Posted by Jim Martin 11 June 2015
17 analogue facts that today's kids won't understand: winding tapes, Ceefax and more
As a child of the 70s, I grew up just as technology was starting to infiltrate everyone's homes. Although we didn't necessarily realise it at the time, life was considerably less convenient compared to today's gadget-filled world.
We had no internet, no mobile phones and no desktop PC. Heck, I can remember being over-excited at the prospect of a fifth TV channel launching.
For anyone under 20 the list below might seem absurd, while the over 30s can reminisce about the crap tech we had to put up with over the last three decades.
17 analogue facts that today's kids won't understand
1 Rewinding a video tape to watch a film from the beginning
The main inspiration for Be kind. Rewind.
2 Being reliant on broadcasters' schedules
Kids don't know how good they have it with all the on-demand shows. Before we had a VCR, I had to wait until Cities of Gold, He Man and Rainbow were actually broadcast to watch them. These days I count it as a treat to have to wait a week for the next episode of Game of Thrones to air.
3 Having to use VideoPlus+ numbers to record programmes from the TV listings using a code
In fact, that was high-tech for the day. If your VCR didn't support VideoPlus+, you had to enter the timings manually, which was almost impossible unless you had a Computer Science degree.
4 Putting Sellotape over the broken-off tab on a VHS tape to make it recordable
Plastic tabs on videos and cassettes could be broken off to prevent someone accidentally recording over its contents, but a simple piece of sellotape fixed that.
5 Checking the football scores and weather forecast on Ceefax
This was like an early information superhighway. A 400-page internet full of coloured text that you could call up using the buttons on your TV remote control. There was even a quiz called Bamboozle with multiple-choice answers.
6 Having to position the TV aerial at the precise angle to get the best picture quality
The quality of analogue TV was poor at the best of times, but it was seriously annoying if your roof aerial got bent or blown out of place by birds or the wind.
7 Recording from the radio on your tape-to-tape hi-fi system
If you were cool in the 80s you had a boombox. These hi-fis typically had a pair of tape decks, built-in speakers and the option to take about eight massive batteries and become a portable ghetto blaster.
Their best feature was the ability to record from the radio, letting you become your own DJ.
8 Guessing where songs started and stopped
Track skip buttons didn't exist before CD players were invented. Oh no. You had to fast-forward or rewind the tape blindly if you wanted to replay a song or go to the next. If you were lucky, your player had a silence detection feature, but it would still make mistakes.
9 Having to use Tippex because you pressed the wrong key on the typewriter
Before word processors, documents were typed on mechanical machines. Imagine that. Press the wrong key and it was time to break out the white paint to correct your mistake. Unless, that is, you had a fancy IBM typewriter with a separate ribbon for scrubbing out typos.
10 Tuning in your games console via the TV's aerial input
In the days when TVs only had RF antenna inputs, your set-top boxes had to be tuned in like a TV channel. Even games consoles as late as the Nintendo Gamecube connected via RF.
11 Calling your friend and having to speak to their parents first
With only one phone per household, parents would inevitably end up being the operator, fielding all incoming calls.
12 Having to know stuff
Hardly anyone knows any phone numbers these days, not even their own. Before mobile phones people memorised all their friends' numbers. And you couldn't just look anything and everything up on the 'net. If you wanted to do your homework properly you'd have to leaf through a box set of encyclopaedias.
13 Spending hours typing in programming code from a magazine
… only to find it doesn't work because you (or they) got a bit wrong.
14 Waiting for games to load from tape
One of the most memorable analogue moments for us: trying to find the optimum volume to set the tape player to ensure games loaded without errors.
15 Waiting a week for photos to be developed
With film cameras, you had to take all 24 or 36 exposures before you could take the cartridge out of your camera and take it to the chemists (or send it in the post) to get it developed and photos made. Only Polaroid owners could have near-instant prints. Even then, they couldn't immediately share them with the world on Facebook.
16 Having to arrange where to meet friends in advance
It's hard to remember how we managed without mobile phones. Back in the 80s you had to agree a meeting time and place and stick to it, otherwise you'd never find your friends. Now, of course, there's an app for that.
17 Sharing your phone line between calls and internet access
Before ADSL splitters and cable internet, you had to unplug your landline to attach your dial-up 56K modem to get online. Inevitably, someone would pick up a phone on another extension and wonder why the dial tone had been replaced by bleeping and blurping.
What do you remember about the pre-digital times that we missed here? Let us know in the comments below.