I have recently finished reading Hunters and Gatherers, a (quite good) novel written and set in 1991, which includes the following 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.
The next time some Luddite tries to tell me that living standards haven’t improved in the past couple of decades, I think I’ll hand him a copy of this book.
Either that or I’ll sit him down to watch nearly any movie made in the twentieth century. Choose one at random and the chances are pretty good that a single cellphone could have resolved all the characters’ troubles in about a minute.
(Hat tip to the perspicacious Nathan Mehl for the movie/cellphone observation, and for his permission to steal it.)