Back in the Ancient Days

I just re-read Colin Dexter's The Jewel That Was Ours. (Mystery fiction is what I usually read for a break.) I looked up the date of the novel, and was kind of shocked to see it was 1991. Things happened seemed so... ancient! The plot centered around a tour of England. One of the characters disappeared from the tour, and people just had to wait for him to show up again. You see, phones were things that sat in fixed locations, attached to walls and such. The chief inspector had to ask to borrow a hotel's phone in order to call back to headquarters. When the British police wanted to find information on the backgrounds of the American tourists, they had to send wires to or phone the US, instead of checking their Facebook page.

It felt more like fifty years ago than twenty.


  1. Had the same experience re-watching Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Commando",
    which,back in 1990 was my first movie watched on VCR.
    20 min. of the plot they are fighting in order to get/prevent reaching th payphone.

  2. Interestingly, Stephen Landsburg found a similar shock in another 1991 book, Hunters and Gatherers, which included as plot elements:

    "1) A door-to-door saleswoman pitches (hardcopy) encyclopedias to customers who eagerly seek easy access to vast quantities of information.

    2) A man is eager to read an obscure novel he’s heard about, so he scours used book stores, hoping to find a copy. In the meantime, he’s not sure what the novel is about, and has no way to find out.

    3) A comedian stores his collection of jokes on notecards, filling two rooms worth of file cabinets.

    4) A collector of sound effects stores her collection on cassette tapes, and has no cost-effective way to create backups.

    5) A man is unable to stay in close contact with his (adult) children, because long distance calling rates are prohibitively high."

    (funny captcha for this comment: IMing)


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