Leona O'Neill

Leona O'Neill has been a journalist in Northern Ireland for over 20 years working with, among others, the Belfast Telegraph, Sunday Life, Daily Mirror and the Irish News. She is also a news reporter on Q Radio, a weekly columnist with the Irish News and a commentator for the BBC. She is a mother of four children - two of them teenagers - and as such is also a full-time professional worrier.

Let’s take a walk down technology’s Memory Lane

Modern technology has advanced so much in the last four decades that our world is almost unrecognisable to the one we knew as kids.

If you are like me and remember watching football matches on black and white televisions, trying to figure out who on earth was playing for who, or recall every house having just the one rotary dial telephone, you might appreciate this walk down technological memory lane. For these blasts from the past have pathed the way for the everyday devices we simply can’t live without today.

Personal Computers

 

The 1980s was a decade of questionable fashion, dodgy hair and shoulder pads. But it was also the era of the personal computer.

In the early part of the decade, a revolution of sorts in home computing broke out. Futuristic personal computers – originally not seen outside the realms of science or big business – began appearing en masse in people’s homes in the UK as computers became more affordable. Parents flocked to buy them as adverts telling them they would give their children a better chance in life were pumped out over our TV screens.

People purchased Sinclair ZX Spectrums, Acorn Electrons and Commodore 64s for home use. Computers were basic, many displayed in black and white and most held little more than one kilobyte of memory, that would be a millionth of that of a present day iPhone. Imagine that.

An advert for the Commodore VIC-20 computer told us that ‘we live in the age of computers’. And they weren’t wrong. Floppy discs, hard discs and CDs evolved and memory got bigger as the decade closed. Today nearly every home in the UK has some manner of computer under its roof.

Walkmans

The 1980s was a time of truly awful music, but at the same time some amazing technology to play said awful tunage was emerging.

Born in Japan in 1979 the Walkman was the go-to device of every teenager on the planet who wanted to drown out their parents by blaring Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger. Joggers the land over slipped in a cassette of Olivia Newton John’s Physical to inspire them to get fit and people who just wanted to be cool hooked them onto their jeans.

This fascination with private music on tap, on earphones, gave birth to today’s iPhones and iPods, Spotify and iTunes – technology and apps which allow us to listen to a vast array of music at any time, anywhere, even if it is Eye of the Tiger.

VCRs

Imagine a time without Netflix, before Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer and Sky On Demand TV. Those were dark times when chunky, clunky Videocassette Recorders, or VCRs as they were affectionately known, were king. Those were days when you had to get up off your sofa, drive to your local video store, pick out a movie, pay to rent it for the evening, drive home, place it in your VCR and hope the machine didn’t eat it. What a palaver. Those were the days when you could mistakenly tape the Dukes of Hazzard over your aunt’s wedding video and fast forward through the adverts of your favourite show. Absolute bliss.

VCRs paved the way for today’s TV on demand. Thanks to them, people are no longer troubled with the pressures of leaving their sofa. You press and button on your remote control and your entertainment appears on your screen. And for that we give praise. God bless those big chunky silver monstrosities that ceaselessly chewed up our precious video tapes for all they taught us.

Telephones

There was a time when the only phone available in many houses was the curly-wired, spinny dial one your sister was never off in the hall. First we had rotary dial telephones, then we progressed to touch dial. And by the end of the 1980s we saw the emergence of technology that we are all familiar with today.

In 1973 Motorola’s Martin Cooper invented the very first mobile phone. It was the size of his head and as heavy as a brick, but by the 1980s, technology had progressed in leaps and bounds and phones had become smaller and thinner and found their way into the hands of the ordinary man and woman in the street.

In the decades that followed text messaging was developed, pay-as-you-go technology resulted in an explosion in phone ownership, emojis were dreamt up, mobile internet was born and the rest is history. Now every single one of us has a super slim miniature computer, expert communication device in our pockets and we have Mr Cooper to thank for it.

Who knows what type of technology the next 40 years will bring.