I love gadgets. I own several. One of which, a Samsung ten inch screen tablet S4 is proving its worth with every single advancing day because it has built in GPS, and I don’t have to bother with logging on to every single dodgy Wi-Fi connection every time I use most of the non-Interweb maps. Do I care that ‘the authorities’ can track my every move when I bother to take said item with me? No. I don’t feel the need to cart it around, so whoever wants to figuratively read over my shoulder will know what city I’m in, but that’s it. If I’ve locked it in the Hotel safe they won’t be able to find it at all, as a quarter inch of pressed steel makes a reasonable RF shield. That and the RF shielded carrying bag I keep it in when travelling. Switch it on when I need it, the rest of the time it’s pretty much invisible.
Anyway, that’s beside the point. Yesterday had me thinking. Over the weekend I’ve found myself remembering times past, and how we young ‘uns (as I was then) got by without the instant in-your-face immediacy of modern mobile communications. We had no Windows, Android, Tweets, blogs, Skype, Whatsap, Texting, Sexting, aps, iPhones, mobile phones, or Tablets. Computers and Telephones were far too unwieldy to be mobile, but we did have access to a form of Radio Telephony. If Dad was a high level service or Civil Engineer. Which one of my boyhood friend’s Dad’s was. No-one else we knew was, so it was no use to us. Yet we got by without much fuss. No zombie cannibal gangs dropped by to eat our brains. None of the nightmares conjured up by Hollywood came to play. The Apocalypse was for other people.
Yet we had the three day week. Scheduled power cuts for eight hours at a time in Winter. Strikes that seemed to shut everything down for days. The phone worked, but we kids weren’t allowed to use it. Later on I had my own place, and the joy of getting a phone (or trying to get) put in by British Telecom. BT’s advertising slogan ‘It’s for You-who‘ carried particular irony.
Indeed, the pace of life was slower. Much slower. Treacleishly so. People raised in today’s society would have trouble coping because their brains would be set up wrongly. Their memories are not so well developed. I also remember doing a hell of a lot of walking to see far flung friends. A brisk twenty five minute hike down unlit English B class roads with a national (60mph) speed limit which was more of a guideline than an absolute, to the nearest form of public transport. Which was usually late. Closest shop in the next village. One black and white TV in the house. My Dad liked watching snooker, which is a slightly surreal experience when you have to guess the colours. No remote control (That was me). And only, horror of horrors, three erratic channels! Remember signal ‘ghosting’?
So we kids spent a lot of our time outside. Tramping across ploughed fields. Dawn to dusk. Hunting water rats, pigeons and rabbits with catapults (slingshots) or air rifles. Or just walking, simply because you had bugger all else you could afford to do. Under age sneaking into local pubs and clubs, the closest of which were a fifteen minute shank up and down some quite steep hills and dales. Learning about building our own cars and motorcycles in our mid to late teens, if our parents allowed us the garage space, and the guy with a car was king. Or at least someone to sponge lifts off with up to eight of us crammed into an ageing Ford Corsair with suspect brakes and limited power on a Saturday night. Using side roads which we knew the local coppers rarely patrolled. Come to think of it, the Police didn’t figure much in our lives. And we were invariably unsupervised. Walking and talking. Face to face.
You had hobbies, part time jobs. You experimented. Especially with something dangerous (Particularly the local girls – especially those who rode horses). Travelling for two hours just to go ten pin bowling or to see a movie. Hunting through poorly indexed racks of twelve inch vinyl for your favourite bands latest album. Then the luxury of hours spent reading, standing rapt, almost statue like in front of the paperbacks in W H Smith.
Some would call it ‘idyllic’, even a ‘golden age’, but I disagree. There were long, dare I say interminable periods of boredom, staring listlessly out at traditional English weather (rain, sleet, hail). Rarely getting out to play under heavily cloud punctuated blue or more often totally grey skies. Come to think of it, that’s what the Internet is; like constant sunshine with occasional light refreshing showers. Information to bathe, soak, indolently loll and roll recklessly around in the long grass. A world of knowledge and opportunity at your very fingertips. Book a rail ticket on the other side of the world. Book a restaurant or day trip. Learn a language. Watch a movie. Watch endless ‘banned’ content. Compared to the pre internet days, when all information was closely guarded, hard to find, and only sporadically available via the nearest library (two hours away on foot and by public transport) today is the golden age.