Flashback to the ’80s

I’m so jealous of you!”

That was me speaking, not my teen. We signed up for a music-subscription service and within minutes, she had all the latest hits on her iPhone playlist. I was in awe but also jealous of her easy access to music. As a teen growing up in the 1980s, I would have loved to have had the ability to listen to a song of my choosing within seconds. Even though technology can have its downfalls, I’m envious of all the ways my teen will have it better than I did growing up:


Me in the ’80s: I loved all types of music. One of my favorite things to do was create a mixtape. Using my dual-cassette boom box, I recorded a mix of songs onto a cassette tape to later play on my yellow, waterproof Sony Walkman. Sometimes, it would take over a week just to make one mixtape. If I didn’t own the album, I waited for the song to play on the radio, and then I recorded it onto the cassette tape, which often captured a little bit of the DJ introducing the song or the song’s ending was cut short. If I wanted to change a song, I would have to rewind the tape and record over it, which would really only work for the last song. Recording over a mid-tape song risked recording over other tracks I wanted to keep. Mostly, I was stuck with it.

As you can see, it was a cumbersome, elaborate process, and by the time you were done making a mixtape, you were sick of most of the songs and ready to make another one.

My teen now: Within seconds, she downloads 20 songs onto a playlist on her phone which she can bring with her anywhere. If she becomes tired of a song, clicking delete will eliminate it instantly, or she can simply hit “next” to forward to the next song without waiting for the tape to move along or without trying to figure out how long to fast forward until the song is over.

Writing research reports

Me in the ’80s: Thumbing through the library card catalog, I found a book related to my research paper. I then searched through the library for it, and checked it out. Usually, I needed at least three or four books, which meant repeating the process. I then had to write the paper by hand (we didn’t have a typewriter or word processor, which I didn’t use until college) and used my mother as a spellchecker since I was horrible at spelling.

My teen now: A quick Google search reveals more than 100 different links related to her research topic. She then types up her paper in a Google Doc using spellcheck — although, unlike her mother (more like her grandmother), she is an incredible speller and doesn’t even need it.

Making a phone call

Me in the ’80s: After I finished shopping at the mall with my friends, I needed to find a pay phone (along with a quarter) to ask my mom to pick us up. She gabbed away for more than three minutes, which required me to feed the pay phone another quarter since she went over the time limit. I thought to myself, “I should have used the collect call trick — when they ask for my name I would say, ‘Pickup Mall.’ “

My teen now: She sends a quick text from her phone, “Please pick me up now,” without needing any quarters or searching for a pay phone, or using the “collect call” trick.

Communicating with friends

Me in the ’80s: One phone in the house and me, my two sisters, and my mom was not a good combination, since we always seemed to want to use it at the same time. If you wanted to make a phone call outside of our town, you would be charged per minute.

My teen now: Everyone in the house has their own phone line and can easily make unlimited phone calls (or Facetime) anywhere in the country without paying additional fees. She hardly ever makes “real” phone calls though — she mostly uses text messages or social media. I doubt she has ever heard a “busy signal” or understands how great it was when “call waiting” was introduced. (She probably doesn’t even know what that is either.)

Taking a picture

Me in the ’80s: I loved taking pictures, but similar to the mixtapes, it involved many steps. You had to buy film, use it up by taking 24 pictures, and develop it by bringing it to the store, which could sometimes take a week. It also could add up, costing a lot of money to buy the film and develop it.

My teen now: She snaps pictures of her friends, her sister, or the wall without costing anything, and gets to see it instantly.

• • •

The next time your teen says, “I’m bored,” you can wow her with your stories about how you created mixtapes, needed a pay phone to call home, or used a library card catalog. I recently did this with my niece who said, “I know, and you didn’t even have electricity!” which made me laugh, since she really thought that was true.

If nothing else, it will ensure you don’t hear the phrase, “I’m bored,” ever again.

Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. The married mother of three has been published in Parents Magazine, Upworthy, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings,” and Twins Magazine. You can find her at Twitter @CherylMaguire05