From looking up phone numbers in The Yellow Pages, to renting out a movie at your favourite video store - there are lots of things younger people will never experience today. Nina Butler, 52, reflects on how times have changed…
"When I listen to my kids Halle, now 25, and Rob, 23, talk about all the adventures they've been on around the world, climbing Machu Picchu and the Atlas mountains, I can’t help but be immensely proud but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little envious, too.
"They have thousands of pictures and videos documenting their travels which are priceless memories they can immerse themselves into, whenever they like. When I was their age, the best I could hope for to capture a memory was a disposable camera, whereby, I’d have to wait days for the film to be developed and pray that my thumb hadn’t got in the way of the lens.
"My kids don’t remember a time before we had internet access at home and they’ve been pretty tech-savvy from a young age. ‘You don’t realise how lucky you are,’ I often tell them. And yes, I know how very ‘ancient’ that probably makes me sound to them. But my childhood and teen years were so different to theirs.
"In my teens, in the 80s, I used to have to catch a bus into town - trying not to inhale the secondhand smoke of the other passengers (do you remember when you could smoke pretty much anywhere?) - to go to the library whenever I needed to research something for school.
"It also took hours to trawl through encyclopedias to find specific information, whereas now, kids can just whip their phone out and Google what they need to know in 30 seconds. Admittedly I did love reading old newspapers on the microfiche reader though."
"Both of my children had mobile phones by the time they were 13 - a raspberry pink slide phone for Halle and a flip phone for Rob. They were constantly playing games on them and messaging their friends, and I remember many conversations with Rob about him using too much credit.
"When I was his age, I never had the luxury of messaging my friends to arrange to meet up. We made plans when we saw each other and we stuck to them. Though I can remember arranging to meet a new friend from work for dinner and ordering us both wine, I ended up drinking both and then leaving very embarrassed when she didn't turn up. She'd got the date wrong!
"I spent my teenage years traipsing in the rain to the phonebox 10 minutes away from home to call my friends, just so that my parents wouldn’t listen in on my calls. And instead of being able to text boys I liked I had to write them letters as I never gave out my home phone number because my parents were too strict!"
"I even started my career in social work in 1992 without a mobile and without the internet. I used to have to get public transport across town to the head office and pick up memos and files from there before bringing them back to my office to look through and sign to say I’d seen them! Things certainly seem a lot easier now.
"My kids will never understand the stress of scratching your favourite LP, or finding out that your favourite film has already been rented out to someone else at your local video rental shop. Or trying to save all of your work onto a floppy disk. And what about trawling through The Yellow Pages to find a phone number, and having actual A-Z road maps in your car rather than an inbuilt sat nav.
"And of course, black and white televisions with just a few channels - not the hundreds we are spoiled with now. Whenever my kids complain that there’s nothing to watch on TV, I can’t help but let out a mocking laugh. They have no idea of the struggles my generation had. I have to admit though, it’s nice to take a trip down memory lane sometimes, remembering all of these things, and actually, when I think about it, I wonder, was it really all so bad?"
Nina Butler is the managing director of Tortue clothing brand
This feature was originally published in December 2023 in Woman’s Own magazine, which is also owned by Future Publishing. We sought permission from the contributors before resharing their story
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Ashleigh Page is a real-life writer, sub-editor and commissioning editor, who produces real life content for Woman, Woman’s Own and Chat magazine. Ashleigh joined Future Publishing in 2021, having previously worked with Grazia, Sunday supplement, YOU magazine and TalkRadio. Her pieces cover a wide range of topics, from inspirational family stories to hero dogs and devastating health diagnoses - and she’s interviewed people from all walks of life. From Market Harborough, Leicestershire, Ashleigh studied for a master’s degree in Magazine Journalism at Nottingham Trent University. A hearing aid user, she can often be found listening to Taylor Swift (loudly), baking overly ambitious cakes, reading crime fiction or vampire-based nonsense and watching reality TV with her husband, Tom. Follow her on X, Instagram and Threads @ashleighlprice
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