Remember When …

My sister is perhaps the least technologically advanced person I know.  She still goes to the actual bank.  Where she updates her bank book.  Yet for all her technological deficiencies she is obsessed with everything new and shiny and as she calls it “Jetsons”.  When I got my iPhone 4S, she was the first person I wanted to show because I knew she’d be the most astounded by it.

It’s hard not to astound someone who is still astounded by pay at the pump.

While I was showing her my phone she got to reminiscing about the way things used to be.  When your phone was attached to the wall, when if something was frozen you needed to schedule days to defrost it, a time when calling someone might have resulted in a busy signal.

Even though, for some unknown reason, my sister can’t seem to wrap her head around technology and the latest gadgets, she’s fascinated with them.  There’s just something about her wiring that can’t seen to comprehend it all.  Like she got whacked in the head too many times as a kid.

So I promised her that every once in a while I’d do a “Remember when … ” post.  So in honour of my sister, who is currently trying to decide whether the picture side of the DVD should face up or down when she inserts it into her player … I have this.

Title 2

In the 1980’s when we wanted to switch from watching That’s Incredible! to Bosom Buddies we had the latest in channel changing apparatus?


Cable Box 2

Ah yes … the most revolutionary of technologies.  The cable box.   May seem a bit cumbersome now, but at least there was no chance of losing the remote.  What with it being attached to the television with a wire.

And apparently wayyyyyy back in the 1950’s when you wanted the channel changed you had to whack your kid on the back of the head and say “go change the channel”. It was a primitive system, but aside from all the flat headed kids that period produced, it worked remarkably well. No complications at all.

Just ask my flat headed sister.  She’ll tell ya. Unless she’s busy staring blankly at the microwave wondering why there’s nothing good on.


  1. L says:

    I’ll do ya one better…we didn’t have cable. We had farm vision with 4 channels and a ginormous spinning antenna on the roof. We had to get up and go to the antenna box which was like a giant compass, turn the compass dial so the little arrow lined up with the channel numbers Mom had taped on…and then wait for the big antenna on the roof to turn in that direction. When it was really windy outside it took for-ev-er. I remember it getting hit by lightning alot…
    Oh, and we had a party line phone too, but it had a 70 foot long twisty cord so we could take it in the bathroom and have some privacy and clothesline anyone who was trying to walk across the kitchen :)

  2. SamiJ says:

    When I want to play my singles, I have to insert a yellow disk in the centre. Then I stack them up, and let the automatic disk changer play them, one at a time.

  3. karenagain says:

    Wow! I remember this device from my friend’s house. It didn’t work all that well and I thought it was rather crapiolla even back then.

    Our little colour TV was in the “fancy” living room. We had long since lost the channel changer knob thing. We changed the channels with a tightened up wrench. We watched “Happy Days” and “Three’s Company” before dinner.

    I remember coming home for lunch in Grade 1 and 2 and watching “Definition” and “Flintstones”. Do you remember “Definition” and the awesome sound track it had? DEFINITION!

    Do you remember “King of Kensington”? Wasn’t that grand?

  4. Danielle says:

    We totally had one of those boxes.

    Years ago, when my grandparents were still around, the family bought them a cordless phone for Christmas. The idea was for them to keep the phone with them in the living room while they watched television and whatnot. This way, they wouldn’t have to get up and stand in the kitchen (where they kept their one and only telephone) and talk as mobility was becoming an issue for them.

    Instead, we’d find them talking on the cordless phone, standing right in front of the base, where the original phone had always been. They could never seem to get their head around the concept.

    I wish so much my grandfather was still around to see my iPad. That would have blown his mind.

    • karenagain says:

      My Grandma is still alive but not into any of these new things. My Grandpa died about 16 years ago but not before going on-line and researching as much as he could. My Grandpa would have loved all of these new things.

      I wish he was still here to see all of this. He would get it and explain it all to me.

  5. Eddie says:

    You were lucky, I was the kid who got thumped on the head and told “go ghange the channel”

  6. Inga says:

    I specifically remember that when the buttons were pressed down it made a “ka-dunk” sound.

  7. maggie says:

    I can’t believe you still have that whacky TV channel thingy.

    • Karen says:

      Maggie – LOL. I do not still have that whacky television thingy. I had to go searching on the Internet for a picture. Took a while! ~ karen

  8. Del says:

    Back in the late 50’s, television came to Australia and Grandfather bought one (he lived with us). It was bought so I would stay home and not roam the neighbourhood looking for TV sets and a free seat on the floor in front of one in some strangers house. I was five. When we got ours, I wasn’t allowed to touch it, Grandfather wouldn’t (too much technology for him), Dad would fall asleep, so my Mother was the elected channel changer. Now if she was b usy doing something like making tea(dinner) I was stuck watching whatever. A couple of years down the track and I became the designated channel switcher under strict instructions, not to turn the dial too quickly, in case I upset the gizmo. Fast forward half a century (did I say that?),now my husband sits in his chair and flicks channels with the remote, which drives me nuts!!! How I miss the good ol’ days, when I could watch drivel in it’s entirity.

  9. Renee says:

    You are absolutely hilarious..and brutally honest!
    I LOVE your posts, they’re as good as it gets! Coming from an old school kinda flat headed girl in a high tech world! MMMMwhaa! sending you an affectionate smack!

  10. Deb J. says:

    Love it! Those boxes were SO cutting edge! Hope you do the dial phone sometime. We had one up at the cottage – on a party line no less. When we changed it out a couple of years back, the guys who came to do it didn’t even understand the technology. Try putting one of today’s kids in front of a dial phone. Hilarious!

  11. cristinemcc says:

    I was on the phone with my 85 year old mother (who after 2 years of weekly lessons has finally grasped email & Goggle) the other day & my battery was running dangerously low-I told her this to which her response was, “but I called you!”

  12. Dana Niemeier says:

    We had a 2 button remote…The Clicker. One button that circulated the channels and one button for Volume UP. Back then the only way I knew if the phone rang or if someone rang the doorbell was if the TV was on. I figured it had to have rung an odd number of times..On, Off, On. I lived in a small community. Not much going on. Apparently.

  13. Nancy says:

    Yes, I remember those boxes Karen…It’s funny though, we laugh at these old technologies now but at the time we thought they were so cool..I look forward to more “Remember When” posts!!!

  14. CP says:

    Get up to change the channel?? I have to believe someone out there is familiar with the fine art of turning the channel selector with your feet (generally the stronger big toe and adjacent) and fine-tuning the volume dial with your little toes. So tragic that this is not only a lost art but apparently a forgotten one as well. ;-)

  15. Nan Tovar says:

    Great post, Karen! I may not have been a flat-headed kid, but I, too, was a bookworm, so I wouldn’t have to change the channel :)

  16. Faith says:

    Ahhh! The cable box! I loved pushing the buttons on that thing, don’t ask me why. I guess because it was infinitely better than spinning the dial on the television and getting yelled at for almost breaking it because I was going too fast.

  17. Bobbi says:

    I remember the “chunk-a-chunk” noise that happened when changing the channel with one of the first “remotes”……..the knob on the tv had to turn through all the channels to get to the one you wanted………..oooh, so cutting edge were we !!

  18. Christina says:

    I’m a Gen Xer who is hopelessly behind when it comes to technology. I’m certainly grateful for all of it but I’m slow to adapt. I still have a flip phone, my original 2004 Ipod, and I still buy, own and read paper books. Shameful.

  19. Gillian says:

    My daughter is 24 and can’t remember a time without computers :-S
    She DOES remember cassettes and videos. Vinyl…what’s vinyl she asked one day.
    She also had difficulty grasping the concept that you went into a store, asked for a pound of sugar and they got it from a barrel and put it into a paperbag. Then you asked for the next item on the list. Her Grandma worked in a store like that in UK. She thought it was back in the “wild-west/Little House on the Prairie days”

  20. carin says:

    Ha! I forgot about cable boxes. Also have forgotten how they worked. The whacking on head I remember.

    Looking forward to the series!

  21. Sharmila says:

    WOW this is crazy stupid just to change the channel…

  22. Jen says:

    Yes! I remember those boxes. We later advanced to the latest style: a slider moved from left to right to select the channels. My mother loved it because she could block a particular channel. MTV, to be precise. None of that druggie nonsense in her house!

  23. LeAnne says:

    As a former flat headed child who would also regularily be called from her room to manually turn the dial on the TV to review the 8 availble channels for my Dad, I do remember the Chrismas this box arrived at our home. I was ecstatic. A life altering event.

    Thanks for the little reminder of pre-touch screen life.

  24. Dru says:

    my 90 year old uncle was on Facebook with us. He would see things of interest, print them out, write comments on them and mail the piece of paper. Via the post office. Loved that.

  25. I am doing a blog for my 80 year old mother so she can share her recipes. She was so excited that she told all her friends that her daughter was doing a “bog” for her.

  26. marilyn says:

    hey karen your timing is impeccable! was away this past weekend on a sister weekend with of course three sisters and and a wanna be and we got talking about fridays post which i missed because of my stupid computer and my dear friend (who i set up on the art of doing stuff) says to us well i cant seem to figure out how to post comment. at which point my sister and i killed ourselves laughing and were a tiny bit mean..(sorry lindy lou) i mean really! so i walked her through it and now she knows.not everyone is a nerd eh!

    • Karen says:

      Mariyn – My mother kept trying to send me a comment the other day asking for her nice old mason jars back! (it was for the mason jar post) But she kept sending me an emil through the “contact me” form instead. And for the record – I only have 3 of her mason jars. The rest are from the flea market. I’m sure my mother has in her head all these mason jars are hers! ~ karen

  27. Yep, that’s my brother! Cute post.

  28. I remember having to change the channel for my parents! There were big clear plastic buttons, and when you pressed the channel you wanted the button turned green. Nowadays you’d assume it ‘lit up’. But no, there was a piece of green paper in each button which only showed through when the button was engaged. Happy days. Although queuing at the bank? That is one thing I’m glad to see the back of.

  29. Gloria Westerman says:

    You were lucky enough to have cable…..I remember when we got out first color tv…..and wondering how many people it took to color the film…..yes we’ve come a long way….some good…and some not’s good….(and I don’t know anything about a iPhone)

  30. Susan says:

    My 84 year old mother who lives in the ” home” wanted one of those things…. What things Mom? One of those pad thingys! So took her shopping and she got one …got the Internet installed and away she went! She even has facebook! The only downside is I have to keep showing her how to get from one thing to another. The up side is I have to visit more often. Hmmm…. She’s a crafty old bird!

    • Gillian says:

      I’m a librarian in Australia and it never ceases to amaze me the number of older people (over 70s) who have iPads, ebook readers, MP3s, laptops etc. “To keep in touch with the kids”, “to listen to audio books”, “so they can have 20 books on the kindle for when they go travelling – AND they can change the font size”.

      I’ll just go and MANUALLY change the channel on my NON-CABLE TV now…. !!!!

  31. I remember when the kids of a guy I was dating heard that you actually had to turn a record over and play both sides. They could barely fathom the concept.

    Great blog series idea!

  32. Liapez says:

    I was born in the 1980’s, in America, and my parents had a turn knob TV with no cable (rabbit ears only!). We had this TV until it mercifully died the day before my 13th birthday sleepover (yes, this was now the 1990’s) and my dad finally bought a new TV with a remote. Still no cable…so yeah, I was the kid that had to get up to change the channel. I figure that horrible old TV is probably why I was such a bookworm as a kid.

  33. Pati says:

    Loved it ! Great post,Karen…found myself wishing you had given more examples ! LOL!!

  34. Marti says:

    My mother just asked me about buying an iPad. I find that faaaaaaaaaaaaaaar more frightening. Eek!

    GREAT POST. :)

    • Karen says:

      Oh! My mother would LOVE one of those. Although she spent a great deal of time arguing with her Internet provider today about how to set up her email. The email she doesn’t know how to use. Other than forwarding jokes. ~ karen

      • Nicole says:

        Ah yes, the Internet business depends heavily on the baby boomers who use it strictly to send jokes. I have an older friend who lives across the street and that’s all she does. She ran out of jokes a long time ago, so I’ve been getting repeats now. For the fourth or fifth time around! Gaaaaaah!

        • Louise says:

          Ahhh that one hurt lol I am a baby boomer myself and using technology is very easy for me. As a computer programmer and systems analyst and developer, me and my co-workers were the first to use a PC. I have a flat screen TV and DVR (and I can program it lol), an up-to-date computer, an on-line art gallery on deviantART, developed computer systems and web sites for a living and also shop on Internet. Technology doesn’t scare me and I don’t use Internet to send jokes only. I also use 3D software and Photoshop for my artwork ;) But I also had to get up to change channels on my TV and I’ve never seen a cable box ;)

        • Paulina J! says:

          Just wnated to say your art is AMAZING!!!

        • Louise says:

          Thank you so much Paulina :)

  35. becky mercado says:

    Excellent post idea…I have a sister like that as well. Now I just spend my time LOOKING for the remote…:)

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