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Bygone staples and technology of the 1970s

Tammy Swift, columnist

It wasn't so long ago.

Nope. It wasn't as long as you might think that we did things that seem completely alien to today's kids. Think about it: Just a couple of decades ago we clipped items out of newspapers, practiced our cursive writing and called telephone operators for the correct time.

In fact, in a day when a high-tech device can become obsolete in months, it's easy to understand why young 'uns are completely unfamiliar with words like "Blockbuster," "mix tape" and "Discman."

I started brainstorming with a friend on the little things — especially those things related to technology — that have managed to fall into obsolescence in the last few years.

Remember these?

• Taping a penny to a record stylus in efforts to minimize "skips."

• Using a pen to manually wind a cassette tape.

• Ruining your favorite 8-track by leaving it on your Vega dash for an entire week in August.

• Checking the coin return on a pay phone for dimes.

• Making a mix tape after spending weeks scrambling to catch all your favorite songs on the radio. Who cares if you only captured "Hungry Like a Wolf" half-way through the second verse?

• Knowing how to set a timer to record a program on your VCR.

• Renting a movie at Blockbuster, only to discover that the jerk who rented it before you didn't rewind the tape.

• Turning a knob to manually switch channels.

• Staring at the test screen from the emergency broadcasting system because you couldn't get your stupid little brother to get up and turn the channel or you.

• Taking your transistor radio up to the top floor and wrapping the antenna in foil so you could get better reception on "Casey Kasem's Top 40."

• Using dial-up internet.

• Saving long-distance calls for when "cheaper" rates applied.

• Memorizing all of your friends' phone numbers. If you're a true fossil, you might have needed to only dial four numbers to call someone in your own town.

• Calling your friend on a "teen line."

• Deciding that anyone who had a phone in a car is likely a Rockefeller.

• Waking up with an old-school alarm clock.

• Calling the movie theater to find out what films were playing and when.

• Writing "ShELL0" on a calculator.

• Creating rudimentary pictures with your dot-matrix printer.

• Getting miffed because your Sony Discman won't stop skipping during your Rambo aerobics workout.

• Taking your parents' calling card to college.

• Finding music videos to be such a revelation that you actually recorded them and watched them over and over again. (Sigh. That Sting was so dreamy.)

• Picking businesses out of the yellow pages.

• Clipping newspaper articles.

• Accidentally throwing out the "TV Guide" and feeling like you lost your right arm.

• Playing Merlin. Like, obsessively.

• Calling deejays to find out album names and lyrics to songs.

• Dropping off film at the drug store, only to return a week later for the developed pictures and find your eyes are closed in all of them. Spending hours gluing all the photos into an album anyway.

• Looking up spellings in the dictionary and using encyclopedias to research papers at home. Typing up your research papers on a typewriter, and using a typewriter eraser to clumsily and ineffectively scrub away typos.

• Recording a message on an answering machine. Or, even worse, buying a cassette tape of 'funny' answering machine messages.

• Playing "beat the bank" between your paycheck and the checks you wrote the night before. Also, writing your checks in red ink because your friend, Wanda, claimed it would take the bank a day longer to process them if they weren't in blue ink.

• Printing your social security number on your checks because identity theft isn't even a thing yet.

• Receiving all your cancelled checks at the end of each month so you could reconcile checkbook. (Or, at the very least, so you could look through your checks and see how you managed to spend your entire Taco Bell paycheck on Whopper Night.)

• Watching long-awaited TV shows only when they aired, unless your parents, the Rockefellers, also had a schmancy VCR.

• Using a paper map.

• More importantly, actually knowing how to fold it.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com.

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