As this is the first post in ye olde ‘back in the day’ column I thought I would start with a topic that would most likely show my age and give a slight insight into life as a youth pre internet and mobile phone. Well, I say pre, what I mean is pre-as-we-know-it.
My first ever mobile phone came into my possession at the ripe old age of 12 after saving all of my Christmas money and walking down to the One 2 One shop to exchange £112 for a Nokia 5110, yup, that massive brick of a phone, and my first home internet connection came via On Digital not too long after.
For those who don’t know, On Digital was the Freeview of my day and they used to provide what can only be described as the most infuriatingly limited service ever known to man. Anyone who had On Digital with a indoor aerial will know exactly what I mean. Too often you would find yourself with the aerial hanging from the curtains at some bizarre angle to even get a signal which was as pixelated as a Japanese pornstar’s wazza.
Anyway, I digress, the point is there was no internet or mobiles when I was really young and then very rudimentary versions of each when I was in my early teens. This all meant to get in contact with your mates you had to either:
- Be allowed to use the house phone and know their number
- Have this mythical thing called credit (no one ever had credit)
- Both of you have a Genie chip – A sim card by BT Cellnet (if i remember correctly) that used to give you free text messages every month without a minimum top up, this was like gold dust)
- Go knock at their home
Yes, that’s right, go to someone’s home completely uninvited, a convention which is seriously unheard of and, to be honest, is considered somewhat rude by the societal norms nowadays. This was genuinely life back then, as archaic as it might sound.
Every Saturday morning you’d wake up to go and do the rounds of knocking at all your mates’ houses and seeing who wanted to go play football, hang around the shopping centre like some weird bums, or any other thing which didn’t really cost money.
Obviously there would be times when you missed people and that lead to a search of all the usual haunts until you either found your mates, found out where they’d gone, or just went about your business and went to see if they were in later.
They were literally the only options you had and, too be honest, I think the inability to systematically stalk everyone you know through their social media profiles probably hugely benefitted all of our mental states and ability to be comfortable within our own skin.
Nowadays if you fail to respond to some peoples’ messages within a short period of time and, like me, don’t have a Facebook account, the search party is out as you’re considered either dead, kidnapped by Isis or, on the flip side, ignoring someone purposefully as you think they’re the worst thing in the world since HIV. None of which are the case, obviously.
Another benefit of the whole go and knock for John scenario was that it prepared you to deal with authority figures from a very young age. Chances are, when you knocked for your mate their parents would answer and you’d have to do some awkward shuffle while asking if your mukka was home and allowed to come out and play. Somewhat like when a police officer is near and you crap your pants even though you’ve literally done nothing wrong.
While this all may seem like some barbaric past-time to many of the younger members of society I do look back at those time with fondness and am somewhat saddened by the realisation that the tradition is nigh-on dead for the majority of the western world.
Hey, this is life: we live, we love, we learn and we adapt!