[OT] If you grew up without computers, the Internet, and cell phones…

(follow-up to “Speaking of Nighthawks…”)

This morning, while I was chatting online with an old friend who, like me, was born in the mid-50s, she mentioned we were better off having grown up without computers, cell phones, and all the other stuff that would have seemed like science fiction to us.

I told her it was an interesting question and she said “Not to me. It would have been terrible to have everything I did public knowledge.” I pointed out that I was too boring to worry about any of that and she said “That would have been worse. You were a brainy nerd, and you’d have had to deal with online bullying. You would have been screwed, and not in a nice way.”

Anyway… those of you who grew up with none of this…

Do you think you would have been, on balance, better or worse off if your childhood and teenage self had had cell phones, computers, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Facebook, Kindle, unlimited on-demand music…?


  1. We had black and white TV an arial on the roof and on a good day we could get Public Television from NYC. Radio stations, 2 newspapers every day morning and evening. And because my mother was the small towns librarian we got every single magazine intended for the library. (Look,Life, Newsweek, US world and news report, all the ladies magazines, sports magazines, Health, SPCA, all of them.
    The biggest oh no of the era was when the library gave 30 years of old Look and Life to the Boy scout paper drive.
    Atypical to be sure but I was inundated with information from an early age.

  2. “and you’d have had to deal with online bullying”


    As opposed to the ever so kind and gentle face-to-face bullying?

    At least with online resources I would have known I’m not actually the freak the face-to-face bullies said I was.

    … but on the other hand, I would have realized, I’m not as exceptional as deep down I hoped I was…. oh, well.


    On the whole I think I would have been better off. I was starving for information and persuing and figuring out information.

    But it could be argued that had it been as abundant I might have have learned to chew and savor and really, really ingest it and make it *mine*.

    Actually, if I’m being honest I probably would have been intimidated and scared had I known other people liked what I did and I would have turned away from everything. Maybe. Or maybe I would have learned that that is actually *good*.

  3. ….But it could be argued that had it been as abundant I might have NOT learned to…

    Argh…. I can’t type worth dmna!

  4. I grew up somewhere in between, being born in the latter portion of the 60s but with a father who was a NASA engineer. I had an Atari 520ST for my freshman year in college, but there was no readily available internet until my 4th year of grad school.

    I think I am better off than my children, but only in the sense that I have had the best of both worlds. I had to read Children’s World Book Encyclopedia (I mean, I didn’t have to, but I wanted to), learned to use a card catalogue, was not prey to bringing TV (although I have since succumbed), and played outside as a child, even when I ended up to target of whatever the game was as much as a willing participant.

    Having ready access to almost all music ever has been an incredible cultural boon for me, as is movies and shows from around the world. I love that. Your friend’s concern that all our childhood antics would be online is fair though. We have students applying for college who have been very unwise in what they publicly share on social media… And that doesn’t even begin to take into account online bullying. At least in my day they had to catch me first.

  5. Born in 1951, and I would have been much worse off with all that stuff. I had time to read, time to go outside, time to play Risk with my friends.
    I started collecting sf books and magazines in high school, and it was a lot more fun going to the East Village to see what they had instead of going on line where you could get almost anything.
    It was much better for me to take our high school computer class which involved programming in machine language, long before PCs. That was a way to learn the fundamentals. My daughter’s CS101 class had no programming at all. It was a real thrill to write a working tic-tac-toe program. Today why write anything, since you can download it?
    I appreciate the advantages of what we had today, but I’m glad I grew up without them.

  6. I don’t feel like my childhood would have been better or worse if I had all those things. Just different.

    I’m very grateful to have these things during quarantine. I’m not loving quarantine, but I think about how much harder (or impossible) it would have been 20 years ago.

  7. WW has a point. I’m glad I grew up without those things, but realize they do have advantages.

  8. How old do I have to be to qualify as a geezer? I’m not as old as Bill, but widespread use of the internet only really happened after I finished post-secondary. (Not much after, but after.)

  9. Born during the Kennedy administration. I remember taking one year of typing in high school just to learn the keyboard because I thought it would be a handy skill to have for personal use. Although I was mainly thinking of typewriter, I had a clear idea that I would see a day past which that skill would be more valuable for computers.

    But as for the two-edged sword, I tend to favor your friend’s POV on this one.

  10. Chemgal, you qualify even though you’re not a geezer 🙂

    I should probably change the title to remove the “Geezer” reference.

  11. I’m wondering if WHERE you grew up might make a difference? NYC radio stations provide(d) information and entertainment that might not have been available in smaller markets. I could walk to my local library.

    There would have been trade-offs. Youtube would have meant learning about hobbies would have been much easier. But Youtube, et al, would have been a distraction to having those hobbies in the first place.

  12. I liked growing up without any of the current tech stuff. I remember in about 1978 or 1979 when my uncle got a VCR, it was like magic to us, except for in school, no one had one these things in their houses before. One time, I guess in the mid-70s, we were watching a tv show, I don’t remember what it was now, but when it was over, I said to my mother, “I wish I could snap my fingers and be on the west coast so that I could see the program all over again when it comes on in that time zone.” We live on the east coast.

    I’m also glad that we didn’t have techie things following our every move. I “lived,” did everything and glad now that there is no proof! 🙂

  13. I was born in 1953 – a official geezer.

    All these advances were touted as improvements to society. The old TV ads showed the family gathered around the set like it was the hearth. Social media was supposed to bring us together. Cell phones were supposed to let us contact our business associates and our loved ones in an efficient manner. I would say the hype was about 10% correct, the rest has isolated us or worse, forced us to wade through the sewer that is FaceBook, etc in order to get to that 10%.

    Rant over…

  14. woozy: “As opposed to the ever so kind and gentle face-to-face bullying?”

    I don’t think anyone is implying that FTF bullying is fun. But being constantly subject to online bullying, 24-7, whether you’re at home, at school, at the mall, etc. . . does seem like it can be a particularly bad problem for teens today.

  15. Born in 1945. As for “Do you think you would have been, on balance, better or worse off if your childhood and teenage self had had cell phones, computers, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Facebook, Kindle, unlimited on-demand music…?”

    Other than computers, I *still* don’t have any of those things. No cell phone; never use Amazon etc. (I suppose in theory I have unlimited access to music, but I don’t use it.)

    As a kid, I read a lot and I hunted for books (including comic books) a lot, and I listened to whatever music the d.j. felt like playing at the moment, and I watched just enough television to get jokes about fifties TV sixty-plus years later, which is probably the best use of most fifties TV.

    And since that didn’t fill up all of my day (and I lived out in the country without other kids to often play with), I lived inside my own head a lot and Got To Know Me. If I’d had all of those other distractions, I likely would have been depressed at how out of the mainstream/”deprived” my young life was.

  16. College is easier now than then. A research paper that would take weeks in the library I can now do in an afternoon, and Microsoft Word formats the citations for me.

    Back then if someone wasn’t where they should be you usually had no way of knowing where they were. They couldn’t call you unless you were at home. You could call them from a phone booth but they couldn’t call you at a phone booth, not knowing what phone booth you might be near.

    I took full advantage of libraries and such as a kid and learned a lot of things. Most kids weren’t like that. Having worked with computers for most of my life, I am as at home in today’s world as I was back then.

  17. So…are the generations that grew up before the printed page became popular better off than we are?


  18. A really complicated question. I think my final answer would be that it would be less forgiving to be growing up in this day and age.

    I know everyone’s experience is different based on where and when they grew up, but for me, growing up in a couple of large cities (we moved three times by the time I was 20), there were natural points where one could reinvent oneself, based on things you’d learned. Points like going from one school to another. Moving to a new city. Joining a new team or social group or church. One had the chance to try on a new personality without all the evidence of who you were and the mistakes you’d made following you.

    And while I always hear people tell tales of horrible bullying in the olden days, I was not the recipient of anything particularly severe or frequent, nor did I see very much of it. I think the Internet would allow a huge number of people the ability to pile on, do it with anonymity and to even bring in outsiders who would also perpetrate abuse. So harder.

    That said, I was as connected to media as I could be growing up. Loved my library and library card. Watched a lot of television and listened to a lot of the radio (though I wasn’t really a music fan until my teens). I read the newspaper every day. When I got older, I’d plug an earphone into my transistor radio or portable cassette recorder so I could travel around listening to music (well before the Walkman). Later I was intrigued by computers, though my father would never waste his money on such foolishness. I did have friends who had access though. I was exposed to BBS online bulletin boards. It was all kind of neat and I could see that it could be really something.

    That said, I think there were things that I gained from growing up in that time (70s and 80s). I loved the library, knew how to work a card catalogue and find stuff. In my university days (late 80s, early 90s) I would have piles of books as research for my papers and I learned how to look through them, search the indexes, etc, looking for relevant passages. I knew how to work the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. I learned to search. I learned to follow up references from one source to the next. It wasn’t just taking the top three listings in Google. And when I had my results, I had to piece them all together, to make sense out of things. A great learning experience.

    As a teen, when I became a fan of music, I started by listening to things on the radio. That meant being exposed to stuff I wan’t familiar with and some of it was good! And then buying records or borrowing them from the public library. Bringing home a new record was an event. So much ritual in taking it out of the jacket and sleeve and placing it on the turntable and then…just siting there, listening. Really listening. A wonderful time of discovery and concentration on art. Then follow it with the search for obscure or out of print records and swapping tapes with friends. Again, it was about the search and the wonderful coincidences of new discoveries or friendships. When I bought a VCR and started on the early stages of being a movie fan, there was some similarity.

    Now, as a music fan I love that I can get almost all the music. I’m sad that it doesn’t have the same magical, ritual quality and that I really have to make an effort to have music not be just background sound. As a cinephile, I love my streaming options and being able to get access to many things I might never have a chance to see otherwise. At the same time, I sometimes feel I’m lost in the number of choices. But, music and film, I at least have formed some idea of what interests me. For the youngster today, it would all be available at once, with little effort in the searching. How would anything come to feel special? I feel a bit sad for the kid growing up who will never know the experience of listening to a record 20 times in the first month after buying it because he doesn’t have the money to buy a new record. Instead, you get to really know, and consider what you had.

    As for social media, I understand drawbacks, issues around privacy and compulsive behaviour, etc. But that said, I’ve lived in a lot of different places in my life. I’m thankful that I can maintain some kind of relationship with the people I know and appreciate from the many places I’ve been.

    TL;DR: Who can say, really?

  19. Mark, there’s certainly no conparison when it comes to research. Research for my first novel, back in the 70s, involved living in the library, going into Manhattan to use the main branch (the one with the lions), letter-writing (snail mail), phone calls…

    Currently, to use one example, I needed to know how much it would cost to park in the garage of a big-city hotel in 1957, and I had my answer in under two minutes without having to put on my shoes.

    (I admit I did have to make one phone call)

    I really can’t imagine how I did all this 30-odd years ago.

  20. Pre-Internet, gay people growing up in rural areas or small cities might not have known that they weren’t alone. They wouldn’t easily figure out what was different about them. They couldn’t have contact with others like them.

    To a lesser extent, it was true for other “hidden” minorities like science fiction fans and science geeks.

    In general, people are now more accepting of those minorities, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Fifteen years ago people weren’t all that accepting, but the WWW was available to at least let them know that there were others like them, and to form online communities (and learn from the experiences of others) even if they couldn’t meet in person. It also let them do so anonymously so they didn’t have to live with the fallout that could have come from their differences becoming known.

  21. I was born in 1954, so my reformative years were mostly the 1970s. The narrow attitudes of the 1950s and early 1960s were falling away. People, especially young folks, were daring to think for themselves, questioning their parents’ goals and ideals, questioning war, questioning consumerism. They were wondering what other cultures might have to offer. Tentatively, cautiously, society was starting to open up a little.

    In high school, we didn’t have security cameras, metal detectors, or, for goodness sake, actual cops on duty. I worked on my school’s stage crew, doing tech for stage shows, and setting up and running the school’s assemblies. Most of us techies spent our free periods in the light and sound booths, studying, working, or just tinkering. We didn’t harm anything, and nobody in charge questioned or bothered us (well, with a couple of exceptions, but I won’t get into that). I could go anywhere in the school, just by grabbing an extension cord and looking like I was on a mission for a teacher. Just try that now! There was no such thing as “zero tolerance.” At least where I grew up, there were stacks and stacks of tolerance.

    Today school is all about rules, mostly designed to prepare kids to be compliant little conformist human-robot workers. Step out of line, the man comes and takes you away.

    I may be a geezer, but I’m not anti-tech, as your friend seems to be. I got my first PC in 1984. The first program I bought for it was a C compiler. I signed up for Compuserve in 1986, but spent more time trawling dialup BBSes. I used !-path email. I mined Gopher in 1993, Mosaic in 1994, and Netscape in 1996. BTW, Dilbert was already online then, and was still actually fresh and funny.

    A quarter century on, I don’t own a Kindle or have a Netflix subscription – I prefer media I can own – but I do like having all this information at my fingertips. I love thoughtful, collegial online communities like this one.

    That said, I’m not so sure we’ve added much that’s worthwhile to the net since about 2003. In fact, I had more success finding useful info in 2000 that I do now, when what I read on every bloody website is a copy of what I’ve already read on every other bloody website.

    Back in the early days of the web, most webmasters were there to share their knowledge with the world. Today’s “influencers” don’t share anything; it’s all phony staged pictures and gushy paid promotional posts.

    Websites don’t want my brain any more. They want my clicking digits and my ad-addled eyes, because those are what plow the pennies into the owners’ pockets. Ever look at the source for some of those glitzy web pages? It’s typically 90-95% ad and spyware scripts. They’re logging every move I make, so some algorithm can decide what ad to show me next. My most intrusive grade school librarian never spent that much time looking over my shoulder! We won’t even discuss the spewing Youtube sewer pipe, or the Face-Twit propaganda machines.

    Most younger folks don’t seem too bothered by any of this. It’s what they’ve grown up with. They’ve never known a more open, less legalistic, less intrusive society.

    A shocking number of people my age aren’t troubled by it either. Maybe they aren’t paying attention, or maybe they’ve forgotten what it was like 40 years ago. I haven’t, though. I miss what we’ve lost, but I’m glad I had a chance to experience it. I’m sorry that some of you didn’t. But who knows? Maybe things will be better, more open, more just, for your kids, or your grandchildren.

  22. If 1953 qualifies “an official geezer,” then what does that make 1946?

    Back in the mid-20th C., I felt like I did have unlimited music–on the radio. Nowadays, most radio stations have little but rock and bloviators. But spending $3.98 for an LP was indeed a major event, so I think I got more out of each song of symphony then than I do now, when it just takes a short search to get it.

    We had afternoon-edition newspapers, for those of us who didn’t want to wait until morning to find out what was happening. Now, though, it’s nice to have my phone tell me almost instantly.

    If I missed a show then, that was it. I’d never see it unless it came on in the summer reruns. Now I almost never watch any show at its broadcast time, thanks to modern recording technology.

    But the biggest Big Deal is, IMHO, in the medicinal arts. I’ve had trivial treatments now that would have been major operations in those days. If this coronavirus had come about in the 1950s, we’d probably still be wondering why people were dropping like flies.

    So yeah, by and large, I’m happier with life today than half a century ago.

  23. I’m a bit later than some here – but on the other hand, I grew up overseas, so pretty close really (one TV channel, with two kid’s shows in English. Total. In the one place where there was _any_ TV). I can recall at least once when I would have been _very_happy_ to have had a cell phone – fell asleep on the bus, went all the way to the end, didn’t have the money for fare home, walked a good chunk of the distance back (a couple miles, at least) before I found someone who would let me use the phone in their house to call my parents…).

    On the other hand, I had a computer (Atari 400) in my first year of high school, got on the BBSs in my first year of college, and have been online more or less ever since. I’m weird in multiple directions – not any of the official minorities, but SF fan and avid reader of many things, cook and crafter and gardener…I have had many more friends that I first met online than in person, and a good many of my friends are purely online.

    My music tastes are odd enough that I don’t have unlimited music available – except that what music I’ve obtained is on my computer and phone, so I can listen to it whenever I want. I’m utterly used, now, to having the answer to any question at hand (literally – look it up on my phone). My family used to look stuff up regularly to answer arguments or give a definitive answer to a “huh, I wonder if…” – used to have a Compact OED, atlas, etc. Actually, we still do – but almost never go to paper now. I’ve got an OED on my phone, Google Maps can answer almost anything an atlas could. And now if we’re in the car and wonder about something the answer is still at hand, instead of having to wait and remember to look it up when we got home.

    It would have been different, if all this tech stuff had been available earlier. I don’t know if it would have been better or worse, but it would definitely have been different. But I don’t think _I_ would have been tremendously different – I’d still be a reader (even if I started with ebooks instead of switching just recently), still be a word nerd, still…

  24. Hi, gang! I’ve been thinking about sheltering at home and internet outages (we had a couple of days where overload meant no internet or TV). And running out of non-corona things so here I am. Glad you all are still here!

    I am grateful for having grown up in a time where phone calls or dead tree books aren’t weird and solitaire is played without a computer. As for online bullying: I was bullied “offline” (or in meatspace, as some say). Bullying is going to happen, no matter what. Technology doesn’t change human behavior. What makes online worse is that it’s more hidden, and parents aren’t as familiar with it.

  25. I’m in the sweet spot. Late Generation X. First computer in 1983, but no Internet until I went to college. =) I truly feel like I got the best of both worlds. Born early enough to learn analog technology but late enough to enjoy the full fruits of connectedness.

  26. ’71. ‘puter in the ’80s. Kids in the noughties.. I was on the receiving end of physical bullying. My kids grew up largely without electronics until their teens due to the educational systems we were able to get them in…but once the social media was available to them, it was off to the races.

    Better of without computers/social media/etc. is like arguing kids were better off without TV in the ’60s-’70s… Better off without movies/radio in the ’20s-’30s… better off without public schools/indoor plumbing in the 1880s-1890s, etc…

    These changes are inevitable to the human condition. Pining for a “simpler time” is a futile that requires a certain amount of …selective memory shall we say.

    Funny thing is: my youngest son (17… thoroughly bummed about potentially missing out on the last third of his high school experience… and constantly scheming to get out of the house to see his “she’s just a friend, mom!”)… regularly pontificates/lectures at me about the evils of computers/social media/technology and how much better life/the world would be without them.

  27. There are parts of technology that I enthusiastically embrace, some I use, some I don’t find desirable. For instance, unlike LeVieuxLapin, I enjoy YouTube. A lot of the content is silly or distasteful, but plenty is entertaining. I really like some of the young musicians who are doing small performances either of covers or their original songs. Today I viewed the lasted from “Mustie1”, who has been fixing up a riding mower he rescued from the discard pile.

  28. 1950’s record players were fair-to-middling in quality. By the time I went to college in 1969, people — even some college students, particularly music majors — were putting together high-quality systems from components with speakers by JBL, Advent, Acoustic Research, etc. A few years after college I bought the Rectilinear III speakers I still use today. A friend of mine has a pair of Bose 901. But he and I seem to be just about the only people who like high-quality sound. People listen to their music on anything at all, even a cell phone, and don’t seem to care.

    For great sound quality, nothing beats Symphony Hall in Boston. But I can’t go right now, so I’m listening to my old LP’s with the Thorens, Ortofon, NAD and Rectilinears.

  29. I actually don’t know how anyone who likes music can dislike YouTube. Sure, there’s lots of bad stuff there, but I can find millions of wonderful genres that when I was a kid I not only couldn’t hear, but had no way of even knowing they existed. And regardless of how much bad stuff there is, the search algorithms make it relatively easy to narrow in on the good stuff, whatever your definition of “good stuff.”

  30. I totally agree. When I was young, almost all the music I heard was what was on the radio. Now, there are so many outlets for putting out music that you can sample. I do wish the algorithm would stop offering me hip-hop. That I don’t like. I’d also like it there were an option for “never recommend one I’ve seen”.

    Sometimes there are odd recommendations that are not my usual fare but I check out. A couple weeks ago his video by NO jazz group Tuba Skinny showed up in my recommendations, and I enjoyed it.

  31. I’ve always considered the Internet to be the library of Congress combined with a dump. You can find very nice stuff there but have to be careful. As a child, had she known about it, my mother would not have approved my playing around the dump, but I could read anything I wanted, from the library or from anywhere (nothing was off-limit on my parents’ bookshelves). I was born 1974, did my first Internet search for a paper in 1996. I don’t have a computer, nor a smartphone, home.

  32. Born in the late 70’s. So glad to have experienced life before the digital age. To this day I have a vibrant imagination. I wonder what effect all of this tech is having on children’s imagination. They’re swiping tablets at the age of one. I read so many books growing up. I feel like problem solving skills are developed when you have to search for answers. Outside of that, I can’t imagine having to add the pressure of having my middle school and high school drama played out on social media. Or being teased online during those formative years. At least I was able to LOOK my bullies in the eye one day, SEE that they were cowards and finally take a stand. Much easier to be a tough girl online.





  34. I’m part of the Boomer generation, but not far enough in to puberty to participate in Woodstock (or to even know about Woodstock!). I recall we had plenty of information sources, still like a leisurely read through a paper or book. My foggy recall was that radio stations were more diverse than today, and we spent a lot less time screaming at the other side of a viewpoint. My wife tells me they discussed politics in their family, so maybe it is just my upbringing.

    I liked the idea that you could be ‘out of sight’ for hours at a time but had to be back by dinner. And yes, I am glad I don’t have to see every stupid action or word I committed replayed on the Internet! The best thing that could happen for today’s youth would be a memory blackout on the social medias (um, but that doesn’t erase 401k, pension, etc. it would have to be a very specific catastrophe).

  35. I think I was better off. Having lived without it gives me (and others like me – such as Robert) the ability to choose which parts of computers, the Internet, etc I would use as it all came along bit by bit. I tend to use my computer differently – more towards the “computing” end of it. I am still on Yahoo as some of my groups are still going and on Groups.io as others have moved there, as well as, obviously on here and an embroidery group – but I joke that my Facebook page is so private that even I am not allowed to see it and I only use it for such as stores that I am interested in finding out about that have no websites.

    The local region of my embroidery group set up Zoom for the chapters to have meetings on same. I had never heard of same before that (as I posted elsewhere). I explained that I cannot really use it as I don’t have a camera, speakers, or a microphone on my computer – I have not had a need for them. (Robert did point out to me that this laptop could do all of what is what is needed – but I would not want to try to do anything in real time as I never know what will happen with it – I write and then it disappears plus other oddities – plus I have too many other things to do.)

    On the other hand – the Internet is much is better than the World Book Encyclopedia for looking things up, though the World Book was good as I could take a book to the bathroom and read it while there. (Yes, I actually read through it and the yearbooks that update it for fun and information – 1962 – Women will never allow their hemlines to rise above the knee, Is the pain in my sister’s side her appendix – look at the see through pictures of the human body) and it was much easier to read there than balance any of my laptops on my lap.) And my terrible typing and handwriting are much less of a problem as is my shortcomings in seplling (how I would spell spelling in 6th grade before a teacher worked with me on same).

    For checking when or if a bill was paid, reminding me to pay them, reminding me to go and make dinner, whose birthday is when – computer/cell phone great (I still carry my Palm Pilot around as I find it better than my Android for many of these things). Playing a game on my phone – Free Cell Solitaire or Suduko a great way to spend time when waiting around somewhere.

    Then again, at 17 I started to learn to program a main frame computer during my senior year of high school, which continued in college so I learned to use computers and think of them as tools for word processing and number work – not as something for fun (ok, in college there was a Star Trek game and “Boom” appeared on the screen if one hit something). Robert’s best friend from when he was a boy, was a college professor and Robert was on the Internet before it was the World Wide Web as his friend told him to how to get on it through a college near us.

    There is also a chasm between children now between those who have access to computer at home and those who do not much of which is based on family finances which did not exist when I was young. This has been mentioned a number of times as school moved to computers at home now. Children in families who cannot afford a computer or Internet service for one are at a disadvantage. One story recently in the paper involved a family where the children cannot do the school work assigned to them now until their father comes home work and they can use his cell phone to access the websites needed to do the work as they have no computer in the house. Some school districts were scrambling to buy tablet computers or chrome books and to figure out how to set up points for the children to get Internet access (forget the exact term) as the families in the districts cannot afford computers or Internet service for them. One district handed out the chrome books to junior high and up, arranging for Internet for them and gave paper packets of work to the younger children due to the lack of computers in the homes in their district.

    And of course one advantage to computers is for those with some sort of physical disability that would otherwise stop them from being able to write, read, follow what someone is saying etc.

    (Sorry – I tend to see both sides of situations at the same time.)

  36. WW: I don’t dislike YouTube. A small percentage of its offerings are useful or entertaining. (I’m not sure there’s a difference, but I’ll let that slide for now.) Some of the how-to stuff seems downright essential now.

  37. “I can find millions of wonderful genres that when I was a kid I not only couldn’t hear, but had no way of even knowing they existed.”
    “When I was young, almost all the music I heard was what was on the radio.”

    Yea, I grew up in this age too, but this is one of the reasons I’m glad I grew up when I did. It was a challenge to find music that wasn’t the same old boring garbage you heard on the radio repeated ad infinitum. Staying up late listening to David Wisdom’s Night Lines (shout out to Canadians!) and hunting through the back bins of the one local record shop in my small town that stocked the independent stuff was fun, and it was great when you came across a hidden treasure. I also met some cool people that way who became life-long friends.

    I suppose the same can be done digitally, in a way. However, having those times as a part of my real life experiences and those experiences becoming part of my life’s memories seems preferable to me than sitting on my butt in front of a computer screen.

  38. Well, sure. But that never occurred to most of us. I’m not sure “You could sort of do it, but it was much harder” is much of a selling point. Remember, even your alternate sources were filtered by someone else. It also doesn’t include the other benefit of today, which is that artists don’t have to go through a record company to get published. With YouTube, anyone can write a song, perform a song, put it out there. Sturgeon’s Law will apply even more of course.

  39. “I’m not sure “You could sort of do it, but it was much harder” is much of a selling point.”

    However, this is a selling point for lots of things. Would you rather climb the mountain, or take a helicopter to the top? Would you rather hike through the forest, or have someone drive you? Would you rather bake your own cookies with your kids, or throw them a packet of Chips Ahoy? The former of all of these choices are often seen as far harder, but much more rewarding in many ways. Searching for the most convenient option is not that fulfilling.

    “Remember, even your alternate sources were filtered by someone else.”

    True enough, but often you could write to the record labels to get their catalogs and make your own choices. That’s how I discovered the Butthole Surfers.

    “It also doesn’t include the other benefit of today, which is that artists don’t have to go through a record company to get published.”

    Also true, but are they any better off because of this? If they were lucky enough to get signed by a label, they tended to make a bit more money as you had to buy their records/cassettes to listen to them. Despite the hype, I don’t think the majority of artists make much cash through YouTube. Additionally, lots of artists back in the day published their own work independently/started their own labels and flogged their work at shows. SST Records (Black Flag with Henry Rollins), Alternative Tentacles (Dead Kennedys), Discord (Minor Threat) are good examples of this.

    “With YouTube, anyone can write a song, perform a song, put it out there.”

    This is a good point, as there is more exposure for a band’s work, for sure. However, back to the point, even though as a kid I would have loved this, my experiences and memories of hunting for music, going to shows to check out new bands, and meeting cool people along the way would not have happened if I’d had this option.

  40. I don’t doubt there are some benefits to that. Growing up, I wasn’t even aware of such things.

  41. Yea, I hear you. You had to put in the legwork…but I guess that was the same for everything back then.

    To be honest, I was sort of smug at the time that I was into that kind of music. It was easier for me and my load of freakish friends to look down our noses at the jocks, preps and posers who used to hassle us.

  42. “Would you rather bake your own cookies with your kids, or throw them a packet of Chips Ahoy?”

    I would rather be able to bake cookies when I want to bake cookies, and buy Chips Ahoy when I want to buy Chips Ahoy.

    Honestly, it seems quite strange to me to glorify obstacles in your ability to find what you want.

  43. “Honestly, it seems quite strange to me to glorify obstacles in your ability to find what you want.”

    I wasn’t glorifying the obstacles, I am thankful for the adventures that were the result of these obstacles. I wouldn’t have had so many great memories if pushing a button or two got me what I was after.

  44. “I would rather be able to bake cookies when I want to bake cookies, and buy Chips Ahoy when I want to buy Chips Ahoy.”

    …and what’s to stop you from doing this? The issue was which task is generally more fulfilling?

  45. “…and what’s to stop you from doing this?”

    Um, this is your analogy? You made the analogy between having easy searchable access to find music, and the ability to buy store-bought cookies, and were talking about how it was better that you didn’t have easy searchable access to music. I’m accepting your analogy, and saying that it’s nice to be able to buy cookies when I want, because that doesn’t prevent me from making cookies when I want.

    I’m not disputing that you liked having obstacles in your way to finding music, because it spurred you on to greater adventures. I’m just saying that I think that’s a pretty strange thing to praise. Would your life be better if you didn’t have access to libraries? Think about all the great memories you could have if instead of just getting a book at the library you had to go on an adventure to find a book you liked!

  46. “You made the analogy between having easy searchable access to find music, and the ability to buy store-bought cookies, and were talking about how it was better that you didn’t have easy searchable access to music.”

    I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear, but that was not quite the analogy. I was replying to “I’m not sure “You could sort of do it, but it was much harder” is much of a selling point.” Challenges are often selling points for most people, hence the examples provided. Due to the circumstances at the time, I was forced into that challenge, and I’m grateful for it in hindsight. I don’t think I’d change that if I could.

    “Think about all the great memories you could have if instead of just getting a book at the library you had to go on an adventure to find a book you liked!”

    My point exactly. To expand on your point, in the past, books were considered valuable because they were so rare and expensive. People cherished them a lot more because of this, and likely had a greater sense of fulfillment when getting their hands on one. In this case, it’s not a good thing, obviously, as it limits the transfer of vital information to those who may need it, but the premise is the same. The obstacle added value to the objects themselves, as well as the time and effort it took for you to obtain it.

    Going back to the ‘choice’ you mentioned earlier, I think that it’s not really a choice anyway. The internet is doing away with that choice. Today, all anyone has to do it click a few times to get whatever they want…and that’s all people do. Why do anything else? It’s pointless, and your choices are becoming quite limited as a result of this too. Independent music shops are shutting on mass, small bookstores are closing, even malls are shuttering their doors. If the trend continues, unlikely as it may be, the only choice will be the internet. Certainly you have more access to all the world has to offer with the internet, but the experiences of my youth will not exist for the next generation.

    Be that good or bad, that’s for you to decide. However, I’m glad for the hoops I had to jump through. It made my life richer in ways that seem no longer to be an option for the future. That’s my answer to the question posted in this thread.

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