/ Technology

Mixtapes and payphones – what traditions have you given up?

Ringing the cinema to find out film times, calling 1471 to check the last caller and making mixtapes. These are just a few of the traditions that Brits have given up due to digital developments.

A survey of 3,000 Brits, by online backup company Mozy, has formed a top 50 list of all the things we used to do that we’ve now given up due to technology seeping into our lives.

I’m not going to provide the full list here (for fear of breaking your mouse’s scroll wheel) but I will go over the ones I’ve given up in my lifetime, and those I’m hanging on to for dear life.

Turning my back on traditions

Writing postcards, making mixtapes, holding money for a payphone – these all appear on the list of expired traditions, but I can’t say I ever really did any of them in the first place. I do, however, have vague memories of doing very similar things.

My hand may have passed by a postcard or two, but trying to squeeze all my holiday thoughts on to the back of a picture-perfect scene was never my forté. Instead, a mass-emailed essay became my preferred way to share my exploits. Today, you’d be lucky to get a Facebook status update or tweet.

Mixtapes never really passed me by, but I did record my own radio shows on cassette tapes as a wee nipper. I’d record songs from the radio and present them on my show, with gags, chat, and my own advertisements for products that didn’t exist (I was special). The closest you’d get to such creativity today will be my music playlist on Spotify.

There was one time when it would have been handy to have change for a payphone. My mum had forgotten to pick me up from an after-school club (I hold no grudges) and I couldn’t get hold of her through the school phone. I decided to try my luck catching a train for the few stops home, but that plan was soon put to rest when I was caught for fare-dodging and thrown off.

I hadn’t quite comprehended that I could reverse charges on a payphone and decided to walk the rest of the way home. Long story short, I was picked up by a policeman and dropped off at my house to a concerned mother. Thankfully, I now have my good old smartphone to fall back on (if the battery doesn’t run out first).

Are you still holding on to traditions?

So, on a personal level, tech has definitely tolled the death knell for many of these traditions. There are others, such as watching programmes at the time they’re shown, printing off photos and buying CDs – these have all been knocked on the head by advances in technology.

But there are some traditions on the list that I’m holding on to for dear life. I still dial 1471 to find out who last called my landline (I don’t have caller display). I still visit my bank on the high street (only when I need to). I still look up words in a dictionary (I wouldn’t be a very good editor if I didn’t). And I still go to car boot sales when I can (eBay just isn’t a visceral replacement).

Which traditional tasks have you given up due to technological innovations, and which are you vehemently holding on to?


Looks like we’re 60% stuck in the past. Here are the results for the Ward household :-
1. Ring the cinema to find out times – YES
2. Go to the travel agents’ to research a holiday – YES
3. Record things using VHS – NO
4. Dial directory enquiries – NO
5. Use public phones – Not recently but glad they still exist.
6. Book tickets over the phone – YES
7. Print photos – YES
8. Put an ad in the shop window – Never done that
9. Ring the speaking clock – YES [did it earlier today as it happens]
10. Carry portable CD players – Never have
11. Write handwritten letters – YES
12. Buy disposable cameras – Never did
13. Take change for pay phones – YES but mainly for shopping trollies and car parks
14. Make mix tapes – NO
15. Pay bills at the post office – YES
16. Use an address book – NO
17. Check a map for a car journey – YES
18. Reverse charges in payphones – NO
19. Visit a bank or building society – YES often
20. Buy TV listings – NO
21. Own an encyclopaedia – YES
22. Queue for car tax at the post office – YES
23. Develop and send off for photos – NO
24. Read the Yellow Pages – YES
25. Look up something in a dictionary – YES
26. Remember phone numbers or have a phone book – YES
27. Watch videos – Sometimes
28. Have pen friends – NO
29. Use a phone directory – YES often
30. Use pagers – NO
31. Fax things – NO
32. Buy CDs or have a CD collection – YES
33. Pay by cheque – YES often
34. Make photo albums – Never did
35. Watch programmes at the time they are shown – YES mostly
36. Dial 1471 – YES
37. Warm hot drinks on the stove – NO
38. Try on lots of shoes in shops – YES
39. Hand wash clothes – Sometimes
40. Advertise in trading papers – NO
41. Send love letters – Of course
42. Hand-write essays/schoolwork – Not any more
43. Buy flowers from a florist – YES
44. Work out how to spell something yourself – YES
45. Keep a personal diary – NO
46. Send postcards – YES, lots
47. Buy newspapers – YES
48. Hang washing out in winter – YES
49. Keep printed bills or statements – YES
50. Go to car boot sales – Never did

I’m not going to compete with the Ward household but I would like NOT to have to queue at the Post Office for my car tax (or to send for it by snail mail). That’s item 22 in the list.

My insurance expires at the same time as the car tax (vehicle excise duty in case there are any pedants about). That means that I have never managed to renew it online. I have complained and complained and once received a wonderfully detailed but totally unhelpful email from DVLA. The only positive suggestion has been to buy a tax disk for 6 months so that the existing insurance would be valid when I next come to renew. That would, of course, cost extra money.

Please, please please will DVLA let me enter the 20th century, never mind the 21st.

On another matter, how can anyone not use 1471 (assuming they have a landline). That is 36 in the list. How else can I find out who was calling me when I was on the phone? My caller display is no use there.

I know it’ll cost you a little bit but why not tax the car for 6 months? That way VED and insurance won’t co-incide. It’s what I’ve always done.

You’d only have to buy six months tax once of course.

I do buy my VED from the post office. We’re lucky enough to still have a local one, generally there are no queues and I don’t want to lose it.

Which? Computing has a report in our March 2012 issue showing you how to renew your car tax online. You can take out a trial subscription at http://www.which.co.uk/cwtrial.

Does anybody really need to take out a subscription to learn this? I have renewed online, I know how to do it it’s just that I choose not to in order to try and keep open an important local service.

It’s only a quid and you get a lot more than just the information mentioned above

I wonder what will be on the list in twenty years:

Plug devices into the wall to power them
Complain about smartphone battery life
Work in an office
Switch on lights at the wall
Carry car/home keys
Need to remember a dozen passwords and logging in details
Have letterboxes on our front doors
Store digital media locally
Put on glasses to watch 3D films

OK, so making a physical mixtape might now be ancient history, but you can still make mixtapes – I’ve been given a couple recently on Spotify – i.e. people have picked songs they thought I’d like and made them into a Spotify playlist. An ex of mine also spent a long time putting together songs that he then dumped on my MP3 player for a long train journey. The tape might be dead, but the ‘mixtape’ is alive and kicking =)

I still video things and make mix tapes.

More to the point, pray tell me what the modern equivalent is of handwashing? You still get handwash clothes so you still need to handwash.

Anne – It is becoming common to throw clothes away when they have been worn once. More money than sense.

We’ll be talking about this on the podcast next week, so please, keep your comments coming. What about spectacles? Surely it’ll be easier to have lazer eye surgery…

You’re still doing podcasts?!!

Easier to let someone slice bits off my eye? Um, no.

I have contact lenses, but sometimes I wear specs. You’re not bringing a laser anywhere near my eyes!

Nick – Laser eye surgery is not going to be of much help to those who wear spectacles because of presbyopia, where the lens loses elasticity with age and prevents us focusing on both near and distant objects.

Oops. I appear to be taking the discussion off-topic again.