THE BLOG
07/11/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Preposterous Pre-Digital Primer

I'm a bit older than some of the fine humorists who post posts on The Huffington Post, so I'm occasionally asked, "What was it like before the Internets?" Suddenly, I'm transported back to the 1970s, when a laptop weighed 5,000 pounds and "going viral" made today's swine-flu problem seem like a walk in the park.

Anyway, I thought I'd show what the pre-digital age was like by posting a version of a Q&A I originally wrote for The Montclair (N.J.) Times in 2005, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth (each time Bush administration officials traveled abroad). So without further ague, here's my prehistoric primer:

How did people correspond before e-mail?

They wrote words on paper, put the paper in an envelope, affixed a stamp to the envelope, walked to a mailbox, and stood there paralyzed when they couldn't find the "send" button.

How did people correct mistakes in the pre-computer days of typewriters?

They either retyped the page or blotted out errors with white stuff. Mashed potatoes worked best.

When journalists were out of town, how did they transmit typewritten stories to their editors?

They folded the stories into paper airplanes and hurled them out of hotel windows.

In the old days, how did people make unimportant phone calls while riding commuter trains?

They used cups with strings attached to other cups. But silence-hungry passengers wrapped the strings around the callers' necks, leading to the development of cell phones.

How did people watch old movies before the advent of DVD players and other technologies?

If there wasn't a good flick on TV, they went to a "revival" theater. There, they became born-again Christians and patiently waited several decades to see The Passion of The Christ.

Before CDs were invented, was there any equivalent to the portable disc players many people used until the iPod explosion?

Yes. But to fit a phonograph record, the "Phony Squawkman" had to be quite large. This sound system banged into other pedestrians, who smashed it in retaliation. So every day became "the day the music died."

How did people listen to records in cars?

There was a slot in steering wheels for LPs. When drivers turned right, the records played.

What happened when drivers turned left?

They ended up on Nixon's enemies list.