You maybe wondering what it was like when we had no PCs and Phones that could not access the World Wide Web internet? Well turns out I was one of those guys who was born in the late 20th Century and did not have those until near the late 1990s. But what EXACTLY was it like when I didn’t use the internet worldwide and mobile/cell phones that had the ability to surf the web and send emails? Well, let me tell you about it.

First off, before we used e-mails, the internet and more, I had to use TVs that had Teletext technology, RF Coaxial Aerial Plugs, SCARTs, RCA etc. Of course, we didn’t have to worry about children surfing the web unsupervised as the COPPA policy was vital to avoid harmful material, but of course, they could also watch 18 or X-rated movies on TV and from Video Stores like Ritz Videos (took over by Blockbusters). And we couldn’t have afforded Cable TV and maybe Satellite TV as FreeView or FreeSat didn’t exist in the 20th Century and we were using Analogue signals like PAL and NTSC until they got replaced by Digital transmissions like DVB and ATSC. Now I’ve already mentioned my old 1980s 14-inch SolaVox TV in here, but I’m gonna talk about a newer TV built in 1992.

The TV that I like to talk about is my old Panasonic 21-inch TV, the Panasonic TX-21M1T:-

This TV was actually pretty good and has lasted fine for 20 years, despite that it doesn’t support HDMI and Smart TV apps, but it does come with several “apps” included: The Calculator, Calender, 30-90 minute auto closedown feature and of course Teletext. “What is Teletext?” you may ask? Well, it was a very old kind of technology used to search on screen using the numbered keypads, along with the Red, Yellow, Green and Blue buttons. Teletext only had 8 colours and at a low resolution; kinda very similar to the Apple II, Acorn BBC and ZX Spectrum. What Teletext does is very limited abilities, but can support subtitles, read news headlines, search for detailed info from various TVs shows, schedules etc. But it doesn’t allow as much as sending text messages, or emails nor use the internet, as it doesn’t work that way - despite that it can display contact details like home addresses and telephone numbers. Now most teletext services and networks have been replaced and shut down thanks to the WWW internet and the quality is superior and much faster and versatile than teletext. Back in the 1990s, I started using Teletext in Britain for BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel 4 powered by Ceefax for the BBC channels and ORACLE (which was replaced by Teletext Limited in 1993) for the other two channels. It does take a while to load up as you need to wait for it to load a page using the numbered keypad and 4 coloured buttons. Teletext does appear to be children-friendly, even Cartoon Network had supported Teletext, known as ToonText for kids to look up some interesting features.

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As for sending messages on paper, we used the traditional letters or envelopes posted in our physical mailbox. However some - but not most folk - can use Fax Machines to use telephone lines to send and receive paper mail through a scanner and can be received by printed paper. Just like how John McClane from Die Hard 2 and Farmer Hoggert from Babe movies, got used to using Faxs. Now some of you kinda know what a Fax Machine is, so I won’t go into too much detail. But the important thing is in order to keep Faxs working leave it on 24/7, which isn’t ideal for your energy bills.

“OK, so you old timers had no internet, that involves NetFlix, social networks and online shopping, but what else can you do that didn’t involve those online services?” you may ask? Well, it wasn’t easy and can be tiring. Because as I said in order to watch a movie we like to see - other than watching new films in the cinemas, was renting VHS tapes from BlockBusters followed by DVDs for a couple of days. Also, BlockBusters also offered services for renting Console games like the SNES, Genesis and N64, but not PC games as they can be easily copied and cloned - which is against copyright policies. Those game ROM cartridges were very expensive and not very affordable, hence we can only rent and play those games for several days.

Now as most of you know the WWW first appeared in 1995, which accelerated the trend of PC owners with ISPs. And that DVDs replaced VHS tapes near the early 2000s. But wait! What about when WideScreen TVs, Enhanced Definition TVs or EDTV and more? Well to tell you the truth, before HD TVs came into the market to replace SDTV and EDTVs, the problem was that EDTVs used Component Video signals for extra bandwidth for a 16:9 ratio and progressive scans, which was short-lived as HDMI started to dominate those older RF Coaxial, SCART, RCA, S-Video and the Component Video ports near 2003. Even though Component Videos like YPbPr were superior to RCA Composite Video and Audio signals, but didn’t last long and are rare to find as cables and barely found on TVs nowadays. Even the PSOne, PS2, Xbox Original Console and the Nintendo 64, GameCube, and Wii didn’t provide the Component video cables from its original box package. Now you can convert those signals using the RetroTink and OSSC for modern LCD TVs but those devices can be expensive, especially when you want to stream those retro games on Twitch.

As for DVDs along with LaserDiscs and Blu-Rays, well believe it or not, Japan had a market on early High Definition movies for LaserDisc players and TVs using MUSEs Hi-Vision technology in the 1990s. Now I won’t go into too much detail as TechMoan already got that covered in this video:-

Believe it or not, I actually watched a documentary, that I recorded it in 1995 and uploaded on my YouTube on about CD technology and how DVDs started to appear and see some LaserDiscs. Because it does explain how optical media was on the verge of replacing magnetic media like Floppy Disks, and VHS tapes with poor reliability and rotten quality.

Last but not least, phones! So yes Mobile Phones or Cellular Telephones started to first appear in 1983 by Martin Cooper from Motorola with the DynaTAC 8000X. Nokia started to make smaller and improved mobile phones in the 1990s that were cheaper and more affordable. But those phones didn’t have the ability to surf the web until WAP or Wireless Application Protocol appeared in 1999. Even though those phones were primitive and had very low res that made it was tricky to surf online until the Apple iPhone dominated the market in 2007. Before mobile phones started to dominate in the late 1990s, we had to use landline phones and Red Telephone Boxes which are British PayPhone cubicles used to communicate on the phone. But the problem was those Telephone Boxes in dodgy streets were liable to loot those coins inside those telephones. Fortunately, British Telecom introduced the PhoneCard in 1981, which is only operated by using the PhoneCard and no coins were used that can be robbed. And now most PayPhones and landline phones are being replaced by mobile phones and Defibrillators, like this Red Telephone Box here:

And well there you have it, modern technology, eh? If you have any questions feel free to ask in reply down below!