My Summer to Theirs; 4 Decades of Change

Remember Your Summer Vacation?

When I look at my teenagers and how they have spent their summer, I get nostalgic. And a little sad over the things that aren’t common anymore. And excited about all the new things in the world.

Who remembers summers like this:

There were only 3 TV stations (unless your parents were willing to spring for cable, if it was even available in your area), no VCR’s, DVD’s, DVR’s or digital devices. You spent your days roaming outside, when you weren’t inside playing board games, D&D, or hanging out. Watching a movie meant going to a theater. Shopping often entailed walking to the mall or store first. Talking to your friends usually occured while you were in the same room with them, and involved no electronic devices. The phone was attached to the wall with a cord, and your parents yelled at you if you hogged it. Affordable cameras for the masses meant a point and shoot disposable camera that needed to be dropped off for a week to be developed, so you had to wait to see if any of the pictures you took were any good. Everybody wore a watch, and knew how to read it. Commodore 64 computers, Atari game system, and VCR’s were so new that you may have seen commercials on TV, but not actually used one.

So what happened between then and now, to change the landscape of American life forever?

1979: Large numbers of Atari home systems hit the market. They were used primarily as a plugin game cartridge system.

1982: The ever increasingly affordable Commodore 64 personal computer hits the market.  Other systems existed, but were not as affordable. The Commodore was primarily used as a game playing system, and made use of floppy disks (when floppy disks really were floppy.).  Price wars between Atari and Commodore caused prices to drop ridiculously low, making both increasingly affordable.

1984: Apple introduces the first personal computer that isn’t operated using a computer language. Instead it used icons, mouse clicks, and dragging and dropping, much as personal computer operating systems do now. This made the Apple computers easily usable by people who had no knowledge of programming languages.While these computers were not cheap, they helped lead to Windows, which became standard on non-Apple/non-Mac personal computers, and these computers were much more affordable.


1985: First version of Windows hits the market. It was suspiciously reminiscent of using an Apple computer.

1991: The World Wide Web (as in www) debuts, as does Google, putting a wide range of information at our fingertips.

Early 1990’s: Cell phones become common, making us accessible, any time, any place.

Late 1990’s:  Large numbers of people begin making use of the personal email providers that are hitting the market.

1997: went public (Books, and products at your fingertips, changing the way we live our lives.)

Early 2010’s: Smart phones become commonplace. More than phones, these are like mini-personal computers that you can fit in a pocket or purse.

I know some of these items were technically available at earlier dates than listed. The dates listed are for when the items were affordable to most families, user friendly enough for the average user, and produced in large enough quantities to be used by large numbers of families across America.

My kids have never known a world without DVRs, Netflix, email, texting, smartphones, online gaming, Instagram, Google, laptops and tablets – things that would have blown me away as a child or teenager.  I’m not sure who had summer vacation better.  Me or them. What do you think?

My Summer to Theirs; 4 Decades of Change

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