Back in Prehistory

Occasionally, when Petra feels particularly sick or tired, she likes to snuggle up in her beanbag or on the laziboy with a blanket or two and some snacks and watch a few episodes of The Wombles (they’re five minute animated shows which are witty enough to be entertaining even for the grown ups in the room, and gentle enough to be good comfort food for the jaded preschooler). It’s the only time she watches tv and she finds it a comforting ritual.
She asked me yesterday what I did when I was little and didn’t feel well. I told her that I mostly just lay around in bed.
“Did you watch tv, like I do?” she asked.
I said that I didn’t because there weren’t any children’s programmes on tv when I was a child (I didn’t even bother to get into the non-existence of dvd’s and youtube and so on, no sense in further confusing her!).
“Ah,” she said, “was that the olden days?”

Yes indeed it was. My childhood seems like a whole other country these days. When I was a child, there were two tv channels and the broadcasts ended for the night at 11pm or midnight with the screening of a great little animation called The Goodnight Kiwi. There were no such things as remote controls – you changed the chanel by turning the dial. I listened to music on 45″ and 78″ vinyl records. You could stack five records on Mum and Dad’s stereo and they would drop down and play, one after the other. The disadvantage being of course that only one side of each album was played.

I remember the first brick-sized cell phones in the 80’s and playing ping pong on a console we plugged into the tv. I remember my first encounters with computers and word processing using 386’s and trying to deal with the vagaries of DOS. None of us knew what we were doing so huddles of people would form around monitors in the University’s new computer labs as people figured out how to create and print documents and save to them to 3″ floppy disks. And then there was the internet, sparse and difficult to navigate before Mosaic, but amazing even so, and then wonder of wonders, Mosaic, and Amazon, and a whole new world appeared on the screen. Now, I can’t imagine how I ever survived without google and youtube, all that information, all that creativity available whenever I want it.

Back in the day finding books and movies and music was a matter of luck, word of mouth, and diligent searching. I spent years building up a collection of Diana Wynne Jones’s books. Buying them one at a time from those sales where a container load of randomly assorted books are jumbled on a few trestle tables in an empty store. And, if you’re lucky and thorough, you might find a treasure in amongst the dross.

Now, I can order anything that’s in print, and a whole lot that’s not, from Amazon, or Bookfinder, or wherever. The new world is a wondrous place.

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