When my two new children are born at some point within the next nine days, they will emerge into a world that is similar, yet strangely different from the one I have inhabited for the past 33 years. It just occurred to me this morning, while watching the typical Saturday morning scene in my dining room (TV tuned to Cartoon Network, Jacob playing on his computer, Max playing on my iPod) that there are a few things that they will never know by dint of being born in 2009.
- CRT TVs – every screen in our house is an LCD, and not just the TVs. Computers, iPods/iPhones, portable DVD players, Satnav. It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, none of these devices were possible. But the idea that TVs used to take up so much space will be particularly weird to the children.
- Analogue TV – when my parents told me they didn’t have TV when they were kids, it didn’t seem possible. And similarly concepts like only having 3 channels, having to wiggle the aerial to get a good picture, not being able to pause what’s on, won’t make sense to my kids. Children’s TV used to be an hour and a half in the afternoon. If you didn’t like what was on, tough. Now they have a choice of 30 or 40 channels dedicated to the stuff they want to watch, many of them for 24 hours a day.
- Cassettes – video cassettes were always an awful idea. Massive great clunking things where the tape kept getting chewed up, the picture quality was awful, and it took hours to reach the bit of the tape you wanted to reach. I have a much softer spot for audio cassettes, because my various Walkmans (or should that be Walkmen?) were such an important part of my youth, and because I spent so many hours on my dad’s tape-to-tape deck making mix tapes. But music and video of anything other than perfect fidelity will be alien to the children. Even the modern replacements to cassettes are fasting fading into history. CDs and DVDs are still an important part of my existing children’s lives, but I suspect they will be significantly less so for the new arrivals. Everything is hard drives and downloads now. By the time my kids are teenagers, the idea of music and video being distributed on physical media will be anachronistic.
- Dial-up – even I find it hard to believe that there was no Internet for the first 19 years of my life, so I can’t imagine what trying to explain that to my children will be like. But think back just a few years, and remember the lengths we used to go to the get on the Internet. That interminable screeching of modems communicating is indelibly etched on the brains of my generation, and if you were lucky enough to establish a connection that didn’t drop out, you’d then spend most of the night waiting, watching the snail-like creep of a progress bar, as you downloaded a few kilobytes of data.
- Corded telephones – sounds odd doesn’t it? We still use regular, old-fashioned phones in our places of work. But in their day-to-day lives, the children wouldn’t recognise one if it hit them in the face. A phone is something you carry around with you, not put on a table and plug into a wall. Speaking of landline phones, the kids are unlikely to ever use a phone box, and one vital element from my youth they’ll never know about is the Phonecard. Remember those?
- One non-technological idea that springs to mind is that they will have never lived in a world governed by Bush and Blair. Lucky buggers.
Anything else I’ve missed?