I’m not one to dwell on the past; I don’t find it healthy at all. It is a powerful coping mechanism for me. I can generally control my thoughts, in that I can empty my mind of all thoughts, at will, and I can focus on something specific, if necessary (the latter is perhaps somewhat fraught with peril because I’m unfortunately most familiar with negative thoughts and emotions). I can’t generally filter out other distractions but I can filter thoughts. But while I don’t dwell on the past, it doesn’t mean I don’t miss certain things. I’m just writing about some things I miss from the past, because one of those things is on my mind, and I have nothing else better to do. Some friends miss these things, too, as do people I don’t know, but this is – like always – first and foremost for me.
I’ll go in the order of the title, but I’ll also throw in some other things.
Video Games and the Arcades
I’ll not get in to my favourite type of game of all time (text adventures) because these still exist and arcades don’t (and I have no idea what happened to some of the old video game consoles I had).
The first video game console I played was the Atari 2600. I have many fond memories of the console and its games from Breakout to River Raid, to Outlaw to Adventure, and everything in between (Donkey Kong, Pac-man, Space Invaders, Frogger? Hell yes!). Next I went to the Nintendo Entertainment System, where perhaps my favourite game there would be Ninja Gaiden. That game is a true classic; it was the first game to introduce cinematic cut-scenes to progress the story. I loved the music of the game and I found it a lot of fun. Many seem to think the old games were hard but I never thought that; sure, there were some games that were harder (Ninja Gaiden wasn’t hard for me except the very end, right outside of the final boss The Jacquio; Ninja Gaiden II I beat and Ninja Gaiden III I won’t even discuss) than others, but I beat almost every game I played, repeatedly. Indeed, I knew some games better than the back of my hand (including the puzzles, mazes or whatever they might be). I spent many hours playing video games (more than the two consoles listed) at home, over the years (the last console I owned was the Sony Playstation 1), and also at what is mostly an artefact from the past: the arcades. I spent hours and hours at the arcades, and I have nothing but fond memories of the games I played, among them: Mario Brothers (note: what is on the gaming consoles is Super Mario Brothers; Mario Brothers was an arcade game!), Street Fighter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game, Mortal Kombat (all of them), Pac-man, and perhaps especially pinball (and its Sonic the Hedgehog spinoff Sonic Spinball, although that was for the Sega Genesis/Mega game drive). There were many more I thoroughly enjoyed, far too many to mention (let alone remember). But I’ve not played a single arcade game in years. I miss that a lot. Nowadays games are connected to the Internet somehow (which I have no problem with, in fact, multi-user dungeons, aka MUDs – predecessors to the MMORPGs of today – are very much a part of me to this day) and otherwise are far superior in graphics (yet I’ve always felt that with all the hardware advances, the effects are far less impressive exactly because the hardware is so advanced; there isn’t nearly as many limitations to the hardware, and some games had rather decent graphics when you consider 8-bit versus what they have nowadays).
Book and Record Stores.
This is what inspired me to write this, actually. This past week I went to a real bookshop, something I hadn’t been in in far too long. It was wonderful. I always loved (even when I buy online I do, but it is different at a bookshop, at least for me and those whom I have talked about this) the smell of the books, the feel of the cover, the binding, the pages, everything about bookshops. You could sit down and read a book (or part of), you could browse different types of books (and genres) whether fiction, non-fiction (whether textbook or something else), and lose track of time (the same was true for record stores except there you might listen to some of the music and you would be browsing records, tapes and eventually CDs; I’ll return to this later). But mostly they are gone today. However, I want to point something out. Something I’ve long believed and now I have proof. See, many people (including employees and owners of book and record stores) believe that the world wide web (or as they would erroneously call ‘the Internet’) is the reason these stores have either gone out of business or have had to change their business model (or otherwise have drastically reduced profit). There is just one little problem with that theory. Amazon.com sells books for cheaper, even if you combine shipping costs. Meanwhile, when you buy in person, you don’t have shipping costs (which means you have less to spend). For instance, I finally got around to buying The Silmarillion (of course by J.R.R Tolkien). I buy hardcover where possible and it was possible for The Silmarillion, too. I spent 40 USD. However, earlier today I saw it at Amazon for 22.66 USD. That is a 43% difference! So here it is: if bookshops would actually change their pricing, they would be able to more easily compete (granted some don’t have the memories of going to an actual shop, but those who do, I know many miss them). Do I mind that I spent 43% more? No. But that is because it was an enjoyable day and I miss the older days here. Otherwise, yes, yes I would mind it.
As for other things, including the fact you don’t see records and tapes as much (I’m ignoring the revival of the vinyl scene because I’ve always thought records were better, more real and more collectible, than tapes and CDs, although nowadays tapes are far more collectible than CDs, DVDs and Audio DVDs; I’m deliberately ignoring bluray and other HD video and sound – I can’t see or hear the differences, anyway). There are many things I do miss. I have really old computer parts that I used years ago but I can’t throw out. The things that we had of yesteryear would surprise the youth of today. If they had any idea of how small hard drives were (in capacity) and how expensive they were (in comparison to what they are today, and considering the capacity differences), they would probably be floored. I still to this day have a hard drive less than 1GB. In this case it is at the ~540MB barrier (which some will remember it as that was as high as they could get it due to limitations that at the time they could not overcome). I also have a HDD that is ~2.5GB. I probably have other drives that are (guessing here) 20GB, 80GB, 120 or 200GB.
There is something else, here, though. It always greatly amuses me when kids tell adults things like “you don’t understand what it is like growing up these days .. it is so different now; we have social media, mobile phones, and we have the Internet!”. It amuses me because they wouldn’t really know anything else, so how would they know that it is so different? Of course, they wouldn’t. I’m going to elaborate just because I want to show how yes, things are different because of evolution (of technology and in general) but no, they aren’t any more complicated (with what we have and don’t have) than before. (Furthermore, things change for both better and worse. But realising this changes things significantly.) Indeed, the Internet is older than they are. For that matter, if you consider its predecessor (arpanet), it might be older than their parents (probably it is)! Certainly the arpanet is older than I am. Depending on what part of the Internet (it developed and extended itself over time) you think of, it is older than me; other parts of the Internet are younger than me. That brings me to social media and the Internet more generally: First, many erroneously believe that the World Wide Web IS the Internet but the Internet is much more than that. The WWW is a small part of the Internet, and without the lower layers, the WWW wouldn’t be ‘world wide’ at all (it might not even exist, we wouldn’t have email and we wouldn’t have many other things that people think of as a single technology). But no, the Internet isn’t new at all, and so this is not something that is all that different (the IoT – the Internet of Things – is another issue entirely, and one that has serious problems, but one that won’t be going away, unfortunately; still, this is technology evolving). As for social media: there were other ways of communicating with people. Let’s start with BBSes (bulletin board systems) and later on web based forums. Then you go to UNIX and you had the talkd (‘talk daemon’) which allowed to users (on the same system or different systems, as I recall) to ‘talk’ with each other (writing messages where one user was at the top and the other at the bottom; it showed characters as sent to the system, so you would see the actual sequences for backspace and the like but this was a matter of getting used to and then it wasn’t really a problem). Then there is IRC (‘internet relay chat’ which worked for the Internet and an internet; the latter simply being a network of networks but not necessarily connected to the global Internet). You also had (later on) ICQ, MSN, Yahoo Instant Message (and others). So no, social media isn’t all that new; it is only an extension of what we had before. I will point out some irony, though, something others have thought of individually, but something that I’ve thought of for a very long time:
Despite the ‘social media’ and the phenomenon of people looking at their bloody phone instead of where they are walking (or with whom they are eating with, sleep with, and who knows what else) and even more ‘connectivity’ (network connectivity only), we are more than ever disconnected. I’d like to say I was ahead of my time (because I wasn’t one who really socialised with peers) but I know I’m not in that way. I was (and am) just… different. I never identified with anyone (in person) and I never really associated with many people (and when I did it was only because of school; I didn’t spend time with them off campus).
Yes, I miss many things that are very different today (different is very loosely defined). But does that mean that I wish I lived in the past? No, absolutely not. It isn’t healthy to dwell on the past; you can’t change it either and the only way to stay somewhat sane (…if that is possible for me – but others can go mad by dwelling on the past, too) is to focus on right now. Even then, there are some things that are better; accept and learn from your mistakes and they aren’t mistakes. Continue to learn, evolve, grow, and you have more to experience, more to understand and more to appreciate. Similarly, if you look at what is here now, you can realise that while some things might be worse, other things are better. It can always be worse (this especially goes for your own health.. and yes, this is what it took for me to understand this though it took many years for me to do so). Always. It might not seem like it to some people but if they ever have long term hardships they will understand this (not to say you can’t understand it without hardships!). Not only will they understand this, they will be thankful for it, and it will give them strength and some sort of peace and acceptance of the world (and others).
Perspective is incredibly powerful; it changes everything!