What’s a Card Catalog? And Other Technology Our Children Will Only See in Museums

Yesterday, I told a student to use the computer in my classroom to Google the answer to one of his questions. His response was to flop over on his desk and dramatically whine, “But I’m too tired and the computer is all the way over there!” He indicated the computer which was located approximately three feet from his desk. Being the nice, supportive¬†person that I am, I compassionately responded, “Are you kidding me?! You know what I did when I was a kid and had to answer a question? I waited for my parents to drive me to the library where I used a card catalog to find a book and then I searched for an answer by actually reading it!”

Then I channeled the epitome of grandpas everywhere. “You kids today have it so easy what with your iPhones and your MTV and your saggy britches! Why, in my day we had to actually answer the phone to find out who was calling, Mister!” I stopped myself before I launched into a diatribe of how I had to walk uphill to school in the snow.¬† But it got me thinking of some of the technology of my day, that my kids will never see, let alone use, and how, in some ways, life has gotten easier.

  • CARD CATALOG 1 of 20
    Ahhh, the card catalog. Who could forget learning about the Dewey decimal system in first grade? And if Ghostbusters has taught us anything, it's that flying paper from a card catalog is a sure sign that your local library is plagued with ghosts. image: yanajenn's flickr stream
    Back before Google, we had to look up our information in the ole World Book Encyclopedias. And people went around door to door selling these things! You were really lucky if you had a set of them in your own house! And it stunk if your parents hadn't gotten around to paying for the last installment of books because you were out of luck if you ever had to do a report on xylophones, yaks, or zoology. image: morguefile
  • WALKMAN 3 of 20
    Before the iPod, we had the Walkman. No, it didn't store a library of hundreds of songs. No, we couldn't find any song with the swipe of a finger. But the Walkman was some seriously high-tech awesomeness back in the day! image: mike licht,'s flickr stream
  • TAPE RECORDER 4 of 20
    Before iTunes, you had to save up your babysitting money and wait for Mom and Dad to take you to the store to buy a record or a cassette tape. OR you could wait around until the radio played that totally awesome new Duran Duran song, then you would hold your trusty tape recorder up to your radio and hope that your sister didn't storm into your room demanding (very loudly) to know what you were doing thus ruining your mixed tape. image: morguefile
  • BOOM BOX 5 of 20
    Unlike the electronics of today that keep getting smaller, when I was a kid, it was "the bigger, the better" with radios. And we brought our boom boxes with us and listened to them at the beach until William Zabka rode over them with his motorcycle. And we held them up and played Peter Gabriel songs. (Well, at least in the movies we did that.) image: morguefile
  • RECORDS 6 of 20
    I remember my first few record albums: Alvin and the Chipmunks, Michael Jackson's Thriller, and the soundtrack from Grease! And record albums were not only great for listening to music, but when you wrapped them in foil and propped them around you when you laid out to tan, you could achieve a nice, crispy sunburn in no time at all! image: morguefile
  • VIDEO GAMES 7 of 20
    You kids with your XBox Connect and your PlayStations and your realistic graphics. This was our video game: Pong. It was two lines that hit a square back and forth. Yep, that's it. I bet you kids today could find more time to do your homework if this was the alternative. That is, until Atari came along. The graphics were just as amazing as Pong and there were no "cheat codes" and no way to "beat the game" either. You just played while the game got harder and harder until you died. image: mrbill's flickr stream
  • FILM CAMERAS 8 of 20
    Before your Flickr and your Instagram, we had film cameras. We bought a roll of film, took our pictures, hoped they turned out, then took the film to the store to have it developed and paid for the prints. And if you forgot to rewind the roll before opening your camera, you were out of luck - your priceless photos of that trip to the Grand Canyon or Homecoming were trashed. In high school, when you took Photography, you learned how to develop pictures in a dark room; nowadays, kids learn how to Photoshop them. image: morguefile
  • VHS (OR BETA) 9 of 20
    There may still be some VHS tapes floating around out there. I know I have a few dozen Disney movies on VHS, but when was the last time you saw a Beta tape? Back in the day, we went to our local video store and could choose to rent either VHS or Beta tapes. There was no Redbox or Netflix, and of course, we couldn't watch movies on our computers because we didn't have computers! image: morguefile
    Until I was in high school and got my own phone, I had to use the family phone which hung in the kitchen. If I wanted to have a private conversation, I needed to stretch the cord to its absolute limits to shut myself in the bathroom (the acoustics were fabulous, btw). I wonder how many kids today would be able to figure out how to dial a rotary phone? And this was before Call Waiting and Caller ID, of course, so there was a time limit for my conversations. image: nate steiner's flickr stream
  • PAY PHONES 11 of 20
    When you were thoroughly done window shopping (aka: stalking cute boys) at the mall and you needed your parents to come pick you up, you didn't send them a text asking, "Can U get me?" Nope. You found a payphone, used a quarter, and called them to come get you. AND... there were a bazillion germs on the phone and no hand sanitizer! Gasp! How ever did we survive? image: morguefile
    Before Voicemail, we had answering machines. They came with these little cassette tapes on which you could record your greeting. There was no Caller ID either. Nope, we had to actually answer the phone to know who was calling. It was a game of Russian Roulette: it might be your best friend asking you to go to the movies or it might be the creepy boy who had a crush on you. image: daramdam's flickr stream
  • PAGER 13 of 20
    Back when the only people who had mobile phones (which were as big as a shoebox and came in a bag) were doctors and crazy-rich people, the common man had the beeper. For you younguns, the beeper worked like this: you called the phone number of the beeper. It beeped and displayed your phone number. The person with the beeper found a pay phone and called you back. Voila! Instant-ish communication! image: morguefile
  • MERLIN 14 of 20
    Okay, so maybe we didn't have Gameboys, Nintendo DSs, or PSPs. But we DID have Merlin, the electronic wizard! This was the handheld electronic game of my day and it played SIX whole exciting games like TicTacToe and Echo! This was high-tech stuff, boy! image: enokson's flickr stream
  • MICROWAVE 15 of 20
    I remember when we got our first microwave. My mom went from being afraid to use it to cooking everything in it. Finally, we discovered its true purpose: popcorn in a bag.
  • TYPEWRITER 16 of 20
    I remember taking typing in high school. My teacher was Mr. Pulio. (Heck if I can remember what I had for lunch yesterday though!) Our typewriters didn't have letters on the keys so we'd be forced to learn how to type without looking at the keyboard. We used the old fashioned kind with the individual keys instead of the ball. And if you made a mistake, you had to use those little white papers and try to get the keys to line up and strike the paper to white-out the wrong character. image: morguefile
  • SLIDES 17 of 20
    Once upon a time, we used to get our film developed into slides. Then, after Thanksgiving dinner, when Uncle Fred asked, "Did I show you the slides of my trip to Sheboygan yet?", we knew that was our cue to make a hasty getaway. image: bschmove's flickr stream
  • FILM STRIPS 18 of 20
    Back in the day, we watched film strips in school. Before the awesome filmstrip, we watched slides while the teacher read the accompanying text. All the kids vied for the job of advancing the slides at the sound of the beep! image: johnson.lynnd's flickr stream
  • DITTOS 19 of 20
    Before the fancy copiers of today, there was the mimeograph machine and the spirit duplicator (ditto machine). When the teacher passed out these papers (all printed in the tell-tale purple ink), the kids all sniffed them. We liked that fresh ditto smell on the cool, damp papers. Either that, or we caught a little buzz from the ink! image: richard masoner/cyclelicious
  • FLOPPY DISCS 20 of 20
    When I was a kid, we didn't use computers at all, but by the time I was in high school, computers took floppy discs. In the classic John Hughs's Sixteen Candles, the nerds bet a dozen floppy discs that Ted wouldn't get to first base with Samantha.

What old technology do you remember?

Dawn is the single mother to six kids To read more from Dawn, check out her hilarious books Because I Said So (and other tales from a less-than-perfect parent) and You’ll Lose the Baby Weight (and other lies about pregnancy and childbirth) here!

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