WATCHING 35 Irish teens rip, burn, make and upload creative things during Schoolworks 2007 made me think about my BD (Before Driving) days as a youth in AM Radio Times. Those days are decades ago now and sometimes worth reflective comment. So to the Bebo generation I'm teaching this week, here's a blast of thought from my past, all the way back to the time when the only homes with internet connections were hard-wired to missile silos.
Back in those times, when I was a teenager, no one in my town had the internet. If anyone wanted to find out something, they headed to the library and looked it up. You started in the card catalogue because the librarian was smelly.
Back then, before Bebo and MySpace were ever conceptualised, no one had e-mail. During the summer, you got postcards from people on holidays. If you wanted to communicate with your cousins hundreds of miles away, you wrote a letter. There was no texting. You didn't type it, you put pen to paper and wrote down your thoughts. Then you had to find a stamp, walk to a mailbox, and wait a week before it arrived.
We didn't have MP3s, CDs, or tapes. We had 8-tracks. When I started driving, if you left your tapes in the car, they would melt. You could lose a month's worth of music in one warm summer parking lot at the beach. If you wanted free music, you had to shoplift. Or you taped it from the radio--the AM radio--while the stupid DJ babbled about it.
You couldn't download porn. You had to look under your brother's bed or bribe some old guy to buy Playboy for you. That was the only way you got to see new things.
And the phone--none of this Call Waiting or Voice Mail. If your mom was on the phone and your friends rang, they got a busy signal and you didn't hear where they were heading to hang out and you totally missed out.
No personal phones to carry around. No phone extensions for the family phone. No texting. No ringtones.
We did not have games you could play on the TV. We did not have video games in arcades. We had pinball and filled whole afternoons ringing up points.
We did not have films that you could rent or buy for the TV. You sat and watched movies when the network provided them over the air--no cable, no satellite. You got details about the shows in a printed booklet called the TV guide. Worse still, you sat and watched whatever your parents selected from the three television stations on a black and white television. You didn't have a remote control to help you surf around. If you wanted to change the channel, you asked. If allowed, you turned a knob on the set. Sometimes you had to bang on the side of the television to make the screen image sharper.
You didn't get rock videos on television. You got cartoons only on Saturdays, along with lots of advertisements for toys and cereals.
If you saw colour films, you went to a cinema where all the seats were at the same height. Or you went to a drive-in movie where some of the cars were rocking a few rows away. You might get some money from your parents to buy popcorn and then take your time coming back to the car by the long way around the cars that were rocking.
We didn't have microwave ovens. We had to boil stuff or eat leftover meals cold. Or take a loaf of bread and share slices with your brothers. Sometimes we made popcorn with an old metal thing that caught fire once when someone put old grease into it. The smell would last for weeks, especially if the flames caught on the kitchen drapes.
Things have changed a lot since then. Enjoy your social tribes on Bebo and MySpace. And if someone offers you time travel back to the time when the Beatles were about to sell their second platinum album, think about life without the web in AM Times. It might be fun to hear what it sounded like but really hard to have fun without starting on-screen.