They just don't make gadgets like they used to. Back in the 1980s, there was no World Wide Web, games featured extremely primitive 8-bit graphics and a new PC cost as much as $2,000 (or $5,481 in today's dollars). However, despite the costs and drawbacks, there are many ways in which Reagan-era computers, gaming and gadgets were far better than their 2016 counterparts.
Waiting, sometimes several minutes, for your PC or Mac to shut down is one of the most frustrating tech experiences most of us have on a regular basis. However, back in the early days of computing, you'd just shut your computer off when you were done with it. There was no sitting there twiddling your thumbs while the hard drive spins for no apparent reason. One solution today is to put your PC to sleep instead of powering it down. But even if you never turn your computer off, you are still get stuck waiting every time you need to reboot because of an update, a software install or a performance issue.
Today, we use DVRs that have a limited amount of storage, so we have to be careful about what we record and delete shows after we're finished watching them. However, back in the 1980s, people used VCRs that could store an infinite amount of video, provided that you could figure out how to program your device and were willing to buy more VHS tapes.
If you even have a landline phone today, it probably uses your internet connection to make calls. So, if you experience a blackout and the router goes down, you can't make calls. So how do you stay in touch after your smartphone runs out of juice? When everyone had Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) going over copper wires, the phone system had its own power, enabling you to contact friends and family, even if your house was completely in the dark.
Today, all your portable devices, including your phone, laptop and mobile-game system, use lithium-ion batteries that require a time-consuming recharge and usually can't be replaced. In the 1980s, most mobile gadgets required disposable AA, C or D batteries. So, if your boombox ran out of juice, you could just pop in new batteries and keep on break dancing, without running to an outlet to plug in.
It practically takes a Ph.D. in gridiron strategy to succeed at "realistic" football simulations like Madden NFL. However, in the 1980s, handheld games such as Coleco Electronic Quarterback were so simple that even kids who had never watched a real football game could have hours of fun and take it with them. Just move your little red dot past all the other little red dots and score a touchdown. Isn't that what football is really about?
Photo: Joe Haupt / Flickr
When you could use only one program at a time, you didn't have other programs, such as your web browser and chat client, to take your attention away. No wonder professional writers like George R.R. Martin still use DOS-based word processors when they want to go heads-down on a project.
Photo: Daniel Pritchard / Wikipedia
Today, if you want to listen to music for free, you have to either break the law by torrenting, or listen to a streaming radio service, complete with commercials. However, back when cassettes ruled the land, you could record your favorite songs off the radio and listen to them as much as you wanted. You could grab all the hits, just by recording sections of Casey Kasem's "American Top 40" show, but you'd have to put up with a few seconds of the famous DJ issuing a sappy dedication over your song.