L.B.M. (Life Before Mobiles) part one

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I started this post, as usual, with no idea of where it was going and, before I knew it, I discovered that it was going to run far, far too long for a single post and I still had no idea where it was going.  As I type this, it is heading towards a full week’s worth of words.  I have no idea how it will eventually split into three, where it will split into three, and into which three, exactly, it will eventually split.  Hopefully, by the time I post it, it will have miraculously fallen into place.  If it hasn’t – I’m sorry.  If it has – I’m still sorry…

Do you remember life before mobile phones?  Do you remember the thrill of being uncontactable?  Do you remember searching for a working phone box that had not previously been used as a toilet, only to discover that you didn’t have the correct change with which to make the call anyhow?  Do you remember breaking down in the car (because it was raining/too hot/too cold/there was a lump of dust the size of Venus in the carburettor) and having absolutely no idea whatsoever of how you were going to summon help?  Do you remember the sudden, desperate need to know which TV programme some actor or another used to be in, with no possible way of finding out without a free fortnight and ten years worth of back copies of the Radio Times?

We all take our little pocket devices, and the ability they have to make the sum total of all world knowledge available to us at the whim of a thumb, completely for granted now.  How quickly we have forgotten how life used to be.  I have written before (here) about how different pre-mobile telephone communication was, but there is so much more to it: our modern mobiles are so much more than phones.  Picture life without a satnav when you fancy a curry in a strange town.  Consider life without the ability to take a photograph of every meal you have ever eaten and send it instantly to everyone you have ever known?  Imagine not knowing how many steps you have taken in a day – what kind of life is that?

I feel that the time is right to take a little peek at what my own mobile has brought to my everyday life.  If the order is somewhat random, it is because I am simply looking at the screen of my phone as I type and trying to decipher what each little icon stands for; what it is supposed to do, and, finally, what I actually do with it.  There are apps that I have never opened; there are apps that provoke a panic attack simply because they look like something that I will not be able to work, and there are apps that, by some miracle, I have both understood and mastered – it is to these beacons of hope that I now refer.

When I was twenty years old, Sony introduced the Walkman – the first proper progression from the ‘portable’ cassette players of my youth (the size and weight of two house bricks).  The Walkman was a quarter of the size and a quarter of the weight and came with ‘miniature headphones’ which meant that the rest of the bus didn’t have to listen to what you were playing or threaten to ‘stuff that bloody contraption right up your bloody arse if you don’t turn the bloody racket down’.  Progress, being what it is, the cassette tape of the Walkman was soon replaced by the Compact Disc, and the Walkman with the Discman, which added the capacity for the music to ‘skip’ like a vertiginous ice skater at the slightest of movements to the range of listening pleasures.  Choosing the ten CD’s you wished to take on holiday, to be safely sheathed within the Discman’s case, was one of the joys of preparation – taking several weeks to perfect.  The fun kind of went from that with the arrival of iPod, and the ability to take enough music with you to power a pirate radio station, in a single piece of apparatus that was just exactly the perfect size to be lost on the transfer bus.  These days, when I run (You didn’t know I ran?  I must tell you about it some time) I take my phone with me because, quite frankly, I feel as if I have to have it in case I ever have to make that ‘last call’ – secure in the knowledge that my GPS signal and What3Words app will have the emergency services at my side quicker than you can say ‘No Network’.   With my phone comes access to the entire library of all of the world’s music ever, which I listen to through a pair of Bluetooth headphones that fall out and drop down a drain hardly ever. 

This is true progress…

…and a convenient place to finish.  Part two awaits you tomorrow and part three a day later, by the time we get there, I promise that it is almost certain to make sense.

20 thoughts on “L.B.M. (Life Before Mobiles) part one

  1. Had a Walkman but never ‘upgraded’ to the discman. Briefly had a minidisc player – never really knew what the point of it was though. I feel that technology peaked with the early iPods. If my mid-noughties iPod Nano hadn’t given up after some twelve years of loyal service then I think that would still be my ‘go to’ device. There may be unlimited music in ‘the cloud’ but I find that ‘the cloud’ is not always there when you need it.

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      1. I was more than prepared to replace my iPod but they don’t really make them like they used to. I’ve grudgingly embraced the cloud but I’m not convinced it’s a good thing.

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      2. No. I’m firmly CD (I do have thousands) vinyl and, when I’m out and about iPod. I do listen to music all the time. When I’m home alone I frequently have one record playing downstairs and another one playing upstairs. Often get the most amazing mash-ups about half way up!

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      3. I do miss CDs. I got rid of most of mine about a decade ago because I kept moving around. Having a toddler means it wouldn’t be prudent to start acquiring them again at the moment but I can see a future when I go back to them (or vinyl). I still try to listen to albums from start to finish, but I find the cloud has other ideas sometimes.

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      4. Silly cloud. I can see the attraction of vinyl, but they’re too bloody short. Vinyl just when I’m on my own and have the time to REALLY listen (rare) but even then the crackles and pops drive me BARMY!!

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  2. My parents still have the cassette player we had 25 years back. My mum still plays it for old times sake. But most cassettes are not in any condition to play and new ones are not available anymore. Twelve years back, when my brother got me a one-inch walkman from Texas, I was over the moon and attached it to my jacket front like a badge of honour on my two-hour daily journey to the college and back. The next year, my father got me another (I lost first one) one that hung around my neck all day, starting with few grams in the morning and weighed a kilo by the time I returned home. It is now lying in a casket in my locker, while I play music on my phone…life is changed that way

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    1. I’m so old Shaily, most of my music comes from CD. It might sound trendy to say that I listen to Vinyl too, but it’s all thirty + years old. I have an iPhone. Not nearly enough memory for music and I can’t get to grips with the cloud!

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  3. This is really interesting because the post I have scheduled to drop for tonight mentions telephone booths as we call them. In fact, I read your first paragraph to my wife who said, “Eww, someone peed in the phone booth! I forgot about that.” I have a machine that I got for Christmas that is made by Victrola that allows you to record old cassettes, records, and CDs into mp3 format. It’s pretty handy. It doesn’t do 8-track, though.

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    1. 😊 I schedule a lot and it’s surprising how often something I mention comes up in another blog before mine gets posted. I have even pulled posts completely before now. Looking forward to reading your blog. PS along the lines of you mentioning telephone booths I consider that many of my readers will not call a mobile a mobile (it’s a cell phone to you I think) in part two (tomorrow)

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  4. I don’t do apps, farceblock, instantgrin… or running (I walk because I’ve foolish knees), but I do own a mobile phone (when I remember to charge it). It probably doesn’t happen these days, but I remember that on the island, wherever you broke down, you’d be in someone’s area and they’d assist you after slipping off the icy road. There was no need to phone for assistance, someone would notice and someone would turn up with a tractor. No need for RAC or AA or Greenflag. Our connections to each other has been monetorised (the red line under that word tells me I can’t spell).

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