[LMB] OT: Generation Change, was Fun

Francis Turner francis.turner at gmail.com
Sat Apr 4 10:24:35 BST 2009

On Sat, Apr 4, 2009 at 6:37 AM, Ed Burkhead <ed at edburkhead.com> wrote:
> But, we may choose to embrace change in later years or try to avoid it.
> Except for communications, just how different is the world now from the
> world 50 years ago?
> Life is strange, after all.  I'm not entirely sure I believe in reality.
 50 years ago is 1959

Well here's a few that I can think of

Public transport was in far greater use proportionately than it is
today. So were bikes and walking.
In 1959 there were still steam engines in regular use on railways in
most countries.
Very few train doors shut automatically
Few if any trains (or cars) had air conditioning - the way to cool
down was to open the window
There were very few multilane motorways.
Most main roads went through the middle of towns, cities and villages.
Cars needed servicing regularly and still broke down frequently. The
good news was that you could generally fix them yourself.
There were no airbags, seatbelts or other safety features.
It was not uncommon to have wood as a major part of a goods vehicle or
railway carriage/wagon
Horses were still in use in certain areas/tasks as transport
Jet aircraft were thin on the ground.
The normal way to cross the Atlantic, travel to Asia etc. was by ship.
Airfares were regulated and high.

The idea that someone could fly from Nice to London (or Chicago to
Vegas) for considerably less than the price of a meal in a top class
restaurant would astound. The idea that one might do so on whim at a
day's notice just for the weekend would boggle.

Money & shopping:
Credit cards, ATM machines etc did not exist. Most things were paid
for in cash or using cheques. If you wanted a loan the bank would
usually require collateral or a guarantor.
Supermarkets were rare - most people bought from the local shop(s) and
made special trips to city center department stores for special items.
The alternative was mail order.
Delivery was generally 28 days not overnight

Transistor radios were rare and expensive
There was no color TV
There was no large screen TV
There was no video or cassette tape.
Music was generally (always?) in mono on vinyl
Although becoming less common cinemas still showed news reels.
If you went on holiday then sharing the bathroom/toilet with other
guests was normal in most hotels.

Contraception was limited to condoms for most people
Abortion was illegal in most places
People still died from diseases like Small Pox or Polio
The link between smoking and cancer was controversial
The links between radiation and cancers were becoming clearer
MRIs, CAT scans etc. did not exist. X-Rays were as good as it got for
non invasive investigations
Heart attacks were usually fatal, and if not you generally couldn't
recover from them because the surgeries and pharmaceuticals we have
today did not exist.

People usually wrote letters
No fax machines let alone email
Telegrams were still in common use
It was usual to use the operator to connect a phone call
Party lines were common
There were no cell phones or even portable walkie talkies
It was common to wait months to get a phone line
There was little or no choice in phone, and you rented it from the
(national) carrier
There were no fiberoptics.
Digital telecomms (T1s) and exchanges were just being introduced

Most big cities in Europe and N America were severely polluted. As
were their rivers.
Most big cities in Europe and Japan were being rebuilt after WW2.
Many people still lived in very basic prefab housing with exterior
(sometimes shared) toilets and poor heating/insulation.
Most men were familiar with firearms thanks to their military service.
Many of them had in fact retained the weapon they were issued in WW2
or the Korean war
The British Empire still ruled large chunks of Africa and significant
chunks elsewhere - though there were plans to get rid of it
The French were in the process of losing French Indochina and Algeria.
In the US segregation was normal.
Racial discrimination was common in pretty much every developed nation.
Homosexuality was frowned upon almost everywhere and homosexuals
discriminated against.
Sexual discrimmination and harassment in the workplace was normal

Faber's Fourth Law:
  Necessity is the mother of strange bedfellows.

More information about the Lois-Bujold mailing list