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Randomwire - Est. 2003

10 Things You Couldn’t Do 25 Years Ago

Retro Old TV
Photo by gothopotam

A couple of weeks ago I turned 25 which was a fairly unremarkable event but did get me thinking about how technology and the internet in particular has changed our lives over the past quarter of a century. Many things we take for granted today were unthinkable 25 years ago and have fundamentally changed the way we live our lives. I put together a quick list of 10 things I couldn’t do 25 years ago but now rely on daily…

  1. Communicate with people on the other side of the world in real time from virtually anywhere
  2. Write something and make it available to billions of people for free without any technical knowledge
  3. Search billions of pages of information and find almost anything in less than a second
  4. Watch world events unfold in real time independent of traditional media organisations
  5. Stream & download music, tv, and films over the internet from anywhere free of schedule limitations
  6. View products, compare prices, make purchases and buy tickets without leaving your chair
  7. Surf the web, make calls, send emails, listen to music, watch movies, record photos & videos, know where you are and a million more functions all using a single devise which can fit in your pocket
  8. Start a business without relying on the traditional costly overheads of office space and infrastructure
  9. Translate text between languages at a touch of a button with passable results
  10. Store massive amounts of information in a very small space (remember encyclopedias?!)

1984 Poster
Illustration by Luiza P

Doing similar things 25 years ago (or even 5 in some cases) was slow, laborious and labor intensive. Today information moves at the speed of light and as the masses gained access to simple tools for dissemination we’re producing more than ever before in our history. With over 1 trillion pages and 1.6 billion users we are living in an age of hyper-connectivity where people are only as far apart as the devices with which they connect to the internet. If the industrial revolution brought us cars and bridges then the information revolution has brought the democratization of knowledge to the masses (arguably at the expense of privacy). How far we have come in such a short space of time…

What would be on your list?

9 Responses to “10 Things You Couldn’t Do 25 Years Ago”

  1. TomF

    I’d like to point out that 25 years ago you couldn’t wipe your own behind, sit up unaided or burp without someone patting your back :)

    Reply
    • David

      Haha :P True but you have to remember that we were practically the last generation to grow up before the internet revolution. When you child grows up you’ll be able to tell tales of life “before the internet”.

      Reply
  2. Aku

    Hah, Tom, that’s a very good point. Many people reading this are also possibly under 25. The age threshold for having access to information is a lot lower nowadays too.

    Reply
  3. Chris

    It’s not totally correct, actually. I used the internet in 1980 and while I can’t recall communicating with anyone overseas, I could have. There was also short-wave HAM radio, bouncing signals off the van Allen belt, but I admit that transmission was very unpredictable, and you needed to study to get a license. CB radio was a big craze that year and was basically the equivalent of the internet at that time.

    Reply
    • David

      Yeah this is correct but I bet you were the exception rather than the rule. The average man on the street still didn’t have access to the internet at that time and HAM radio was something for enthusiasts rather than an every-day tool for most people. Still, they were important precursors to the internet.

      Reply
  4. sYm

    Couldn’t you replace 1-10 with “1. Use the internet” and then come up with 9 different things?

    Reply

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