It all started with a simple question. My son wanted to know what my favorite television show on Nickelodeon was when I was a kid. I told him that there was no Nickelodeon. He was stunned.
“No Nickelodeon?” he replied, both shocked and alarmed, “I feel bad for you.”
But he hadn’t heard the worst of it. I then shared with him all the other simple pleasures that I grew up without.
Yep, up until college I don’t think I ever even used a computer. When I was in college, I had one class that required us to use the computer lab. But for the most part, all of my work through school was done on a good old-fashioned typewriter. If I needed more than one copy of a report, I had to use blue carbon paper.
“NO way!” said my son, “How did you do your school work?”
I explained that back in my day we did our school reports using encyclopedias. These were large printed books that held information on all sorts of topics. I was fortunate because my parents purchased a set of encyclopedias in our house, although sometimes I did have to go to the library to get more information. If I asked my parents a question and they didn’t know the answer, they would have to admit they had no clue rather than slyly run to the computer and Google the information.
I did have an 8-track tape player and then a personal cassette player – also known as a Walkman. I could leave the house and go for walk while listening to about 20 songs as opposed to the 200+ my son currently has on his iPod. If I liked a song on the radio and wanted to own it, I had to purchase the whole album rather than downloading one song.
When I left the house in the morning, I said goodbye to my parents and didn't communicate with them until I returned home. No texts throughout the day. No detailed itinerary on my plans after school. Just a loose promise that I wouldn't do anything I shouldn’t and that I would be home for dinner.
This one just made him feel sorry for me. Not only was there no Nickelodeon, but there were only five channels total. We had ABC, NBC, CBS, WPIX, and PBS. WPIX only showed the news and re-runs of old shows. PBS had baby shows plus Masterpiece Theater. So that left three channels of original programming until FOX debuted in 1986.
My son was forlorn. How could we only have three channels? Then I added in that sometimes the channels didn't even come through. We would have static and have to adjust the picture with manual antennas, aka “rabbit ears.” And we had no remote control. We had to get up from the couch to change the channel. I might as well have told him I lived in a cave and ate rocks.
After I told my son about the television channels he realized that I hadn’t mentioned ESPN. More sad news … sometimes the games you wanted to watch were not on television. There were usually two televised football games on Sunday and one on Monday night. Only some baseball games were on TV. “You lived a life without Red Zone,” cried my son, “That is just so sad!”
I guess this isn’t so bad because there were only three channels so you couldn’t miss as many shows as you could now without a recorder or on-demand option. But back in long ago land, people actually watched TV shows at the time they were on. If you missed the show, it was lost until summer when the three channels aired re-runs. And you actually had to watch the commercials.
“Thank goodness!” my son exclaimed, “At least you had video games so you didn’t die of boredom from no TV or computer.”
Not sure he would have thought these games were too great compared to the graphics on his Xbox. Madden 15 looks like actual football players are engaged in a game on the television screen. In comparison, I had "PONG." Two sticks hitting a ball back and forth, as if engaged in a game of table tennis. As ridiculous as this sounds, I remember it actually being a lot of fun.
The only veggies my mom ever served came out of a can. She called them different things – peas, string beans, and lima beans – but in the end they were all just variations of mushy green yucky stuff. The word "salad" was synonymous with "iceberg lettuce." Maybe my mom threw in some carrots and cucumbers, but not always.
Romaine, kale, endive, edamame – these foods just did not exist when I was a kid. This one my son actually thought made me lucky. It didn’t make up for the no ESPN or Google, but at least there was one benefit to growing up in olden times: less green yucky food.