Throwback Thursday: The Electronic Age

When I was a girl one of my favourite cartoons was The Jetsons about a futuristic space-age cartoon family. Advances in home technology were just beginning and the Jetsons’ high-tech lifestyle was amazing to me. Who knew how quickly many those fictional advances would come to pass.

Home Media Capacity

Related: Buying a home in 1974 vs. 2014


Boomer kids were known as the TV generation.

TVs initially were like a piece of furniture, a small black-and-white screen in a wooden cabinet. Reception was from “rabbit ears” or an antenna on the roof. We got 3 channels and if you didn’t want to watch one channel, you hauled yourself out of the LazyBoy and turned a dial to change the channel manually (or forced your kid brother to do it for you).

The advent of VCRs allowed us to record a TV show and even watch movies we previously had to go to see at the movie theatre.

The latest generation of TV and Blu-ray technology is 4K – roughly four times the resolution of regular HD. OLED – organic light emitting diodes – also dramatically improves your picture quality.

Every modern TV is a “smart” TV with built-in wi-fi connections that can directly stream from Netflix or YouTube. Or, you can use Chromecast, Roku, or Apple TV. Oh, my!

Related: The 1980’s vs. today

Then add a remote control with voice control and gesture sensing (possibly not a good option for someone like me who talks with her hands).

At one time, equipping your living room for your visual entertainment was easy. All you needed to do was plug in the TV.

Today, the basic set-up of each component is more complicated and varied making it daunting to set up. When we bought our new TV, I knew we were in trouble when the sales associate recommended that a technician come to our home to set everything up for us.


When our oldest son entered high school in the early 1990’s, we were strongly urged to get a computer for his schoolwork. The whole set up cost us about $5,000 and looked something like this:

1990 Home Computer

I could be wrong, but I don’t remember my kids ever using this computer, but it certainly was a new toy for my husband. He was on it all the time.

We had dial-up Internet with a modem and you could hear a pronounced squawk when the connection was made. Every evening I’d hear, “Don’t use the phone right now, I’m on the computer.”

Computer technology is improving day-by-day. Sizes have become smaller, processors are faster, LCD monitors are more comfortable on the eyes, and data storage is in the terabytes (if that’s not enough, you have storage in the cloud). They are only limited by their memory capacity and operating speeds.

Related: Toys that have stood the test of time

Wireless laptops and tablets are small in size and more flexible to use.

Software is being improved rapidly, giving us new features every day – too many to list here. And, do you remember when there was no World Wide Web?


My parents had a rotary phone on a little table in the front hallway – black of course.

By the time I moved away from home, and then married, we had push button phones, but they were still attached to the wall outlet by the cord, so the phone companies recommended a phone for every room – for our convenience, of course.

Phones came in a lot of different styles and colours, and novelty phones were popular. My oldest son wanted a subscription to Sports Illustrated just so he could get a phone shaped like a football.

Home phones haven’t really changed much in style these days, except for being cordless. More dominant are mobile phones – iPhones and Android smart-phones.

These have all the power of a computer with mega-multiple apps and games. They feature upgraded cameras, Hi-Res audio, HD screens and 3D touch screens.

Final thoughts

You will notice that previously each “device” was it’s own entity. Now crossover among each device is not only common, it’s expected – watch a TV show on your tablet, take a video of your kids with your phone, have a slide show of your photos on the big screen TV.

Related: The family car – then and now

Electronics are getting increasingly smaller, more complex, and, yes, smarter.

  • Your fridge can tell you when you’re out of milk and order more online.
  • You can check on your kids from a video feed to your smart-phone.
  • You can lock your door and set the thermostat and security system with your phone.

Knowledge, technology and improvements continue to accelerate at a pace that’s faster than ever. Nearly 40 percent of today’s toddlers regularly interact with gadgets with screens. Who knows what will be the norm for my grandchildren when they’re adults?

Personally, even with smart phones, smart appliances, and smart houses, I’m still waiting for Rosie, the robot cook and housekeeper.

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