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No Sense of History

Every now and then, someone (usually my mother or mmsword's father) sends me one of those e-mails about how easy kids have it these days and all the things that didn't exist in their youth.  These things drive me crazy, because they are always inaccurate.  Just this morning, I've received the biggest whopper of them, targeted at the just-over-30 crowd.  I'm not over 30 or even quite 30 yet, though I'm getting real close; I know a lot of people just on the cusp or already in their 30s; and most of us have a sense of history and how inaccurate these claims are.

"I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have the Internet."

Some form of electronic inter-networking has been around since the 1950s.  Not including dial-up bulletin board systems (BBS), public access to Internet service providers, e-mail, and the World Wide Web has been common since the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Even if you were born in 1970, access was readily available by the time you were 18 and ubiquitous before you reached 30.  I was raised in an isolationist cult, and I remember people using Prodigy, CompuServe, and America Online as a child.  Of course, we all had very limited access and were only supposed to use basic e-mail services and check the weather.

"Child Protective Services didn't care if our parents beat us."

Excuse me?  In the United States of America, there have been criminal court cases involving child abuse since 1655.  We've been concerned about children since far longer than we decided that women and non-Whites were people.  The Children's Bureau was established in 1912; the Social Security Act was amended to fund child protection in 1958; and Child Protective Services was established with the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in 1974.  And yes, they cared, even if you didn't.  The Adoption Assistance and Child Wellfare Act was passed in 1980 as well.

"There were no MP3's or Napsters or iTunes!"

This is the least ridiculous claim, but it's still inaccurate.  The MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 format has existed since 1991, following earlier codecs (such as MP2) from the 1980s.  Napster itself didn't operate until 1999, but file sharing has existed since the BBS days in the late 1970s, Usenet since 1980, file-transfer-protocol (FTP) since 1985, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) since 1988, and in many other forms since then.  iTunes has only existed since 2000, but digital media players such as Windows Media Player have existed throughout the 1990s (1991 in the case of WMP).

"There were no CD players!"

CD players have been in public circulation since Sony released the CDP-101 in 1982.  CDs and players grew in popularity throughout the 1980s, and cassette media effectively died in the early 1990s.  This is just silly.

"We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! [...] And we didn't have fancy Caller ID either!"

I'm not sure exactly when "call waiting" and "caller ID" services were established, but I know my own family had both these services in the early 1990s, and I know the first patents on caller-ID services were granted starting in 1969.

"There weren't any freakin' cell phones either."

Sure there were.  Car phones were first invented in 1946-47 and were first used publicly in the 1950s.  Portable versions have existed since 1957, and they were shrank to "pocket" versions in 1958.  These grew in popularity through the late 1960s, though they were trapped to local areas until the 1970s, when they were finally able to "roam."  Car phones have been popular since the 1980s and cell phones have been ubiquitous since the 1990s.

"We didn't have any fancy PlayStation or Xbox video games with high-end resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600!"

The Atari 2600 was released in 1977.  If you're in the 30s crowd, you were no older than 7 when it was released.  You might only have been 14 when the first PlayStation was released in 1994, and there were 3-D games on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) and Mega CD (Sega CD) back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.  Let's not forget the Intellivision, Famicon (NES), ColecoVision, Sega Master System, Super Famicon (SNES), 32X, TurboGrafx-16, Neo Geo, Atari Jaguar, 3DO, and Sega Saturn.  Shortly thereafter the Nintendo 64, and even the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 were released by the time people born in the 1970s reached 30.  The Gamecube and Xbox were both released in 2001, when those born in 1970 would just be turning 31.

"You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on!"

Not that this is a real issue, but cable television has existed since the 1930s (1940s in the U.S.), and satellite television has existed since 1962.  These are the services which eventually outmoded TV Guide with electronic program scheduling transmission, though I'm not sure exactly when.  The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has been online since 1990, listing details for films and television shows.

"NO REMOTES!!!"

Nikola Tesla invented the first remote controls in 1898.  We've been building remote-controlled robots since the 1900s, airplanes and radios since the 1930s, and televisions since the 1950s.

"There was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday morning."

Cartoon Network's been airing since 1992, when some people 30 or over today were 12 years old, but well before then stations would air after-school blocks of animated programming and shows like The Flintstones had been airing in prime-time slots since 1960.

"And we didn't have microwaves."

Oh, please.  Microwave ovens were invented in the 1940s.  They became wildly popular throughout the 1950s and 1960s.  Almost no one born in 1970 in the U.S. was born into a household that didn't have or soon acquire a microwave oven.  I don't recall ever having seen a household without one.  So if you were born in the 1920s, sure, you grew up without a microwave oven.  You might even be in your 60s today and not have had one until you were an adult, but you totally got one by your 20s at least.

"And car seats - oh, please! Mom threw you in the back seat and you hung on."

Child safety seats have existed since 1962.  If you were born in the 1950s or earlier, sure, you might not have gotten that.  Some form of child seat has existed since the 1930s, though, even if most of them were more "booster" seats than "safety" seats.

--

Well, that about covers that e-mail.  I think it's about time for some breakfast.

Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
aekiy
May. 26th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
Ya, but the e-mail specifically started with an `I swore I'd never be like those people' bit and "now that I'm over the ripe old age of 30." A number of the listed items are only valid for people over 60.
(Deleted comment)
aekiy
May. 26th, 2010 05:31 pm (UTC)
hee
heron61
May. 26th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC)
Indeed - it looks mostly to be for baby boomers. I'm just past that, and even I remember microwaves and TV remotes.
aekiy
May. 26th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
Ya. I think I'd have less problem if these things were written autobiographically, introducing a particular person whose family didn't have those things. Instead it's written as though no one over 30 lived with those things, and that's what makes it so ridiculous. It might make more sense if this e-mail's been in circulation for the past 20 years, but somehow I doubt it and it's certainly not relevant today.
helen99
Jun. 16th, 2010 06:12 pm (UTC)
I was born in 1951 but I was raised in Greece, so I never had any of the above until later. Even if something existed, my family wasn't inclined to buy it. I was the first one in my family to get a cell phone and a computer around the late 80s or early 90s. That said, I agree that it is annoying when people harp on what they had or didn't have 'when they were young'. Life is not necessarily made easier by virtue of gadgets. There are a multitude of stress factors now that did not exist in previous times.
aekiy
Jun. 16th, 2010 09:00 pm (UTC)
Admittedly I overemphasized some things due to the irritation from receiving a string of annoying chain e-mails, but ya. I'm generally not of the opinion that life in the broad gets harder or easier with time per se; it simply changes. The hardships one recognizes in one decade may vanish a couple decades later, but new hardships will have arisen as well.

I think it's more an issue with the one's environment becoming less familiar and more alien, except for younger people who have grown in the new decades and don't remember the world familiar to their elders and for those who are good at keeping current with progress instead of allowing themselves to age in a social sense by clinging to nostalgic feelings (not that nostalgia is bad generally, but it often leads to misguided assumptions, assertions, and decisions).

But yes, it is people who make life in human society and who make gadgets, which they can live with or without depending on the context. The gadgets themselves do often drive social changes, but they are not the baseline. Life should be defined by the people, not the things which wouldn't exist without people anyway. It's the people of the older generations that decided the world could perhaps use technologies such as desktop computers, cell phones, and the World Wide Web in order to solve some of their own problems and curiosities, not to provide them to the younger generations who now have much different and more complex lives as a result.
helen99
Jun. 16th, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
"those who are good at keeping current with progress instead of allowing themselves to age in a social sense by clinging to nostalgic feelings."

Exactly. The workplace and social environments have become more unfamiliar. They changed almost imperceptibly each year until it became noticeable.

For example, as a technical writer, I should have a web-based portfolio that includes samples of web content management, design and layout, and a number of interactive online help and master document design templates. Socially I just need to get out more and talk to more people, do more fun things. Projects for me for the near future...

aekiy
Jun. 16th, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC)
Working on that myself, starting to visit the local games and comics shop regularly to socialize and possibly try some unpaid part-time work for store credit. Simultaneously part of my therapy, relevant to my interests, and a way to save money.
sixteenbynine
May. 26th, 2010 03:22 pm (UTC)
We did, however, have silly chain letters like this.
aekiy
May. 26th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
It's true. These things have existed for approximately as long as there's been any kind of long-range communication service available over which to carry them.
strahd414
May. 26th, 2010 03:29 pm (UTC)
Amusingly enough, my parents didn't have a TV for the longest time and we took even longer to get our first microwave. I remember sitting with my family listening to radio shows when I was really young. The microwave is an interesting thing. For most of our cooking, we really didn't need it, some things were just a bit quicker if we microwaved them and there were some things we couldn't microwave.
aekiy
May. 26th, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
::noddle:: At this point, my mom uses the microwave regularly with her cooking, if only to help thaw things or the like, and that's not because she's a bad cook — she's actually quite a good one. Chefs around the world regularly use microwaves for various things. Twenty to thirty years ago? Not so much, but people typically had them anyway.
hummingwolf
May. 26th, 2010 03:29 pm (UTC)
In (some attempt at) fairness, when something was invented doesn't tell you when its use became widespread. But speaking as someone who remembers the 1980s:

CompuServe or something similar was popular amongst geekier-but-still-mainstream types in the early- to mid-'80s.

Spanking & the occasional beating-with-belt were much more acceptable in the '70s and '80s than now, but CPS weren't exactly idle.

CD players started really catching on the mid to late '80s. (When my father bought one in 1985, my friends were jealous, but pretty much all of their families had CD players within the next few years.)

I have no argument with your comment on cell phones. They seem to have been annoying me forever.

Pay TV (scrambled broadcast signals you'd need a descrambler to watch) started spreading when I was in elementary school, so call it 1980. Actual cable TV wasn't really popular for a few more years, but it was nearly ubiquitous by the mid-'80s. As far as I recall, cable always had a channel with program listings, though they weren't always accurate.

Remotes have been around forever. Granted, you had to change the channel on your TV set by getting out of your seat and turning a dial, but that changed relatively soon after color TV became popular.

TV stations showed cartoons in blocks on weekday mornings and afternoons. As a wee child in the 1970s, I used to figure out what time it was by which cartoon was on TV.

Your timeline for microwave ovens is rather off, I'm afraid. No family I knew had a microwave before the early to mid 1980s. My parents bought one in 1983, before most of their friends did.

Child car seats have been popular for a long, long time, though many parents got rid of them too early.
aekiy
May. 26th, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC)
Obviously these things will vary by family, location, et cetera, but chain e-mails like this tend to use "we" in the broad sense, as if no one had those things. And yes, things don't often become immediately popular when they're released (or at least didn't prior to the last decade or so), but for some of those things, they've been around far longer than the people who send these chain e-mails imply.

I was raised with spanking, belting, and even use of the wooden kitchen spoon (mostly reserved for my older siblings, who loved getting into trouble), but ya, CPS was around and kicking for the serious stuff. They have, of course, become more active over times, as is the tendency for any organization which lasts. (It's arguable how serious corporal punishment is or isn't generally, but nothing my parents did left any lasting injuries — at least, as far as we know.)

It is true that microwave ovens became popular in the '50s and '60s, but it's equally true that there were a lot of people terrified about leaking radiation and such, so they didn't really hit their stride until the '80s. Having been born in 1981, I can only say that my family's had one for as long as I can remember, and a lot of families did have them starting in the '70s. Of course, I was using loose pretty terms here; with "didn't have or soon acquire," I was pretty loose on "soon" by thinking "before someone born in 1970 reached adulthood, and before most people born in that decade reached their teenage years" (which they would have reached anywhere from '83 to '92). I just find it funny that people act as though things like microwaves have only been around for 10-20 years, when it's actually been over 60.
hummingwolf
May. 27th, 2010 12:37 am (UTC)
but chain e-mails like this tend to use "we" in the broad sense, as if no one had those things.

Yeeeah, but I tend to assume that they mean broadly "we who were not super-rich" or something along those lines. I also figure "kid" means someone under about 12, since this type of e-mail seems more likely to refer to playgrounds and child seats than dating or drinking, so I'm willing to give them a little leeway. So by my standards, if this e-mail were written in 2000, it wouldn't be completely wrong for people who were 30 at that time, which actually makes it an improvement over some of the e-mails friends my age have been sending me.

It is true that microwave ovens became popular in the '50s and '60s

By what standard? According to this page, "By 1986, 25 percent of U.S. households owned a microwave oven, up from less than one percent in 1971. Assuming microwave oven penetration into U.S. households was constant during this 15 year period, about 12 to 13 percent of U.S. households would have owned a microwave oven in 1978." From that, I'd have to say that microwave ovens were not really popular till the '80s, which fits my experience pretty well. Still, even by my loose standards, someone who's 30 this year would have had or at least known people who had microwave ovens when they were young, unless they lived in a poor neighborhood.
aekiy
May. 27th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC)
Well certainly when people were actually buying microwaves in the '50s and '60s it was largely the relatively few that could afford it. I'd gotten the impression from elsewhere that they were more popular earlier, but I can't remember where or when that was, so I dunno. I at least seem to recall that advertising for microwave ovens was pretty ubiquitous in those days, and that's apparently when people who could afford them actually started buying them, which they weren't really doing in the late '40s and early '50s, based on my fuzzy memory.
kitten_goddess
May. 26th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
I find the idea of "no remotes" being a hardship hysterical. OMG I HAVE TO ACTUALLY GET UP TO CHANGE TO CHANNEL! OH NOES! ELEVENTY ONE!!!!1111!
aekiy
May. 26th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
We're moving into a world where people might not have remote-controlled televisions any more because more and more people get their entertainment from a computer with Internet access. The last few households in which I've lived have been households that use only cable Internet access rather than subscribing to cable television. But ya, it is pretty sad to think of it as a hardship, never mind that there have at least been wired remotes for more than half a century.
rmash1948
May. 26th, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
A portion of those perspectives may be entirely financial. Also, I was born in 1948. So, as Jackie Gleason used to say, Away We Go!

"I mean, when I was a kid we didn't have the Internet."

My household (meaning me and my kids) didn't have the internet until 20001. And then it was dial up. Didn't have a computer until then, either. ::chuckles:: My youngest was 25 when that happened.

"Child Protective Services didn't care if our parents beat us."

Yeah. Right. CPS was something that happened to OTHER families--usually in the poorer neighborhoods although not always. However, they were around. Oh yes indeedy.

"There were no MP3's or Napsters or iTunes!"

Again, something I'm not personally familiar with. For the longest time, my music came on tape. Before that? Platters all the way, baby.

"There were no CD players!"

A financial thing in my household. Tape players were far cheaper. I remember having a tape player I got from Radio Shack that lasted forever. At least until someone stole it. When I went back for a replacement, I found that they stopped making them as, get this, they never wore out! Folks would buy that particular tape player and never get another one. I got my first CD player shortly after that--after the price for both player and CDs went down a bit--in 1995.

"We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! [...] And we didn't have fancy Caller ID either!"

Now this is confusing. There were always several ways you could get a message. Parents, siblings, older children, tape machines, etc. As for Call Waiting... "Mom! Mr. Cheapskate is on the phone!"

"There weren't any freakin' cell phones either."

Oh pooh. I remember seeing these huge larger-than-telepone-handsets hanging from belts and weighing down purses since I was a teenager. ::thinks:: 16? 17? Line repairmen always had something like that hanging from their work belts back when I was a little girl.

"We didn't have any fancy PlayStation or Xbox video games with high-end resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600!"

Horse manure. Didn't have an Atari 2600 but as soon as I could afford it, I got my sons a foot-breaking game console. Played Sonic and a couple other nice games I can no longer remember the names of. Mostly because I never got to PLAY them! ::chuckles::

"You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on!"

We always used the guide that came with the newspaper. It was far more accurate than the TV Guide. Go fig.

"NO REMOTES!!!"

SURE we had remotes! We just asked whoever walked by the TV from Point Alpha to Point Charlie to change the channel. ::dux::

"There was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday morning."

This is true for folks my age. A lot of the cartoons were either on Saturday morning or about 30 minutes after us kids got home from school.

"And we didn't have microwaves."

Considering that the first microwave I looked at cost $800 back in 1978, that's completely understandable. The price dropped like a ton of bricks shortly after that, but I didn't get my next one until 1994.

"And car seats - oh, please! Mom threw you in the back seat and you hung on."

Or Mom held you in her lap in the front seat. Talk about scary. ::shudders at THAT memory:: However, a lot of the older cars that were affordable to most people simply didn't HAVE seatbelts and car seats were flimsy things that didn't even survive a bouncy 6-month-old.

And food sounds like a damned good idea right about now. ::nods::
aekiy
May. 26th, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
Ya. A good number of these things are relevant for people over 50, but the e-mail was target to people just over 30, and for those most of it is inaccurate. And ya, things will definitely vary from household to household, but I'm 29 years old. I'm almost in the category of people to whom this e-mail is targeted, and I came from a very poor family. We still had a microwave for as long as I can remember; we had a wired remote control for our Betamax video cassette player; and as CDs became the popular new medium, we got that, though that may not have been until the '90s for us. (I turned 9 in 1990, so I was still a kid when this happened.)
rmash1948
May. 28th, 2010 11:45 pm (UTC)
Maybe the just over 30 is the new "over 50?"
aekiy
May. 29th, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)
Well, I think they're playing on the idea that age 30 is a sort of cutoff age where younger people no longer trust you — when you become "them." But they didn't actually bother to change all the little details from the usual "over 50" e-mails.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )

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