This post was possibly inspired by my daughter’s homework assignment to interview an old person about technology change. Guess who’s old now?

Sometimes I look back at how life used to be, and remember what it was like. There are two key nostalgia points for me: before internet, and before smartphones.

Before the internet

Before the internet, there were computers. There were always computers in my life, they were just less fancy, with mainly text and fewer graphics at first. These days we adapt our user interfaces to look more like DOS and call it ‘retro’, although claiming it’s more efficient that way. Sometimes it is. The written word is a fundamental mode of human communication — it resonates.

Some of my earliest programming memories were typing lines of BASIC code into some sort of BBC Micro, usually not successfully. Most of my computer learning was largely theoretical, through Usborne books (now available online! Thanks internet for reducing the marginal cost of publishing to approximately zero) but without the benefit of a computer of my own.

I went for a walk this morning, with a slight bite to the air, and bought a newspaper, like the old person I am (I’m leaning in). Imagine that - a physical paper full of news. When I was an inquisitive sixth-former, ‘TheGuardian’ cost 50 pence — today it was £2.80. This increase far outstrips the rate of inflation, which would bring it to around 90 pence. No, this must surely reflect the drop in circulation of the physical edition, and the rise in advertisement-filled web content.

Before smartphones

As the internet became mainstream, I remember dial-up, and Freeserve, and even the tail end of USENET, and IRC.

This was still a time when email was a thing you had to be at your desk to check. Feature phones were very useful, but it was still possible to get lost. My university halls had a shared land-line phone on each floor.

And I wrote on the internet. I remember commenting on blogs, and I think my writing was better back then; more free, less inhibited.

I do find myself giving less attention to news squeezed into the small form-factor of a mobile phone. Chat messages and notification pings. I’m not convinced this is great progress for humanity.