Do you ever….


….look at your life and wished you had been born later?

I heard someone saying the other day that they wish they had had all today’s technology when they were younger.

I don’t actually. Not at all. I am glad I was born when I was.

South Africa only got television in 1976, and only for an hour or two a day. So I read a lot (Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew), was outside a lot. I was very active.  If I liked a boy I had to hang around the house to see if he would ring. I had to use paper dictionaries and encyclopaediae.

When we went on holiday we were uncontactable for weeks. We could really relax. All 10 of us cousins would stay at my uncle’s holiday shack. We would wake up very early, eat breakfast and disappear to the beach all morning. At lunchtime we would walk home (probably about 7km) and then after lunch we would disappear again until it started to get dark. We hunted for shells, fished, swam, sandboarded down the sanddunes, lay in the sun. We would eat our evening meal, watch the two hours of television that SA had at that time and go to bed early, with our candles. We were so active all day that we were asleep probably by 9pm.

Now I look at my nieces and nephews in the same shack, on their computer games and phones all day. When they are bored they may want to be driven to the shops but that is about it. I definitely think we had it better. People seem to grow up so fast these days.

I was at school pre-calculators (I had to use slide rules and log tables), pre-Tippex and pre-computers.  Cut and paste meant literally cutting and pasting. Bookkeeping was done in books. Typing was done on old heavy machines where the keys would all get jammed together sometimes.

There was no such thing as hair products – apart from Brylcreem and hairspray that created armour-plated hair. And no SPF. Everyone smoked everywhere – on planes, in the hospital (my mother and the doctor would cadge cigarettes from each other and puff away while he was inspecting open wounds ewww)

We all had chickenpox, mumps, measles etc. Hardly anyone had allergies though. I am sure living as we did is what has given me an immune system of iron.

I have embraced technology as it has developed. I worked within IT for many years, as part of the team that brought the internet to Africa. I put the first newspaper online in Africa. So I am by no means a luddite.

I love Google and Wikipedia and being able to look up everything instantly. I like having my phone with me all the time and I do 95% of my shopping online. But I find the faster and faster cycles of everything and the constant flow of information from EVERWHERE quite exhausting.

I think I have had the best of all worlds. One thing I would have liked to have had all the time though, was a microwave oven! And I could have skipped Dr Whites Sanitary belts! Oh and maybe I would have liked better hair products.

One thing I really appreciate was having had parents who grew up during WWII and grandparents who experienced both world wars. They taught me the value of things because they went without so much. They had to make do and mend and they taught me. I can still darn socks perfectly!

I have lived in six decades, two centuries and two millenia. I have lived pre-television and post-television, pre-internet and post-internet. Think of all the different experiences I and my peers have had of our world!




Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

3 thoughts

  1. I passed my half century sometime last week; the first PC I used predated the IBM PC – which was launched during my first couple of years at secondary school. Growing up, my sister and I played with our neighbours in the garden, or in the playing field across the road; during the long summer holidays, we would be out all day, returning in the early evening for dinner. I still think having grown up with the technology means that I understand how it works on a much more intimate level than many youngsters (using the term loosely) who have never known a world without pervasive computing and the Internet. There’s an old saying: “everything old is new again”; I often look at the latest, greatest thing and remember how it was the first time around. Particularly in the field of IT in which I work, I sometimes feel that younger people are addicted to making complexity purely for the sake of complexity itself; I find that too often, developers are keen to use this technology or that not because it would be a good fit, but because it will look good on their CVs, or that they make a big thing about doing something which is “easy” using the available technology, programming language or software, while completely missing the point that it doesn’t really meet the requirement.

    Clearly I’m getting old! I earned these grey whiskers the hard way, dammit, I reserve the right to use them!
    (with a side order of Get Off My Lawn!)

  2. I am with you 100%. I was born England 1951 and we didn’t have electricity or inside water until the early 60’s. I embrace everything modern and enjoy it, except the music, but I still yearn for my teenage years in the 60’s

  3. I am totally with your experiences and backview. Born in 1957 in Germany we really had an interessting and fast changing life including lifestyles, as you described. But it has never been as fast as it is meanwhile. I think we were really privileged living during this time; living with all the upcoming technology and fascinating developements and I feel happy to be aware of it.

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