Like many others, my son leaves for university this weekend, which has made me reflect on the day I left home and how times have changed since I was a student.
So when I read an Internet blog* listing the differences, it made me laugh out loud. The most obvious was there were no smartphones, Wi-Fi, or internet then. In fact, students didn’t even own a computer. If they needed to use one, they'd have to go to the ‘computer room’ and allow an extra ten minutes for it to ‘warm up’. The screen would display a green, flickering typeface against a black background that made your eyes blur. Wikipedia didn’t exist, neither did Google, instead, we all used the library. We wrote notes with biros, and flagged up the important bits with highlighter pens. Essays were something you handed in, and they were kept in a ring binder. We regularly used pens, so our handwriting was always neat and tidy. If your work couldn’t be read, the tutor would throw it straight back at you. We were also able to hold a pen in our hands without it cramping up after five seconds. If you had to leave a note for someone, you wrote it down on a bit of paper and stuck it on their door using sellotape (or blu-tack, if you were really rich). No one owned a mobile phone, so if you made plans to meet friends down the pub, you stuck to them. Ditto, if you lost a mate in a club, you’d spend the rest of the evening looking for them. With no mobile phones, we’d use coins or something called a BT phone card to call home. Instead of storing names and numbers in smartphones, we wrote them down in an address book (or Filofax, if you were a complete loser). Likewise, if you needed a telephone number, we’d use the phone box to call directory enquiries, which were still free! Our drawers were stuffed full with bus and train timetables (there wasn’t much takeaway food back then, only chips), and if we wanted to know what was happening we had to look at something called a ‘notice board’. Thankfully, there was no Jeremy Kyle on daytime TV, only a show called Neighbours, which was repeated twice every day. People could smoke wherever they wanted, which wasn’t always a blessing, because it meant even if you didn’t, you’d always come home reeking of cigarette smoke. Music was played on bulky hi-fi systems the size of a house,and we made compilation tapes instead of playlists. An evening’s entertainment consisted of sitting in someone’s room, chatting away into the small hours after the pubs had shut promptly at 11pm, and everyone joined in the conversation because there were no smartphones to distract them. But the best thing about being a student back then? There’s not much photographic evidence because hardly anyone owned a camera. If they did, it cost a small fortune to develop the photographs and they’d be returned plastered with advisory stickers because you’d used too much flash, they were too dark, or just out of focus. Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram were things of the future, which turned out to be a blessing because our hairstyles were bad and or clothes even worse. Thankfully, this means there’s nothing in permanent existence to remind us just how awful we looked back then! q Many thanks to BuzzFeed UK for the inspiration for this column.