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Life before mobile phones

Life Before Mobile Phones

I’m a proud 90’s kid. Born in January 1990, you can’t really get more 90’s than that. The 90’s was filled with waves of transient fads that went in and out, and we tended to them like pets. Quite literally if you kept Tamagotchis and Furbies. Yes, those furry, temperamental, eyelid batting, robot-speaking freaks of… – suffice to say I have no fond memories of them. But not all 90’s toys were superfluous, and many of the fads that faded in and out of culture played a huge part in the evolution of modern technology.

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Life was documented on tape. Voice recordings of nursery rhymes and snippets from the Hot 30 countdown were mixed onto sides A and B forty-five minutes at a time. Videotapes would be made of us throwing autumn leaves in the air and tripping over our gumboots. They would be inserted into videotape adapters to play on the VCR, and then displayed on the chunky cathode- ray TV. Tapes would be written and written over. A pencil was used to fix a screwed up tape. And when a tape cassette was beyond repair, you’d tear the whole thing apart and scrunch metres of tape in your hands like a madman.

My first computer was a Pentium 1. It had a floppy disc drive and a CD drive. For me, this was the start of modern technology. It meant you could go from saving 1.4 MB of data to 70 MB of data. My brother once installed a computer game over two floppy discs. By the early 2000’s I handed in a geography assignment on CD.

Then there was dial-up. All 90’s kids know the cacophony. And can differentiate it from the noise of fax machines. The mysterious phone tones that led to the vast and seemingly unending “information” on the world wide web. “Information” because you’d only be allowed access to do your BTN homework when Encarta did not suffice.

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Not many kids owned a mobile phone in the early 90’s. It wasn’t because we couldn’t afford it. It just wasn’t practical. Before Nokia ruled and revolutionised mobile phones, there was the brick phone. The brick phone was a monolithic black block that weighed as much as it sounds. Our time on the landline was spent twirling the cord or stretching it out to see how far we could go without pulling the phone off the end table. When the cordless phone rolled out, we thought it was magic. Because at that time, anything that didn’t require a phone line or connection cables was considered magical. How was there a connection when there was no cord?

But one thing that did live and die in the 90’s was the palm pilot PDA. This was before PDA meant “public display of affection” because we can all agree there was no affection for the personal digital assistant. And one thing that will live forever is Nintendo. Specifically Game Boys and Mario Kart 64. Nothing will ever replace the nostalgia of Princess Peach driving along Koopa Troopa beach, breaking into Bowser’s castle or cruising along Rainbow Road dodging spiny shells.

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About Joanna Ng

Joanna Ng

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