Sifting through boxes of old VHS tapes (which I refuse to get rid of despite my husband’s pleading) produces an emotional swell of nostalgia that leaves me in a conflicted state of inaction. “Fine,” my husband says, “but you’re gonna be the one to explain VHS to our kids.” The notion of having to explain to my kids something that had been such a huge presence in my childhood as though it were some kind of ancient relic had never really occurred to me before. Not one to back down from a challenge, I decided to get a head start on composing those explanations for when my future kids start questioning these objects of my past.
Here are 10 relics I’ll have to explain to my kids:
1. Floppy disks
As the great-great-grandfather of USB flash drives, this flexible, magnetic storage medium was like a magical technological handbag that the first generation of home computer users could use to store all their data, but you, my dear children, are probably more likely to see them “upcycled” into handmade pencil holders, notepads, and coasters by nostalgic crafters on Etsy.
2. Dial-up Internet
EEEEEEEER! EEEEEEEEER! Thanks to broadband, you will never hear the ear-piercing screech of dial-up, nor will you have to bide your time reading magazines while you wait for a web page to sluggishly load in full, only to disappear altogether when an inconsiderate family member lifts up the telephone and severs the connection entirely. We endured the painfully slow days of dial-up so that you could later be on Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter all at once while simultaneously downloading music from iTunes and uploading digital photos to Shutterfly. You’re welcome.
3. Anything with a wire
Whether it was with regard to printers, headphones, video game controllers, or car phones (yep, you heard that right!), to be “wired” used to actually require wires.
They’re not called “computer shows,” are they? Before laptops and Netflix, families once gathered around the ol’ boob tube to watch their favorite prime-time television shows together — live. “Commercial breaks” were synonymous with “potty breaks.”
Gone are the days of being completely unreachable upon exiting your home or office thanks to the wireless leash that cell phones have attached to us. There was also no such thing as a touch screen or texting — the horror!
6. Cassette tapes
If you wanted that new Madonna song you had just heard on the radio, you had to physically go into these archaic institutions called “music stores,” hand-select a tangible album that was pre-recorded onto a reel-to-reel cassette tape, wait in line to pay a cashier for it (possibly with cash!), and then go home and insert that tape into the music player in order to listen to it. And, yes, pterodactyls soared overhead the whole while.
Going on vacation meant taking a bag stuffed full of film, which required physically loading and unloading the film into the camera every 27 pictures or so. It also meant dropping the used film off at a kiosk in the mall for some kid with fifteen piercings to develop and then waiting a week to see if the pictures turned out akin to your expectations. Film bred patience in a person.
8. Laser disks
Uh, ask your father. I think they were the original DVDs.
Hardbound books made reading an experience that was tactile, collectible, sharable, and, okay, arguably environmentally unsound when compared to e-books. Now on the endangered watch list thanks to the eco-conscious, space-saving, shiny cool factors of electronic readers, books are the one object of my past that I hope stick around just a little longer than the rest!
10. VHS tapes
Let’s put it this way: there was no menu, no special features, no high definition, no scene selection. We had the fascinating ability to fast-forward, rewind, and record, and we welcomed pan-and-scan into our homes as though a cinematographer’s contribution to a film was totally irrelevant and extraneous.