in Germany, run the solid modeller on my university server in the US, and show the images rotating on the Solaris machine in Germany. All Unix systems, including Linux and MacOS, can run some variant of XWindows.

    Anyone remember the Solaris motto: “The network is the computer”?

  30. We were the first college class to get email at my school, but I didn’t get my first cell phone until law school – DH already had one, and I got mine on the same network so that we could call each other for free while I was at my summer job. :)

    I don’t really like being connected all the time – expectation of instant email, etc., – but working from a vacation location for 2 weeks this summer sure beats being in the office!

  31. Fun topic, Rhode!

    My afternoon job during HS was hand delivering mail for a law firm to the other firms in the city. I’d run into other kids doing the same for their firms. No such job could exist now. I suppose even the bike messengers we called from my first firm in TX are non existent. Or do firms still use those? LfB?

    My dad’s office was one of the first in our city to get a computer — a big Wang that took up an entire room. But everyone still had a typewriter on their desk.

    We had a typing pool at my first firm but we also had computers so I’m trying to recall why we needed them. I remember our firm making law in a case and the team was reading the decision page by page as it came over via fax. The partner would read the page as it came off, then pass to the next person, etc.

    And there was only intranet there – no Internet until my second firm.

    Let me just go find my walker …

  32. Louise – I remember my dad upgrading our IBM compatible computer (that he built) to a computer which ran Windows 3.1. It took me forever to learn the system. I was so used to DOS prompt that I barely understood what the mouse did, and then how to use it with Windows 3.1.

    I always giggle a little when people start complaining when Mac or Windows roll out a new operating system because I figure if I survived DOS to Windows, I can handle learning a new operating system.

  33. We also had a party line at the cottage until HS — all the parents wanted their kids to call once they got home to the city and the late calls were waking up everyone on the line so we all went to private numbers.

    No cell for me until well after law school. I think my mom had a phone for her car before then – it was a big thing in a bag. I don’t think we had cells when we were expecting DS and I’m not sure my ex even had a pager then as he wasn’t on call yet, I don’t think.

  34. I just did my certification which informs me that when a lot is on hold for me, I will be contacted by pager. And the pricelist in the lactation room is from 1995. Pretty soon people will be pumping in there who were born after that was posted.

  35. I graduated high school in 1985, my roommate got a Macintosh in college and let me use it for papers – so cool. Netscape did their IPO while I was at business school, I had a laptop with dial up access at home a the time. I wasn’t allowed unfettered internet access at a big 6 accounting firm until 1999 – we had to use an internal connection that significantly restricted which sites we could use – for security purposes. And I worked out of the San Jose office at the time. I got my first work email account in 1994 and always forgot to log in and check it when we were traveling.

    Lauren, I used to have to drag around one of those suitcase size Compaq computers – the screen was green and maybe 6 inches – two floppy disk drives.

  36. We still use a messenger service for some legal documents that require a

    I learned how to type on actual typewriters in the very early 90’s. They converted it to “keyboarding” on PC’s by the time my brother came through the same high school in the mid-90’s.

    I had an email address in HS because my parents are both in IT, but most of my friends got their first one in college.

    I am still kind of taken aback when younger coworkers say that they’ve had the same cellphone number since grade school. I didn’t get a cellphone until my 20’s. But it was probably about the same year!

  37. It’s kind of amazing that when a kid gets a phone at 10 or 12 that will likely be their number for the rest of their lives. It’s an important milestone in a person’s life now to get a phone.

    When you think about all that number will see over the years, “I got in!” “I got the job” “She said yes!” “Your father’s passed.” “Can you come with me to the doctor” etc.

  38. Bay Area mom, that is the one. I can still picture the green numbers on the screen.

    I got my first cell phone around 1999 or 2000. I still have the same number.

  39. My DH2 has already had three different cellphone numbers, and his friends seem to switch pretty often too. Why would he keep the same number?

  40. While in college, I had a part time job in the back office operations of a Wall Street firm. Soooo many people smoked at their desks, and it was perfectly acceptable. There were even special ash trays with battery operated motors that were supposed to pull in the cigarette smoke. Even after college, I can recall working at client sites and people were smoking in the office, too.

  41. I got my first cell phone in 1997 and I have the same number and in fact, found that phone when cleaning my desk out the other day. Got a smart phone when DD got her phone about 6 years ago, I am on my second smart phone. Not an early adopter here.

    Instead of “the cable is out” lament of my youth in our house its “the wifi is down” Interestingly, its the same company.

  42. BTW, my kids are telling me that their friends all use email instead of texting now. This is because everyone has a smartphone. I have noticed that all messages from DS1’s cross country team captain, and all party planning, is done by email

  43. When I was in grad school, I used to have to schlep to the computer lab to run my statistics – I had a desktop computer at home but the program wasn’t compatible or it wasn’t powerful enough? I can’t remember, but can’t even fathom that now. All those Sunday afternoons in that dreary lab. Shudder. It’s so much better to be a real working person than it is to be a student.

  44. Ooooooh, Rhett – I’m seeing a terrific iPhone commercial there. Kid with an old gen iPhone gets a kid message and shows a friend or his mom. Cut to him older with a later gen phone and a dofferent message and he tells a kid on his team. And so on until they get to the latest gen phone. Pitch it!

  45. “When I was in grad school, I used to have to schlep to the computer lab to run my statistics ”
    See, this is why XWindows was so awesome. We could run the fancy software on the department Unix server while sitting at home looking at a PC running Linux.

  46. I have always had the same mobile phone number. I got mine late 1990s. My kids have all had the same ones as long as they had phones, ranging from the same time as mine to 2005.

  47. I am old enough that my HS graduation present was the miraculous new typewriter that would remember 2 lines of text and erase/correct without white-out or changing ribbons. My college summer jobs (Kelly Girl) involved those many individual word processing systems (Wang, Wordstar, etc.); my biggest value was the ability to figure out new systems quickly, which made me eligible for more jobs. By law school, my best friend had her own Mac.

    My first job, we started with Wang, I think, on those teeny screens with the light green print on the dark background, but then rapidly changed to WordPerfect on a Dos-based system. We also had a typing pool, because I was the first generation that even had computers in school, so 95% of the attorneys still wrote on legal pads and edited with the infamous red pen. I do remember I got a pager, but it was almost immediately before we transitioned to cellphones. And I got my own laptop and (separate) modem shortly before leaving that job.

    I think the biggest change from technology is how people write. Like (I think) Austin said above, you only typed things out so many times. That meant that I spent a long time on first drafts — my legal pads would have pages of scratch-outs and insertions and whole circled paragraphs that I would move from here to there. You just didn’t have the time or the headspace to go back over things 4-5 times to make it perfect. I still write that way, even though I now compose on a computer. But the current way writing is taught is to throw ideas on paper, without worrying about sentence structure or making it “pretty” or sound good, just to get a very rough draft; then you move the ideas around to get the structure right; and only then at the end do you worry about transitions and making it sound good. And I just. cannot. do. that. My internal editor seems to think that I get only one or two cracks at it and so have to get it all right the first time.

  48. When you no longer have a land line, keeping the same cell number is one of the few forms of consistency. We have thought about changing internet providers, but OMG if it means changing my email address, I may scream. I have had the same home email for 20 years – we were early adopters! That email is used for almost everything. What a PITA to change it!!!

  49. Ps – another topic with good timing, as I am at a conference today and spent the first hour emailing back and forth with the organizers because the wifi password wasn’t working. :-)

  50. Why would he keep the same number?

    Because everyone’s phone will have his old number and it’s a pain to switch. Also, they have number portability so you can switch carriers, phones, get off your parents plan etc. all while keeping the same number.

  51. with my second cell phone, when I was signing up, they asked me what area code I wanted. Without giving it much thought, I told them to make it in the area code to where I would soon be moving (for six months). I still have that number.

  52. “Also, they have number portability so you can switch carriers, phones, get off your parents plan etc. all while keeping the same number.”

    Not to mention moving to different parts of the country.

  53. I had an office job in high school (filling in for the regular secretary on Saturday mornings) so it was definitely a no-computer environment. That job was a real boon to my college applications since Saturday mornings were slow and there I was with a typewriter in front of me and nothing better to do than polish my applications. In later (college break) jobs it was so exciting to have the kind of typewriter where you could type a couple of lines of text ahead of what it was putting on the paper — if you made a typo you could fix it before it even was typed! And then the places with computers were just the ne plus ultra.

    In law school we were taught how to shepardize manually by looking at 20 zillion paper updates, but fortunately for me that was about the time firms were all switching over to the computer version so I never actually had to manually shepardize for work. It’s the difference between clicking a button and then looking at the results spit out (now) versus a couple of hours of tedious paper chasing to get the same results (then). And the difference between doing legal research on paper versus running a search in Westlaw’s database was similarly huge. The expectations for how thorough your research was have really changed since then, unsurprisingly.

  54. Well, when they get older they might care more about keeping the same number. Right now, the kids mostly use email, with some occassional texting, so it isn’t a big deal. Neither one has even bothered to set up voicemail.

  55. IME, everyone keeps their number. There are so many people that I work with who have area codes from all over the place since it is from wherever they got their first phone. It’s a point of conversation when exchanging numbers, “Oh, are you from Cleveland? Did you know that so&so is also from Cleveland?”

    I didn’t get my first cellphone until 2001, I think. I still have that number. But I also still live in the same city.

  56. I go off the grid sometimes in the course of travel, but I’m not particularly drawn to the idea of going off just for kicks. Having grown up in a world where if information wasn’t in the daily paper or available in your local library you’d have a heck of a time getting at it, and where cartoons and kid movies were a special thing available only on limited occasions and the rest of the time you’d entertain yourself, I don’t feel like I’m going to come to learn something significant by going off-grid now.

  57. You know what I miss? Mimeographs. I loved in ES getting asked to help make/distribute those — they smelled so good!

    @Ris — yeah, we used to use messengers a lot, for all those standard deliveries that we now just do via email. We do still periodically use them, but maybe 5% of the prior rate. And most of that recent work has been for things like in-person court filings when we needed to make a deadline. But now all the courts have gone to e-filing, so even that is going by the wayside.

  58. I got my first cell phone in 1999 and still have the same number. I’m in the same state, but different area code.

  59. I often think about Before and After because sometimes I wonder, how the heck did we do “this” before?

    In high school, I had a summer internship at a non-profit that was going to take their interactive, educational program on a road show. My job was to call Chambers of Commerce across the country in the areas the non-profit thought they wanted to go, and ask for marketing material, tour guides, etc. to be mailed to our office to help us plan the trip. I can’t remember how I got the phone numbers in the first place though.

  60. I’m old enough to remember when we weren’t on the standardized phone number system. Our first number had 4 digits, and our second had 5. I remember when we standardized across the state, so two digits were added in front of our existing 5 digit number, giving us the standard 7-digit local number.

  61. I can’t remember how I got the phone numbers in the first place though.

    Larger libraries used to carry phone books from other states. Leading to this conversation between me and a librarian when I was in law school (on the mainland, contacting Honolulu firms to ask about summer clerkships):

    HM: I can’t find the phone books for Hawaii.
    L: We only have phone books for the states.
    HM [coldly]: Hawaii is a state.
    L: Oh, I know that, but I mean the *real* states.

    I was so pissed.

  62. I think my brother was one of the last holdouts to ‘upgrading’ to touchtone dialing, because there was an extra charge for it. I think the phoneco finally upgraded him when they eliminated the hardware that supported click dialing, but he still pays the lower rate as if he still had it.

  63. Finn,

    I don’t know if they still do it but the Plaza Hotel in New York used the old PLaza 2-3000 (nomenclature?) on their stationary well into the 90s. I thought it was so cool and retro.

  64. I have some Western Union telegrams in my baby book. They were sent by relatives in the Old Country to congratulate my parents when I was born.

    During my childhood, calling people in the Old Country was always a production. First, Mom or Dad had to dial 0 and tell the Operator that we wanted to place a call to (Country). Then they would hang up and wait for the Operator to call back to say that a line was available. Sometimes this took a few minutes, sometimes a few hours. If anyone called in the meantime, they were hurriedly told to call back later, as we didn’t want to lose our place in the international-call queue.

  65. Maybe it’s an old school NY hotem thing. It seems the Hotel Pennsylvania is still using PEnnsylvania 6-5000.

  66. The first 2 digits in the land line phone numbers for the neighborhood that my parents live in NYC match the name of the neighborhood. It is very rare to see the letters now instead of phone numbers, but a lot of neighborhoods in NYC were set up this way.

    My daughter received an actual phone call the other night. We were at dinner and she asked if she could take the call. We all knew it was probably important since these kids never actually call each other.

  67. BTW, my kids are telling me that their friends all use email instead of texting now. This is because everyone has a smartphone. I have noticed that all messages from DS1’s cross country team captain, and all party planning, is done by email

    Interesting. My kids and their friends are all still texting.

  68. I think my brother was one of the last holdouts to ‘upgrading’ to touchtone dialing, because there was an extra charge for it. I think the phoneco finally upgraded him when they eliminated the hardware that supported click dialing, but he still pays the lower rate as if he still had it.

    My great aunt died about 7 years ago. When my uncle was disconnecting her utilities, he found out she was still leasing a phone.

  69. Grocery – there was also a publication of associations and similar. I had to use it a lot in the late 80’s to early 90s. I think chambers of commerce were in there.

    Quirky legal research note, at least in Texas – when they move laws around from the old statutes to the new “codes” the online versions don’t give you the notes that allow you to track down the original law. You must go to the hard copy – read the notes, see that it was amended in 1960, go to that version, read the notes, see that it was amended in 1935, go there until you get back to when the law first passed. I had a project for work where I had to know when a bunch of professions were first regulated.

  70. My recollection of the ditto machines, with their distinctive odor, was that they used purple ink.

  71. I’ve told my kids how back in the day I would rollerskate around carrying a big boom box. They find that idea pretty funny.

  72. I remember purple ink from the ditto machine. NYC had a serious budget crunch in 70s and the teachers were restricted as to how many pages could be distributed per week. The ink and paper were rationed.

    I will not miss micro fiche. I used to dread doing research if the article could only be located on fiche.

  73. For my generation, I’m a late adopter on a lot of technology… as an adult it’s because I’m not lured by the siren call of shiny things, as a kid because my parents didn’t have the money.

    I got my first email address in HS and it was on AOL. My dad still has his email address from that same account. We had official emails in college, but we never used them. I would rarely check it. I think my college was one of the first schools in its region to put T1 lines in the dorms. Once I left college, I got my own professional style email address. It’s changed multiple times with moves and changing cable subscribers. Now I have gmail because I didn’t want to be tied to my cable company.

    For phones, I got a cell phone right before college. The calling plan (500 minutes a month) was cheaper than long distance through my college. I’ve had 3 numbers – one in college town, one in NJ, and finally RI. The RI will probably follow me for life.

    I’ve only had a smart phone for 3 years. We just got an ipad last month. I also refused to upgrade our TV until the CRT died. And I doubt we’ll upgrade our current LCD TV until it dies.

    Does anyone else remember their first cell phone number, or email address, or house numbers that are no longer active? Yet I can’t remember where I put my car keys.

  74. I found microfiche fun… not so much anymore, but I always felt like I could make this amazing discovery by searching through old newspapers and documents… like a clue to a missing person’s case, or murder, or some such mystery…

    My overactive imagination saves me from boredom.

  75. Lot’s of memories are stirred by these comments.

    As I was reading these comments I called out to my youngest to “keep in touch” as she left to go hang out with friends. I know I can text her at any time to know where she is and what she’s doing (not that I assume she always is completely accurate in those texts!) I have a love/hate attitude toward the ability to be in constant touch with everyone. It’s comforting, but it can be crippling.

  76. Finn, I was going to say the same thing about New Mexico! An interviewer asked my school teacher friend, “So what is the process in Mexico?” “NEW Mexico. It is state.” “Right, so how is it in Mexico?”

  77. As a former resident of NM, I can personally attest to the truth of these stories (a/k/a “sorry, free shipping is available only within the US”).

  78. This is interesting about New Mexico. I didn’t realize that so many people thought it was part of Mexico. I had a chance to travel all over the state when I visited with friends after college. I would love to get back there with my family because it was so beautiful. I am very spoiled by the large number of direct flights to many parts of the US from one of the NY metro airports. There are no direct flights for us to Sante Fe or Albuquerque so it falls to the bottom of our list when we consider places for long weekends.

  79. @Finn – no, condo’s rented. More like I consider myself a future part-time resident.

  80. A long-time feature of New Mexico Magazine:  ONE OF OUR 50 IS MISSING

    One story:

    Just before Rob and Julie Kresge retired to Albuquerque, they had dinner with friends at an upscale restaurant in a northern Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. When the twenty-something hostess seated them, she asked if the Kresges were locals. “We have been, but we’re moving to New Mexico next month,” Julie said. “Oh, cool. Cancún, huh?” she replied. “No, New Mexico is the state just west of Texas,” Rob said. She plopped down their menus and said, “Whatever.”

  81. honolulumother – I remember going to the library to find the phone books! I did it to look for preschools for DD when I was moving across the country back to San Francisco. I am trying to remember other times – but they aren’t coming to me!!!

    Gosh, microfiche! good time, good times

  82. Rhode – yes, my phone number was 373-8035 in the late 60’s, early 70’s! My parents only moved one time after that, so the next phone number is still being used by them.

    I think I remember my own home phone before my current one, but everything in between is a blank. I don’t know why I still recall the one from when I was a little girl.

  83. Denver Dad – perhaps fewer kids own smartphones in your neck of the woods? Once smartphone ownership reaches close to 100%, there isn’t a lot of reason to text. My kids are among the few without a smartphone, and since it is a problem now – my oldest misses important messages when he can’t get to a computer during the day – I am going to have to spring for one soon

  84. Wait, teens aren’t texting much anymore? Not from what I see.

    Back in my day the phone was what teens used to remain connected to friends. But that was limited because a home usually only had one line, even if multiple phones. (Anyone remember Princess phones?) Now there’s texting and Facetime. I’m not sure what to think of this constant connection, particularly when boyfriend/girlfriend can constantly be “together”.

  85. I had a fake iD in college. I think I was in the magic moment where driver’s licenses were lo tech, home printers were high tech. My state still glued the photo on the DL, and then laminated it.

  86. Mooshi,

    Are you sure the other kids aren’t just using Kik or similar and your son can’t because he doesn’t have a smartphone?

  87. My kids both still text. Only communications with adults involved (xc team, final homecoming plans) go by email.
    This am I’m grateful for constant communication. DS was flying home alone from a college visit, first flight got delayed so he had about 10 minutes to make his connection, I texted him gate info and he texted me he made it. If anyone saw a tall skinny kid sprinting through OHare late last night, that was DS!

  88. And income mobility has not changed much since the 1970s. The point about shrinking household size is omitted in most reports I see about shrinking income.

    Maybe some of this explains Trump’s appeal?

  89. “Maybe some of this explains Trump’s appeal?”

    I could be totally wrong, but I got the sense that Trump has been speaking and signaling to the people who feel that they’ve been left behind. Of course, some of this perspective comes from a New Yorker article, so you’ve got to take that with a huge grain of salt.

    But I also spent about 45 minutes watching one of his campaign rally speeches on TV, really trying to listen to what he was saying. I have to say, he’s a very good speaker, he comes across very well when he’s just on his own and not insulting people out of nowhere (like he attacks Rand Paul during the debates), and he’s relatable and accessible.

  90. Most of the sixth graders in our town have a smart phone because MS starts in 5th grade. I haven’t seen anyone without the iPhone. Some of their parents carry something else, but the kids generally use the iPhone, and they use text. They seem to make all of their plans through text. One of DD’s friends had a broken phone last week and she had to wait a few days for a new phone. She claimed that she missed “everything” because all of the plans were made in group chats via texting. I see the kids use their emails for school and to share things via google docs, but that is about it.

  91. Trump has been speaking and signaling to the people who feel that they’ve been left behind.

    Didn’t you post something the other day about how party affiliation by income is changing. The rich used to vote Republican in large numbers but that is changing with the Democtatic party becoming more the party of the rich. At the same time, the Regan Democrats – the marganized white working and lower middle class – have moved into the Republican camp.

    I guess that’s why you see the internal tension between the wildly pro immigration Jeb! And the wildly anti immigration Trump. And the centrist Clinton and the old school fire brand Sanders.

  92. Yeah, that was a NYT opinion piece. My “takeaway” from that is that the UMC mostly has nothing to worry about. Neither party can afford to really penalize them, which means that Sanders is pipe-dreaming, and Clinton is just humoring his supporters.

    I think the affluent Democrats tend to be mostly the urban knowledge workers. The affluent Republicans are more likely to be business owners.

  93. The affluent Republicans are more likely to be business owners.

    I agree which sets up an interesting dynamic as that group generally favors the importation of cheap labor. This puts them at odds with the marganized white base. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

  94. “This puts them at odds with the marganized white base. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.”

    My prediction is that guns will take precedence. When the Democratic candidates are trying to outdo each other on who will try to restrict guns the most, and the so-called moderate front runner is eagerly going on record promising to take Executive action wherever possible to usurp Congressional power on the matter, the marginalized whites in the swing states are going to vote for the candidates with the NRA’s endorsement.

  95. This is what I see. Keep in mind that my kids are 15 and 13 (and 9, and she has been begging for an email account because all her friends email). My college students use text. Perhaps there is a generational split starting to happen here?
    My 13 year old’s friends still use the phone via VOICE, believe it or not, which drives him nuts because he prefers text due to his hearing impairment. He has to put the phone on speakerphone.
    I would say that my 15 year old son gets twice as much email as text messages. My 13 year old son has gotten maybe 3 text messages this year.
    Also, there is a lot of communication via gaming sites and YouTube. I think for boys, that is particularly important. My youngest has also figured out how to communicate with a couple of friends via Scratch, using the comment feature.

  96. The cross country coach, and team captains, used to communicate to the kids via text message, two years ago. This year, it is all email.

  97. “Sanders love guns.”

    For him, that’s a liability.

    Remember how much Hillary loved guns the last time she ran? She couldn’t do enough photo ops handling and aiming shotguns. Obama sarcastically referred to her as Annie Oakley. Oh how times have changed. I don’t think she’s the least bit comfortable with her new position here (not to mention TPP and Keystone), but she knew she had to do something.

  98. You’ll recall:

    She is running around talking about how this is an insult to sportsman, how she values the second amendment. She’s talking like she’s Annie Oakley. Hillary Clinton is out there like she’s on the duck blind every Sunday. She’s packing a six-shooter. Come on, she knows better. That’s some politics being played by Hillary Clinton.

  99. DD’s friends (14/9th grade) all text. Which made for much angst when she misplaced her phone for a day and missed “everything.” On the plus side, makes “I will take away your phone” a highly effective threat. :-)

    Like Mooshi mentioned, DS chats mostly during game play. Then again, he doesn’t have a phone yet, so texting isn’t an option. He does have our old iPhone with no data plan, so he can email when he is on wifi, but he never uses it, I assume because his friends don’t have phones either, and emailing mom and dad gets old after the, oh, second time.

  100. DS1 uses a mix of Snap Chat, texting, FB, and Google Hangouts. DS2 is in 7th grade and still has a regular phone. We promised him an iPhone for his 13th birthday.

  101. It’s like pulling teeth to get my kids to check their e-mail. I get instant responses to text, but always have to ask if they’ve seen the e-mails that I send to them.

  102. My 16yo’s boss only communicates work opportunities/schedules by email, so that gets him to check it.

  103. he doesn’t have a phone yet, so texting isn’t an option. He does have our old iPhone with no data plan, so he can email when he is on wifi,

    He can text via Snapchat or Kik.

  104. DS texts in games. He can also text using his iPod – he doesn’t have a phone. The iPod is connected to my phone so I can see all his group texts – which is a bunch of gibberish usually. There are also a few texts asking about homework assignments. DS was afraid that I would reply to his friends on those ;-). Next year, we will have to get him a phone just so that he can access all the emails, reminder texts etc. that come from school – I am tired of the constant electronic school reminders.

  105. Denver Dad – perhaps fewer kids own smartphones in your neck of the woods?

    They all seem to have smartphones. Maybe it’s just a regional thing.

    DS does a lot of talking to his friends on XBox. Even when they’re playing different games, they still set up a party and talk.

  106. My two DS text constantly. Email is used much less frequently. Both have iPhones. Their coaches are now sending all notifications, etc. via Twitter. No more email. Just had a conversation during a drive last night with my 15 y/o DS as he was setting up my phone so that I could get specific Twitter alerts. Youngest DS (15) doesn’t like Twitter because there are too many trivial and inconsequential tweets and re-tweets. He prefers Instagram. He loves to take and post pics.

  107. BenL– how’d your DS’ college visit go? I’m eager to hear whatever part of it you’re willing to share.

  108. Milo, I’ve long liked pleated pants, especially dress pants. They have more room to comfortably put my hands in my pockets.

  109. Finn – It’s one of those things I never noticed until it came up in conversation here. It would be like asking me how many belt loops are on the waistband, or how many buttons on a shirt.

  110. I volunteered at a library as a teenager making card catalog cards. The library system had switched to microfiche but the local librarian thought people wouldn’t be able to handle the technology… I wonder how many years it took till they dumped the cards.

  111. “how many buttons on a shirt.”

    Shirt studs usually come in sets of 4. Then there’s the top button, and usually a couple of buttons below the studs.

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