21 Technology Struggles Today's Kids Will Never Know

Aerial Shot Of Various Phones From Different Eras Over Blue Background
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There's no denying that we live in a time of extreme technological advancement. Even just ten years ago, most of us never would have imagined that self-driving cars would become a reality, or that we'd each have a tiny personal computer in our pocket.

Those of us who are of a certain age (ahem) still remember the highs and lows of the pre-digital era, from the excitement of getting our first VCR to the frustration of trying to listen to a scratched CD. The internet has changed our world, and kids these days will never truly understood what life was like without it. How many of these pre-digital struggles do you remember?

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Hoarding Those Free America Online CDs

Via thebeanienews.com.

When the internet was in its infancy, getting online was hard! College students had to go to a computer lab in order to access the internet. When we did finally get access at home, it was incredibly expensive, so those free hours of internet AOL sent in the mail seemed like a gift from the gods! We hoarded those suckers like they were made of gold.

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The Pain of Waiting for Dial-Up Internet to Load

Via Getty Images/DTP.

Speaking of dial-up... have we mentioned how much it stunk?

There was once a time when you'd turn on your gigantic, boxy computer, click on whatever service provider you had access to, and walk away to do something else for a while as the machine made unearthly screeching noises. Imagine what a fax machine sounds like and multiply it by ten — that's what dial-up internet sounded like. It also took f-o-r-e-v-e-r.

Oh, and if someone in your household didn't know you were online and picked up the receiver, you'd get kicked offline and would have to start the process all over again. Ack!

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Phones Used to Be... Different

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The telephone as we know it today did not exist until the mid to late 1980s. Before that, phones had rotary dials, cords that tethered you to the wall, and an actual operator you could call to find out someone's number.

Back then, you'd answer the phone without even knowing who was calling, because there was no caller ID.

Oh, and it was expensive to call long distance, so when companies started offering free nights and weekends, you'd better believe we told our moms, "I'll call you after 7 PM on Saturday."

Even when the first mobile phones came out, they looked nothing like the high tech equipment we use today. Mobile phones came with bags that looked like briefcases, and we had to put a wired antenna on top of our cars to make a call. Plus, air time was so expensive that you weren't making many calls anyway, because who could afford it?

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Burning CDs to Listen to in the Car

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In the 1990s, we finally had the technology to burn audio CDs on our computers, and a whole new world of music pirating was born. Who remembers Napster? What about Limewire?


There was nothing more frustrating than spending hours burning CDs so you could play your music in the car, only to find that something went wrong and the CD didn't work. These days, we can simply connect our phones via Bluetooth and listen to our entire music library, but just a few short years ago, we were still looking through big leather binders full of burned CDs to find the perfect playlist.

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Using a Card Catalog at the Library

Via Getty Images/Michael Krasowitz.

Being a student in the pre-digital age was a challenge. When we had a book report due, we had to go to the library and find real books and sources to do our research. That process involved getting really good at using the library's physical records: the card catalog.

Serious question: do today's students even know what the Dewey Decimal System is anymore? 

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The Existence of Floppy Disks

Via Getty Images/Tim Ridley.

After you wrote your book report, you'd have to save it to a portable floppy disk. There was no cloud, folks! If you lost the disk, you lost your work. 

Oh, and some documents were too large to fit on the disk. That was always fun!

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Using a Real Map to Navigate

Via Getty Images/Seb Oliver.

Before we could simply charge out the door with our mobile phone in hand, trusting that our GPS will get us to our destination, we had to use maps.

Paper maps! Also, no car was complete without a giant Rand McNally road atlas.

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Choosing the Perfect Song for Your MySpace Profile

Via forevertwentysomethings.com.

Oh, MySpace. Before there was Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, there was MySpace.

The first social site had a feature for customizing your profile page, including adding a song that would play whenever someone visited. Getting this song just right was crucial!

Tom was everybody's first friend, and to be honest, sometimes we still kind of miss him.

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Going to the Video Store to Rent a Movie

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On Friday night, you and half of your town would show up at the local movie rental place seeking a few hours of entertainment. It was always a crap shoot whether you'd get something good or something terrible.

They'd charge you a fee if you didn't rewind the video when you were done. And if you were late to return it, there'd be a fee for that too!

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Recording Your Favorite Song From the Radio

Via Getty Images/Bill Diodato.

Instead of downloading your favorite song instantly, we used to call the local radio DJ to request a song, then wait eagerly with our cassette recorder so we could press play and record at just the right moment.

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Watching the TV Guide Channel

Via thegreenbutton.tv.

The only way to see what was on TV was to watch the scrolling channel lineup on the TV guide channel. If you missed the channel you were waiting to see, you'd have to watch the whole lineup scroll all over again.

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The Excitement of Getting a Disc-Man

Via Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley.

The only portable music device was a disc-man: a small, portable CD player that skipped if you so much as looked in its general direction. Walking? It'll skip. Running? Skip. Sitting perfectly still? Skip.

The disc-man also scratched your CDs, which made them skip even when you played them in a stationary player.

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Calling the Theater to Get Movie Showtimes

Via Getty Images/Henrik Sorensen.

Forget looking online for movie showtimes. There used to be a telephone number you could call that listed each movie and its showtime.

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Buying Disposable Cameras for Your Wedding Guests

Via Getty Images/Norbert Schaefer.

People love to take pictures at weddings, so brides used to spend tons of money on cheap cameras for guests to use at the reception. Then they'd have to send out the cameras to be developed, only to discover 500 snapshots of Uncle Buddy's thumb.

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Taking Blind Selfies With a Real Camera

Via Getty Images/Ed Snowshoe.

We took selfies before smart phones, but they were totally blind! We'd snap a picture, then send out the film to be developed and wait a week to see how it came out.

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What It Was Like to Text Before Smart Keypads

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Texting on a non-smart phone was agony! You'd have to hit each key up to 4 times to get the right letter.

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Having Nothing to Look at While You Waited in Line

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​Before we had phones, we actually had to talk to other people, or just stand there quietly. Horrors!

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Using the Yellow Pages

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Before there was Yelp, we used to "let our fingers do the walking." We used the Yellow Pages to find businesses, but there were no user reviews or anything helpful like that. We just had to wing it!

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On-Demand Did Not Exist

Via Getty Images/Dave King, Andy Crawford, Steve Gorton.

Once upon a time, you had to actually wait for your favorite show to come on each week. You couldn't just record it and watch it when you felt like it. You could try to set your VCR recorder, but let's face it, none of us could ever figure out how to do that. 

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Video Games Were Soooo Lame

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If you grew up in the 1980s, you definitely played Oregon Trail, Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?, and Solitaire on your computer. And you LIKED it.

Today's video games look more like movies, but back in the day, they were as pixelated and basic as they come.

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Passing Notes Instead of Texting

Via Getty Images/Kevin Spreekmeester.

Before students exchanged numbers and texted each other, they passed physical notes behind the teacher's back. How low-tech is that?