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Technology has penetrated every aspect of our lives, but some of us remember a time before social media, apps and live streaming. We look at what life was like before technology made knowledge, entertainment and shopping more accessible to all.

Then: ‘When I was in primary school, I had a pen pal who lived in another city,’ says Cathy, a 55-year-old academic. ‘I clearly remember spending an entire December holiday experimenting with different types of invisible ink so that we could exchange important information in top secret. We eventually settled on lemon juice. And at some point, we even burned the edges of the paper to make each letter even more mysterious and thrilling.’

Now: Youngsters are able to communicate across oceans and time zones via chat services and social media. For more on how communication has changed, read this article.

Facebook is an online communication channel
Platforms such as Facebook make it easier than ever to stay in touch.

Then: ‘We were entranced. As Princess Diana emerged from the car at St Paul’s for the 1981 Royal Wedding, we were all spellbound by her bridal finery,’ says Mary, a 51-year-old marketing executive. ‘Of course, we were watching the event on a tiny black-and-white portable TV in the school classroom and the screen was so snowy we couldn’t really make out any details of her dress, her veil or her flowers. But as a 13-year-old schoolgirl, the memory is indelibly etched on my mind. We all sat cross-legged on the floor, gazing up at this creature who was set to change the world.’ 

Now: An event of this magnitude would be streamed live over numerous channels and platforms, including Video Play and Showmax. And services such as the Vodacom Video Ticket and Showmax Mobile make it even easier to be connected to these platforms whenever and wherever we are.

Netflix streaming service
Streaming services bring entertainment to us wherever we are.

Then: ‘It was always so exciting,’ says Pearl, a 52-year-old entrepreneur. ‘If your aunt or cousin or friend were travelling internationally, the race was on to see who could get them to commit to bringing back a specific treasure from those foreign climes. Whether it was lip balm, shoes or a specific CD, there was something so next-level about acquiring goods from outside the borders of South Africa. And if you got to take that “imported” lip gloss to school, you were treated like a queen.’

Now: E-commerce means you can add to your virtual cart with the click of a button. And payment apps such as VodaPay make online shopping even more convenient!

Online shopping
Online shopping means the latest fashions are available at the click of a button!

Now that you've relived the past, get ready to explore the future! Click here to read all about what to expect in the world of tech in the 2020s.

Header photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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