12 Things We Did Before Technology


I was born in the 1970s. I won’t tell the exact year because ladies do not talk about age, weight or what happens in the bathroom. Ladies don’t talk about poop and definitely not about farts. In fact, ladies never fart. Our gasses turn to flowers and fairy dust.

Anyway, I was born long before PCs, cell phones and GPS. I was born before pagers even. Remember those? You carried this brick around and when someone called the number, they could punch in other numbers that magically appeared on the tiny screen and you could call them back:

Old school, baby.
Old school, baby.

Believe it or not, not even too terribly long ago, we didn’t carry tiny computers around in our pockets. Yeah, you twenty-somethings are thinking I’m old now, but imagine how archaic “carrying tiny computers in our pockets” will sound in a few decades when you have one implanted in your brainpan. Eventually, you will be an old fart, too. Someday, there will be a “back in my day” just you wait.

This is a list of things we had to do before we had tiny computers in our pockets. I wrote it so that you can laugh at us and also realize how damn lucky you are to have a tiny computer in your pocket.

1. Use maps and ask for directions.

This one actually baffles me and I lived through it. How did we get anywhere without Google Maps and GPS? The answer is, not very easily. We got lost a lot. We had to stop at gas stations and ask for directions and use pay phones.

“Come on over,” usually involved writing convoluted directions with landmarks on the back of an envelope. For example, here’s the back of a flyer for a friend’s party. The front had all the usual flyer type stuff, but the back was made up pretty much exclusively of directions:

2014-05-10 16.38.24

2. Make flyers.

And speaking of flyers, we made flyers. There was no such thing as Evite or a Facebook event. When you were having a party, you had to make flyers, which you photocopied and handed out to people in person. I kind of miss this one since a lot of these flyers were very creative:

2014-05-10 16.22.22

partyinviteFlyers also applied to shows in venues trying to make money:

2014-05-10 15.44.49

2. Wait at home for phone calls.

Before pagers even, most people had one phone number and that phone number was for every member of your household from your mom and dad to your bratty sister. If you were waiting for a boy to call you, there was a very good chance that someone else in your family would be on the phone, because somehow, they always were. When someone was on the phone, another person trying to reach you got a busy signal. No call waiting, no voicemail, just a busy signal. Denied.

In the early to mid 70s, if you weren’t home, it would just ring and ring. By the 80s and into the 90s, we had answering machines. These were machines with tapes in them that a caller could record a message onto, but they were hardly foolproof.


Sometimes, if you really wanted to talk to someone, you set a time. Call me between 6 and 8 on Saturday. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent sitting at home waiting for that cute boy to call.

3. Look things up in books.

When I was in school, the internet didn’t exist. That meant that, when it came to writing school papers, we had to do research the old-fashioned way, in the library with the Dewey Decimal System, invented by this man:

Kinda hot.
Melvil Dewey. Kinda hot.

Until the late 80s when the word processor appeared, papers were either written out by hand or typed on an old-timey typewriter. We photocopied things a lot.

4. Have pointless arguments.

The Guinness Book Of World Records may seem like a silly thing now, but back when it was started, it was designed to stop pointless arguments. Who holds the record for the longest handstand? Look it up.

Huh. It still exists.
Huh. It still exists. (guinnessworldrecords.com)

Many, many pointless arguments were had before the days of the internet where answers are just seconds away.

Who played Han Solo in Star Wars? It was Harrison Ford. No, it was Sean Connery. No, you dumbass, it was obviously Harrison Ford. No, he was Indiana Jones, not Han Solo…. and so it went. Without the internet or a third party who knew the answer, sometimes these stupid arguments would escalate or just never get answered.

What the hell is the name of that song? I have no idea.

5. Make mix tapes.

Once upon a time, there were physical things called tapes that we recorded songs onto. They could be any song you wanted in any order. They had a side A and a side B, and they involved a lot of thought. What songs went on a mix tape were very crucial since they usually involved sending a message to the recipient of the mix tape.

This is not a mix tape. This is a tape with two albums on it, but it illustrates the attention to detail necessary in a mix tape.
This is not a mix tape. This is a tape with two albums on it, but it illustrates the attention to detail necessary in a mix tape.

Making a mix tape is, sadly, a lost art.

6. Buy things.

There was a time when, if you wanted to hear an album and your friend wouldn’t make you a mix tape, you’d have to go out and buy it like a chump. If you wanted to read a comic book and your friend wouldn’t lend you their copy, you bought it. If you wanted to see a movie, you bought a ticket or waited for it to come out on video. There was no digital super repository of all of humankind to download things from. A torrent was just a stream of water during heavy rainfall.

7. Go to arcades and video stores.

If you missed that movie you wanted to see in the theater, you waited a few months until it came out on video where you could rent it from a video store. Strangely, there are still a few of these old-fashioned video stores littering the cities of the world here and there. You would walk into a physical space, choose a movie, rent a video copy of it that you would put in something called a video cassette recorder (VCR), watch it, rewind it and return it.

Video Store 1982 or 83. 
Video Store 1982 or 83. (2warpstoneptune.wordpress.com)

If you wanted to play a new video game, you went to your local arcade armed with pockets full of quarters. You would stand at a big boxy thing squeezed in next to a lot of other big boxy things, put in quarters and play the hell out of the games. And then you’d go home poorer.


8. Change our phone numbers whenever we moved.

This one is a relatively recent change. I’ve had the same phone number for at least ten years now. Male is still using his California number even though he lives in another time zone. That would have been impossible long ago.

Before that, whenever you moved, and even when you switched cell phone providers, you had to get a new phone number. This was rather annoying actually, especially, if you, like me, moved a lot. People never knew how to get in touch with me and this was before the days of social media.

I lost touch with a friend, because he moved and left an answering machine message with his new information, which my answering machine promptly ate (I told you they weren’t foolproof). Then, as fate would have it, I moved a couple of weeks later and we totally lost contact. I never heard from him again. I’ve half-assedly been looking for him for twenty years. Things don’t always work out like the movies.

My nemesis.

9. Wait for photos to be processed.

There was a time–again, not too terribly long ago, probably in your lifetime as long as you’re not twelve–when pictures were taken with film. Pictures on film had to be developed by people with chemicals. Usually, unless you were a professional photographer, this meant taking them to the Fotomat or the drug store and having some seventeen year old dump chemicals on them while they looked through all of your personal memories before you did.


There were no do overs. You photographed what you photographed. If you didn’t like the picture and wanted to redo it, too bad. The moment was gone. It’s printed now. Your eyes were closed, your hair is a mess, you have red-eye… oh well. And all of this took at least a day.

10. Wait for our favorite television shows to come on.

Prime time was king. All the TV shows in TV land vied for a coveted prime time slot, which was weeknights from 8 to 10 pm when most Americans had finished dinner and were plunking themselves on the couch for a night of TV viewing.


We were so excited when the VCR came out because it meant that we could record things and watch them later! How cool is that? We can go out and do something while our VCR is busy recording Miami Vice! That’s so radical.

We got cable when it first came out and HBO, Showtime and Cinemax only showed second run movies. They didn’t make anything of their own. MTV actually showed music on television.

11. Use address books.

An address book didn’t used to look like this:

Screen shot 2014-05-10 at 7.57.30 PM

It used to look like this:

This person should have used pencil. (barbergp.com)

It was a bound paper handwritten affair with pen and pencil writing in it. It was a big deal for someone to use ink to put your number in their address book. Most of the time, we used a pencil. This is partly because everyone kept having to change phone numbers every time they moved. Notice how many crossed out things there are on that picture above?

12. Write things by hand.

If you met someone you wanted to talk to more later, instead of just plugging their number into your smart phone or looking them up on Facebook, you exchanged phone numbers. For whatever reason, I saved all the ones I was ever given. Not to toot my horn, but I have a lot of them. I have hundreds of little bits of paper and cocktail napkins and matchbooks and business cards with handwritten phone numbers on them. Most of the names I don’t even remember or have any context for at all.

2014-05-10 16.17.26

If you lost that bit of paper, you were shit out of luck. You might never meet that person again since you had no other way to contact them.

In addition to phone numbers on napkins, we hand wrote pretty much everything from party flyers to school papers to shopping lists. We did a lot of writing before computers. Being left-handed, I can’t say that I exactly miss writing by hand. Nowadays, if I write more than a few lines, my hand cramps up like a chicken foot since I’m way out of practice.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go slather Ben Gay all over my wrinkly bones before The Wheel Of Fortune comes on.

Do you remember any of these things? What did I miss?

Christmas Unicorn List


I was talking to Male last night and he said, “I need to start making a list…” I interrupted with, “A list of things you’re going to buy me for Christmas? That’s so sweet.” He said, “No, I already made that list. Things to buy you for Christmas – Item one – No things. Check,” and he made a little check mark sign in the air. Sadface.

I already wrote a letter to Santa where I asked, rather selflessly I might add, for naught. And I mean it. I want nothing from Santa other than for him to continue doing what he already does, but I would maybe like some stuff from the rest of you, if y’all are so inclined, or from The Christmas Unicorn.

Hoppy, The Chrisrmas Unicorn, spreading cheer to all the good little girls and boys.
Hoppy, The Christmas Unicorn, spreading cheer to all the good little girls and boys.

Here’s a list of things I’d really like for Christmas:

  • I would like my car to stop breaking down every quarter.
  • I would like a job that pays me a livable wage and maybe, just maybe, health insurance. gasp.
  • I would like a home of my own with a little yard for my dog so that maybe I could adopt another one.
  • I would like a pet dragon.
  • I would like more tattoos.
  • I would like to be able to afford an education.
  • I would like for all children to be children for as long as they can.
  • I would like a bajillion dollars. A big chunk of which I’d donate to worthy causes.
  • I would like all pedophiles to spontaneously combust.
  • I would like more time to write.
  • I would like more time to volunteer.
  • I would like my dog to stop jumping on people so that I could register her as a therapy dog. She just gets too excited.
  • I would like all domestic abusers to have to live a year in the mind of their victims so that they have to finally feel everything they do. Or, if that’s too much, I’d like them to be reincarnated as sentient toilets.
  • I would like to travel more (and by more, I mean at all).
  • I would like the justice system to actually dole out justice.
  • I would like just a little bit more fairness in the world.
  • I would like to afford flying my dog to visit my parents.
  • I would like less poverty.
  • I would like more hope, smiles and freedom.
  • I would like less war and less killing.
  • I would like more peace on earth and goodwill toward men.
  • I would like to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

If you’d like to get any of these things for me, I’d be much obliged. Thanks and Blerry Mistfuss!

Five Things I'm Good At


1. I’m good at liking things.

There are certain things that I like very well. I like music, lots of it. I like art. I like some films. I like bubble baths and rain when I have nowhere to be. I like snuggling up in bed and reading. I like coffee, bacon, chocolate, steak, lamb korma, gumbo, dim sum, sushi, beer and bourbon. I really like my dog and I like my cat. I even like my friends sometimes.

2. I’m good at disliking things.

I’m even better at disliking things than I am at liking them. I have a whole series of things that I dislike and why called Things I Hate.

3. I’m good at space travel.

At least, I assume I would be if it was an option. I rarely get seasick and I’m pretty good in the car as long as I can see where I’m going. I think I’d do alright with zero gravity and G-forces. I can entertain myself quite easily, which would definitely be a benefit on a long space trip. I’m a fair photographer if photographic documentation was needed and I can certainly write. I would be very good at keeping a space diary. “Dear space diary, today we are entering quadrant G52 of the galaxy. My god, it’s full of stars! Just kidding. Of course, it’s full of stars. Every quadrant around here is full of stars. It is space after all. That’s where the stars live.”

4. I’m good at raising rare mythical creatures.

Granted, I’ve never tried to raise a bigfoot or a unicorn, but it can’t be that much different than caring for a dog and a cat. When I left the house this morning, they were both still alive, so that proves that I’m good at it. I once had a goldfish that died, but it wasn’t my fault exactly. How was I supposed to know that dumping a year’s supply of food in the bowl all at once wasn’t a good idea? I thought I was saving time. Anyway, disregard that incident; I was just a kid anyway. As an adult, I currently have one feline and one canine. As I said, they are both alive and healthy, so I feel more than qualified to rear any dragon, harpy, griffin, centaur, pegasus or minotaur in need of a good home.


5. I’m an excellent multimillionaire.

Not that I have multimillions, but if I did, I wouldn’t use my power and wealth to steal more money from the poor. I don’t even want to hang around other rich people. Those people from old money are all so stodgy. Instead, I’d use my money to make people happy. By people, I mostly mean me, but if you are happy with my wealth, then I can’t help that. We’ll all be happy together. I’d invite you all over for coffee, bacon, chocolate, steak, lamb korma, gumbo, dim sum, sushi, beer and bourbon, but I’m afraid my dining room only serves 100 people, and the dragons, harpies, griffins, centaurs, pegasi and minotaurs do take up such a frightful amount of room. Maybe next time.

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On Luck

"with pink ovals, orange duckies, green toast, purple bunnies, blue bananas and rainbow half donuts!"

Do you believe in luck?

Nope. I believe humans make their own luck. If you work hard and long enough, you can attain your dream… Sorry, it was hard to keep a straight face while saying that. It’s pretty funny, you have to admit. As if the world was fair and anyone could achieve their dream in this fucked up, messy business called life. Bwa ha ha.

It is true that hard work does go a long way towards a better life. You have a better chance of succeeding if, for example, you leave your house rather than staying home in bed (unless your goal is to stay in bed forever), but a better life is far from guaranteed even if you do get out of bed in the morning. Time was, nothing was guaranteed in life except death and taxes, but nowadays only death is inevitable. Ask General Electric how much they paid in taxes in 2010. That would be a big, fat goose egg, nada, not one red cent. Paying taxes is only for the poor, silly.

Do I believe in luck, destiny, fate, magic, jinxes, lucky charms or any of the other rot that people sink their hopes and dreams into? Nope. Not one bit. If a rabbit foot was lucky, that rabbit would still be alive and hopping around on it. If there was anything we could do to change our “luck” in any way, all people would be doing it all the time.

All of us have probably tossed a coin into a wishing well at some point. We’ve made wishes as we blow out our birthday candles or said “star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, wish I may, wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight…” I realized that Jebus and stars had similar powers to grant wishes around the same time, i.e. none. Wishing on an inanimate, amorphous plasma ball in space radiating light and heat through thermonuclear fusion made about as much sense to me as wishing on a dead guy. Neither one of them had the power to do anything regarding my life down here on earth at all.

It’s scary to think that neither we nor some invisible sky king has any power over the complete nonsensicality of the universe–to think that no one is holding the reins. I get it. I was scared when I first thought about that, too. It’s much easier and more palatable for humans to convince ourselves that picking a penny up will give us good luck. It’s nice to have someone to pin the blame on besides ourselves. It gives us the illusion of control. If I put this horseshoe over my door, if I can find a four-leaf clover, if I throw this coin in a fountain, if I can just wish upon a falling star, then things will change for me.

“with pink ovals, orange duckies, green toast, purple bunnies, blue bananas and tricolor semi-circles!”

Life is full of randomness, and most of all, unfairness. Some people are sitting pretty while others are struggling to survive from day to day. If you want to call that randomness luck, for lack of a better term, go ahead. I won’t stop you, but I do not operate under the delusion that anything I do down here on earth, e.g. appealing to some magical sky power or lighting a candle for saint whomever, will have any effect on anything. If it makes you feel better about the unfairness of it all, if it makes it seems like you have some power over chaos, then go right ahead and rub that lucky mammal foot. Personally, the only lucky charms I believe in are the breakfast cereal. They’re magically delicious!™

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