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KarmaPolice
04-06-2014, 12:38 PM
I'm writing a YA novel set in the UK Home Counties in 1994, and am trying to get the technology level right - no so much the tech itself, but how far it had got into everyday life. My main questions are...

1) Mobile Phones / Car Phones. How much of a status symbol were they? Could they hold numbers in them? Battery life? And was the network coverage as bad as the old jokes made it out to be?

2) Pagers. How often were they used, outside of a hospital? Could they receive basic text messages, or was it simply of 'call XXXX' type?

3) Banking. How often did people use ATM's, and how many of them were about? Or did most people get their money through the cashier inside? How many people had credit cards? Oh, and how suspicious was wads of cash - like buying a used car with a couple of inches worth of tenners?

4) Internet/Computing. How many people actually knew of this new 'information superhighway', and how many of them had even seen it? Did anyone actually have a 'net connection at home? Would secondary schools teach I.T., and did they take it seriously?

5) Sky / Cable TV. How many people had it? Was it expensive? And was there actually anything worth watching on them?

Thanks in advance - oh, and mention any tech of the era that I've missed out!

cornflake
04-06-2014, 12:53 PM
I'm writing a YA novel set in the UK Home Counties in 1994, and am trying to get the technology level right - no so much the tech itself, but how far it had got into everyday life. My main questions are...

1) Mobile Phones / Car Phones. How much of a status symbol were they? Could they hold numbers in them? Battery life? And was the network coverage as bad as the old jokes made it out to be?

2) Pagers. How often were they used, outside of a hospital? Could they receive basic text messages, or was it simply of 'call XXXX' type?

3) Banking. How often did people use ATM's, and how many of them were about? Or did most people get their money through the cashier inside? How many people had credit cards? Oh, and how suspicious was wads of cash - like buying a used car with a couple of inches worth of tenners?

4) Internet/Computing. How many people actually knew of this new 'information superhighway', and how many of them had even seen it? Did anyone actually have a 'net connection at home? Would secondary schools teach I.T., and did they take it seriously?

5) Sky / Cable TV. How many people had it? Was it expensive? And was there actually anything worth watching on them?

Thanks in advance - oh, and mention any tech of the era that I've missed out!

Disclaimer: I'm not in the UK. However, I don't believe it was all that different from the world across the pond.

I think you might want to do some basic research to maybe get a better idea of your time period and maybe narrow down what you want to ask, as many of these questions seem like you're asking about 40-60 years ago, not 20.

A couple inches of tenners is a few hundred pounds, at best.

Did anyone have internet connections and did schools take I.T. seriously? I don't even. Netscape was released in '94. There were a million or so AOL subscribers, and plenty of other providers.

Mr Flibble
04-06-2014, 01:43 PM
Note, I'm trying to recall 1994. My memory ain;t what it used to be, young'un.





1) Mobile Phones / Car Phones. How much of a status symbol were they? Could they hold numbers in them? Battery life? And was the network coverage as bad as the old jokes made it out to be?

I got my first mobile in...1994-5? I think. For work, which is what most people had them for. It was a bit of a joke, because it was supposed to be for people to reach me out of hours, but there was no signal in my flat, or in town. So I didn't get called out very often!


2) Pagers. How often were they used, outside of a hospital? Could they receive basic text messages, or was it simply of 'call XXXX' type?

I've only ever known doctors/nurses have them, though I suspect that other people who needed to be contacted in an emergency might well have them. Afaia they told you to ring a number.


3) Banking. How often did people use ATM's, and how many of them were about? Or did most people get their money through the cashier inside? How many people had credit cards? Oh, and how suspicious was wads of cash - like buying a used car with a couple of inches worth of tenners?


Cashpoints were still in their infancy -- to start with, most of them were inside the bank, so you still had to get down there during opening hours. I can't recall if they were cross bank by then -- the early ones it HAD to be your bank's cashpoint. ETA: No, I;m thinking of the wrong year! There were cashpoints, yes, and some outside even. Still not sure if you had to use your own bank's one by then.

Credit cards were just becoming more common -- I certainly had one, though I'd only got it recently IIRC -- and wads of cash were common. (They still are in certain trades!) Getting a discount for paying cash on something bis was common also. If I wanted to buy a car, I would take out the cash from the bank and take it to the dealer (this is how I bought my first bike as it happens in 1990), so not really suspicious.


4) Internet/Computing. How many people actually knew of this new 'information superhighway', and how many of them had even seen it? Did anyone actually have a 'net connection at home? Would secondary schools teach I.T., and did they take it seriously?

Well I knew about it vaguely (the more so when I started dating Old Man in early 95 as he was in IT!) but it wasn't all that widespread at home. Or in business -- just before I left work to have my son in 1998 I spent a month trying to persuade my middle sized company that a website with an email addy on it would be a good idea. They turned me down. Basic IT would have been taught I suspect.


5) Sky / Cable TV. How many people had it? Was it expensive? And was there actually anything worth watching on them?
Sky was still fairly rare, and expensive. No idea about what was on them as we didn't have it!

KarmaPolice
04-06-2014, 01:57 PM
Thanks. You've realised my problem - too far back to remember correctly, yet too recent for people to bother to properly document. In my first draft, I'd made loads of little slip-ups; from having the MC go shopping on a Sunday to watching TV at 3 AM. I know I'm being Rimmer-esque levels of anal, but it's the kind of little things that piss people off. That and I'm trying to make the world feel a little odd for a reader born in 1998.

waylander
04-06-2014, 02:20 PM
Credit cards very common by 94. I first had one ten years before that.

Internet & home computers - very early days.

eyeblink
04-06-2014, 02:26 PM
I'm writing a YA novel set in the UK Home Counties in 1994, and am trying to get the technology level right - no so much the tech itself, but how far it had got into everyday life. My main questions are...

1) Mobile Phones / Car Phones. How much of a status symbol were they? Could they hold numbers in them? Battery life? And was the network coverage as bad as the old jokes made it out to be?

2) Pagers. How often were they used, outside of a hospital? Could they receive basic text messages, or was it simply of 'call XXXX' type?

3) Banking. How often did people use ATM's, and how many of them were about? Or did most people get their money through the cashier inside? How many people had credit cards? Oh, and how suspicious was wads of cash - like buying a used car with a couple of inches worth of tenners?

4) Internet/Computing. How many people actually knew of this new 'information superhighway', and how many of them had even seen it? Did anyone actually have a 'net connection at home? Would secondary schools teach I.T., and did they take it seriously?

5) Sky / Cable TV. How many people had it? Was it expensive? And was there actually anything worth watching on them?

Thanks in advance - oh, and mention any tech of the era that I've missed out!

1. They were certainly around. My dayjob is with a major telecommunications company and for a while we were trained to sell mobiles and by the mid 90s more and more people were using them - tradespeople especially.

I can't answer the rest of your question, as I didn't get one myself until 2002. That was because a friend of mine who I did and still do see regularly got one, and one evening I was almost late meeting her due to a train delay. I worked out that inconveniencing myself was one thing, but inconveniencing someone else was another...so bought my first mobile.

2. Certainly used, but mostly by business people on call.

3. I had a debit and credit card when I set up a bank account as a student in 1984. I expect quite a lot of people had credit cards and ATMs were widespread. As a Barclays customer, as far as I remember I've always been able to use Lloyds cashpoints (they're usually called that here, or colloquially the hole in the wall) and in Scotland Bank of Scotland or Royal Bank of Scotland ones, but not the other two major banks or their Scottish equivalents until recently.

4. I knew about it, from articles in the press and magazines like .net which started around then. 1994 is about the year I first met people who were online. I first had Internet access at work in 1996, at home in 1997. That was when I bought a PC powerful enough to go online: I'd had a PS/2 before then and before that an Amstrad PCW.

Computer Studies was an academic subject when I was at secondary school (1976-1983) but was a rather minority - and rather geeky - subject back then. I suspect rather less so in 1994.

5. Satellite broadcasting had been around since the early 80s and Sky and British Satellite Broadcasting merged to form BSkyB in 1990. So a lot of people had Sky. Cable television wasn't really a thing in the UK. Television sets were all 4:3 in 1994; widescreen sets and digital broadcasting launched later in the decade (1998 in the latter case). There were four terrestrial channels (BBC1, BBC2, ITV (which was regional) and Channel 4). Channel 5 launched in 1997.

I didn't and don't have Sky, but as to what was on: sport was a big seller, also programmes imported mainly from the US. Other channels that were prominent included UK Gold, which showed lots of older programmes from the BBC and ITV (with commercial breaks even in the BBC material). For example, they frequently showed omnibuses of Doctor Who serials on Saturday mornings.


Thanks. You've realised my problem - too far back to remember correctly, yet too recent for people to bother to properly document. In my first draft, I'd made loads of little slip-ups; from having the MC go shopping on a Sunday to watching TV at 3 AM. I know I'm being Rimmer-esque levels of anal, but it's the kind of little things that piss people off. That and I'm trying to make the world feel a little odd for a reader born in 1998.

That's fine: I did the same thing with a recent story I wrote set in Melbourne in 1979: cue a lot of Googling, and I'm grateful to four Australian AW-ers who took time to read the story.

You could watch TV at 3AM by the way: twenty-four-hour broadcasting began in the late 80s, first on ITV. Anyone who remembers BBC1 closing down at night with the National Anthem is showing their age. :)

Los Pollos Hermanos
04-06-2014, 03:35 PM
Casts mind back to being 18...

Locations: Kent (home) & Manchester (university).

Mobile phones: Only the sloane ranger type students had them. I had the misfortune to be in posh halls of residence, even though I'm not posh. One tosser used to lean out of his window to get a signal so he could check how well his shares were performing. The rest of us queued for the payphone with our BT phonecards!

Pagers: Dad (worked with computers for Philips) had one if he was on call. If it bleeped (no message) he had to phone work and, if he couldn't tell them how to fix it over the phone, drive up to Croydon.

Cashpoints: (technically, it's only a "cashpoint" if it's a Lloyds Bank atm - how's that for Rimmer levels of anal retention?!) were commonplace, both inside and outside banks, in my neck of the woods (both of them).

Internet: I'd heard tell of it, but never used it until 1996 during second year at university. It was like magic was real - haha!
At school we stopped doing Latin to start computing classes, which to this days still annoys me. We did have computers at school (1987-1994), but it was mostly those doing Business Studies GCSE or A level who used them. Pen and paper still ruled supreme (this was at a grammar school, not sure if it worked differently in the local secondary moderns or sixth form college). Don't recall the school having the internet though, just a fancy printer by the standards of the day.

Telly: We had four channels. I knew people who had the Sky package, but my parents wouldn't get it as they said it was full of rubbish. I loved it - lots of horror films and MTV! Some of the snobbier ilk I went to school with said satellite dishes only belonged on council houses, but seeing as one of my best mates lived on a council estate and her house had a satellite dish, it didn't bother me!

Extra: CDs vs. cassettes. I was still using the latter, as CDs were very expensive compared to these days. Only the rich kids had them! I started buying CDs circa 1996, and then gradually replaced the cassettes over the next few years.

Cath
04-06-2014, 04:24 PM
Remarkably, I remember 1994 pretty well, so if you have any other questions, I'll do my best to help.
I'm writing a YA novel set in the UK Home Counties in 1994, and am trying to get the technology level right - no so much the tech itself, but how far it had got into everyday life. My main questions are...

1) Mobile Phones / Car Phones. How much of a status symbol were they? Could they hold numbers in them? Battery life? And was the network coverage as bad as the old jokes made it out to be?
I had a mobile phone for work. It was a brick and much maligned by colleagues who had newer and smaller models. Battery life wasn't terrible, I seem to remember I only needed to charge it once a day. I wasn't in the Home Counties, but coverage in the Herefordshire/Worcestershire area was patchy outside the cities.

2) Pagers. How often were they used, outside of a hospital? Could they receive basic text messages, or was it simply of 'call XXXX' type?

3) Banking. How often did people use ATM's, and how many of them were about? Or did most people get their money through the cashier inside? How many people had credit cards? Oh, and how suspicious was wads of cash - like buying a used car with a couple of inches worth of tenners?
Tons of ATMs as I remember. I opened my first bank account in 1991 and used ATMs all the time. Cash was common, and I paid for my first car in cash (twenties, not tenners though). I took my dad along as muscle because I was nervous about carrying that much! Credit cards had been in use for a while, although I remember my mum getting very nervous about running up a 200 debt on it and working lots of overtime to pay it off.

4) Internet/Computing. How many people actually knew of this new 'information superhighway', and how many of them had even seen it? Did anyone actually have a 'net connection at home? Would secondary schools teach I.T., and did they take it seriously?
You did have computers before the internet was common! There was much excitement at my school when we acquired a computer lab in 1989/1990, but no internet at the time.

I studied librarianship at University ('91-'94) and we had classes on searching the internet. It was text-based and command code driven.

5) Sky / Cable TV. How many people had it? Was it expensive? And was there actually anything worth watching on them?
My friend and I used to go spend the weekends with her mum because we could watch MTV on satelite. It was a big deal and very exciting to me (who still had a black and white telly). No idea about the cost. Actually, seeing LPH's comment, she was on a council estate too. :)

Thanks in advance - oh, and mention any tech of the era that I've missed out!

Bolero
04-06-2014, 04:50 PM
I'm writing a YA novel set in the UK Home Counties in 1994, and am trying to get the technology level right - no so much the tech itself, but how far it had got into everyday life. My main questions are...

1) Mobile Phones / Car Phones. How much of a status symbol were they? Could they hold numbers in them? Battery life? And was the network coverage as bad as the old jokes made it out to be?

Mobile phones and car phones. I have a feeling they were still quite chunky at that point. I had one as an adult from about 1998 after the car broke down. No idea when kids started having them. Can't remember about programmed numbers - but I carried the RAC card with me and rang from that. Battery life - I only switched it on when I needed to use it. It was for my emergencies only.
Mobile coverage can still be a bit flakey in places - at the bottom of a steep valley for example. Also, if there is an emergency somewhere, the towers get overloaded i.e major traffic jam/accident on motorway.

2) Pagers. How often were they used, outside of a hospital? Could they receive basic text messages, or was it simply of 'call XXXX' type?
No idea

3) Banking. How often did people use ATM's, and how many of them were about? Or did most people get their money through the cashier inside? How many people had credit cards? Oh, and how suspicious was wads of cash - like buying a used car with a couple of inches worth of tenners?
I was using a cashpoint well before 1994 and they were in the wall of the bank, or occasionally in a lobby which you entered using the cash point card. I have a memory that there were possibly separate cashpoint cards and cheque guarantee cards then. Note that until the last three, four years banks charged if you used a card that wasn't from their banking group in their cashpoint.
I think credit cards were fairly common in 1994 - but (some) people didn't necessarily use them a lot. I certainly didn't - it was there for an emergency not regular use. I almost always paid it off immediately. Early enough and it was still handing out pound notes. Became fivers and tenners only after a bit. Having a blank moment - these days I think its tenners and twenties.Wads of cash - perfectly normal - unless you were trying to hire a van when they liked the credit card for proof of address,and so they could bill you extras if you damaged it.
4) Internet/Computing. How many people actually knew of this new 'information superhighway', and how many of them had even seen it? Did anyone actually have a 'net connection at home? Would secondary schools teach I.T., and did they take it seriously?
What others have said - plus it was often a dial up connection at that period, not broad band - and you were charged for every minute you were on line. Also web based forums like this were uncommon, or non-existent. Chat like this was done via newsgroups. You made your dial up connection, a load of stuff thundered in - email and newsgroup stuff which looked a lot like email. You disconnected, read it all, wrote all your replies, reconnected, uploaded and logged off again. It did make discussions a little bit zig zag at times as replies would be uploaded effectively in parallel - unless you did a second download just before your upload. The newsgroups were sorted by type. I remember rec.pets.cats.anecdotes - so recreational, about pets, specifically telling funny stories about your cats.

5) Sky / Cable TV. How many people had it? Was it expensive? And was there actually anything worth watching on them?
I remember a friends lodger having it earlier than 1994 and forever watching sports like Australian surf rowing that no-one else had ever heard of. Only person I've heard of who did.
Thanks in advance - oh, and mention any tech of the era that I've missed out!

Home counties is more prosperous and more likely to have take-up of new stuff than anywhere else, but it will vary a lot by individual.


Further thoughts - the music system of the period was the Walkman - and the cheap knockoffs. I had one before 1994 and it was bright red and ran on 4 AA batteries. They only lasted a few hours, so I had two (or three) sets of rechargeables and carried spares with me. The one I had played cassette tapes. Then later there were the ones which played CDs.
As far as I can remember, mobile phones tended to come in grey, not all shades of the rainbow and the ring tone was hard wired in.

jaksen
04-06-2014, 05:52 PM
Try watching some TV shows from the early 90's. Those which are set in that time, like contemporary comedies. Focus on those which have a sort of family or home life. You'll get to see what the teenagers were talking about - or the parents complaining about. Also, shows set in office workplaces. In fact, any sort of show (or movie from that era) will show you what people were using as phones, or what they had on their desks. (An ordinary desk, just papers and a phone? Or a computer?)

In the US, we had our first PC in 1989, and our first internet connection in 1993. Dialup, AOL. Our first car phones in 1993. Our first cell phone in the late 90's, when we dumped the car phones.

But TV and movies are often a good way to settle into a time period, if they were made and set in the time period you are researching. Try scanning through Youtube. TV UK 1994. Or similar.

Los Pollos Hermanos
04-06-2014, 06:09 PM
I had a walkman - well, a Philips imitation as Dad got them cheap through work.

I didn't live on a council estate, but many of my friends did. I used to prefer going there than associating with the snobs who judged you on whether or not your bedroom decor was from Laura Ashley, what job Daddy had in the city (even though Mummy was miserable because Daddy was having a ding-dong with his secretary), what cars were on the driveway, etc. One girl on my schoolbus was horrified (in 1988) when I mentioned we didn't have a video recorder - I told her to go and buy one for me if it offended her that much (she kept her trap shut after that). Still can't be arsed with people like that!

KarmaPolice
04-06-2014, 10:12 PM
Cool. I've already been scouring YouTube and the like for telly programmes and the like; was reminded of things like the fad for full front rooms of black-ash MDF furniture and all the primary colours of clothing. It's where I learnt that BBC1 still did the anthem at closedown - 12.30 am, 12/06/94. I thought it had died out a decade earlier... unless you listen to Radio 4, which still does it. Not sure about ITV or C4 though; I'll have to investigate.

Thanks for reminding me about Walkmans; I'd completely forgot all the hand-held stuff. Hmm... perhaps I'll give the MC's little brother a GameGear.

eyeblink
04-06-2014, 10:59 PM
Cool. I've already been scouring YouTube and the like for telly programmes and the like; was reminded of things like the fad for full front rooms of black-ash MDF furniture and all the primary colours of clothing. It's where I learnt that BBC1 still did the anthem at closedown - 12.30 am, 12/06/94. I thought it had died out a decade earlier... unless you listen to Radio 4, which still does it. Not sure about ITV or C4 though; I'll have to investigate.

It was only BBC1 which played the national anthem. After it stopped, the screen faded to black. After a while, a high piercing tone would play, intended to wake up anyone who had fallen asleep in front of the television as there was a minor danger in leaving it on continuously.

C4 ended the night with sometimes their continuity announcer in vision and then the four-note David Dundas C4 fanfare (which made him one of the highest-earning composers in history, certainly in terms of money per note).

By the way, VCRs were widespread by 1994, as DVDs didn't come in until the end of the decade. VCRs came in during the late 70s and the video nasties scare was in the early 80s, resulting in the Video Recordings Act of 1984. This Home Counties resident's family got one later than quite a few others we knew, mostly because my Dad resisted getting one. What caused him to change his mind was my Mum starting an Open University course in 1984, and the OU broadcasts were on BBC2 either very early in the morning or very late at night after normal broadcasts had finished, and he faced a choice of recording the programmes or having his sleep disturbed!

skylark
04-06-2014, 11:59 PM
1) Mobile Phones / Car Phones. How much of a status symbol were they? Could they hold numbers in them? Battery life? And was the network coverage as bad as the old jokes made it out to be?

They certainly weren't widely owned. Car phones were a status symbol. Mobile phones were something a few people had, normally because they had unusual requirements (I remember my aunt showing me hers in about 1991 - she was a one-man-band vet). They were VERY expensive to run, including to receive calls. I don't know about the coverage.


2) Pagers. How often were they used, outside of a hospital? Could they receive basic text messages, or was it simply of 'call XXXX' type?

The senior university researchers had them when I spent a summer there. I don't think they got a message at all - they just went "beep" so the owner knew they were needed.


3) Banking. How often did people use ATM's, and how many of them were about? Or did most people get their money through the cashier inside? How many people had credit cards? Oh, and how suspicious was wads of cash - like buying a used car with a couple of inches worth of tenners?

ATMs were everywhere - every bank had one by then. I don't think I've ever got money from a cashier unless all the machines were out of order. (I got a cash card in 1988).
Anyone (or almost anyone) who wanted one could have a credit card - I had one as an 18 year old student. It was normal. But buying a used car with cash was (and still is) fairly normal, normally when it's a dealer avoiding having it go through the books.


4) Internet/Computing. How many people actually knew of this new 'information superhighway', and how many of them had even seen it? Did anyone actually have a 'net connection at home? Would secondary schools teach I.T., and did they take it seriously?

Anyone who was at/had been to university and done anything remotely sciency post 1990 would have at least used email.
By 1994 I had an internet connection at home. Really slow modem, you could just about download email. And you paid for the phonecall by the minute. I think it was 1995 before we got the cable modem,but we weren't on the leading edge of technology or anything.
Secondary schools had been teaching IT for a decade by then. Seriously? Um, no. The syllabuses were out of date before they'd been printed. My O level computer studies in 1986 involved discussing the advantages and disadvantages of punched cards and paper tape, though we were using 5 1/4 inch floppy disks.


5) Sky / Cable TV. How many people had it? Was it expensive? And was there actually anything worth watching on them?

We had it. It wasn't that expensive or we wouldn't have had it.

There was a lot that wasn't worth watching on it - the sport was a bit of a joke unless you liked monster trucks.

My memory is that there was a lot more science fiction and fantasy on Sky than there was on the terrestrial channels. I think the newer Star Trek was on Sky, and Highlander, and a show called VR5. And of course the picture quality was way better.

tirial
04-07-2014, 06:52 PM
Partly from memory, partly from my diary, and I was in a fairly rural area.



1) Mobile Phones / Car Phones. How much of a status symbol were they? Could they hold numbers in them? Battery life? And was the network coverage as bad as the old jokes made it out to be?Some could hold numbers, but the coverage was not good outside of urban areas. I didn't bother to get one for years. Orange was only just launching (advert (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37jAKJkSEwI)).



2) Pagers. How often were they used, outside of a hospital? Could they receive basic text messages, or was it simply of 'call XXXX' type?The only people I knew who had them had them for work and were support, medical etc. They usually displayed a number. More advanced ones could take messages, but not many people bothered with that facility.



3) Banking. How often did people use ATM's, and how many of them were about? Or did most people get their money through the cashier inside? How many people had credit cards? Oh, and how suspicious was wads of cash - like buying a used car with a couple of inches worth of tenners? ATMs were very widespread, and most people got their money from them. In rural areas the banks didn't open Saturdays and some didn't open Wednesday afternoons. Buying cash had not exactly been phased out, and large cash transactions did occur. A friend bought his car with a wad of cash but 50's not tenners.



4) Internet/Computing. How many people actually knew of this new 'information superhighway', and how many of them had even seen it? Did anyone actually have a 'net connection at home? Would secondary schools teach I.T., and did they take it seriously?It was beginning to come in, but not many people used it day-to-day. I'm usually an early adopter, and that year I got my first dedicated email address (wow! a whole 56k modem on a telephone line). The only person I knew then that used the internet full-time from home had state-side relatives.

Regarding computers in schools? That year our secondary school was still using Acorn computers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Master) for their A-level IT course even though they were on their way out. Most people at home had PCs by then, and the schools were only beginning to switch.



5) Sky / Cable TV. How many people had it? Was it expensive? And was there actually anything worth watching on them? Didn't have it, and didn't know anyone who had it, although around 1994 the local cable company was trying frantically to appeal to people in our area to actually use their service after they dug up all the pavements. I did know quite a few Ceefax (http://www2.tv-ark.org.uk/teletext/teletext_bbc.html) devotees.

Regarding shopping, if it was after August, you may be OK: the Sunday Trading Act (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunday_Trading_Act_1994) came into force in August 1994. However your character might consider it something a bit new.

Bolero
04-07-2014, 08:39 PM
Cable TV - that reminds me. The city we were living in did have cable TV installed round about that time - but only in half of it. They never did do the other half of it as far as I know.

It gave both telephone and TV, including most, or possibly all, of the free to air channels - those came free. We had the phone plus free TV channels for a while. We were in an area where the TV mast signal was poor - partially shielded by a hill. The free to air cable signal was definitely an improvement. The phone was a bit naff - there weren't enough lines and at busy times you couldn't make a call. I think it wasn't that there was no dial tone, but that when you made a call it was engaged. You learnt to try numbers you knew couldn't be engaged as a test.

Steve Collins
04-07-2014, 08:40 PM
I was in a Police Tactical firearms unit in London in 1994 so I remember it quite well. We all had pagers but they were basic messaging ones, you called into a call centre and they sent out your message to the pager. We used a lot of codes such as U101, which was an urgent call out, you could also leave basic messages such as 'Call home'. We were one of the first units in the 90's to get a mobile phone, yes, they were prestigious, the first ones were a large flat unit which contained the battery and it had a curly wire going to the handset which sat on top. it measured about 10" x 8" and had a carrying handle on the side. When you walked into a canteen at a local nick everybody would whisper "Wow, they've got one of those mobile phones", they weighed a ton. By late 94 to 95 we got individual mobiles which were mostly large flip-phones, as I recall the reception was good in London but they were very costly even to receive incoming calls. I think the other questions have been answered admirably.

ClareGreen
04-08-2014, 03:58 PM
I'm writing a YA novel set in the UK Home Counties in 1994, and am trying to get the technology level right - no so much the tech itself, but how far it had got into everyday life. My main questions are...

I was 17 in 1994, so here goes...


1) Mobile Phones / Car Phones. How much of a status symbol were they? Could they hold numbers in them? Battery life? And was the network coverage as bad as the old jokes made it out to be?

They were starting to come down to the level where ordinary people would have them, but most people needed a reason such as 'work'. My family were early adopters, because Dad was running a business on call. Network coverage varied by network; Dad's mobile was specifically on the network with best coverage, which even included some of the valleys in Wales (much to his surprise and delight). I never paid attention to them as status symbols because at this stage we'd had Dad's for years. In fact, I think he was on his second (much smaller than the first) by 1994; I left home a year later and his 'new' number is engraved in my memory, so it must have been a 1994 thing at the latest.


2) Pagers. How often were they used, outside of a hospital? Could they receive basic text messages, or was it simply of 'call XXXX' type?

See other answers for pagers.


3) Banking. How often did people use ATM's, and how many of them were about? Or did most people get their money through the cashier inside? How many people had credit cards? Oh, and how suspicious was wads of cash - like buying a used car with a couple of inches worth of tenners?

A lot of people used ATMs by this point, but for some accounts (and older people) the cashier was the only way to go. Wads of cash were normal to the point where some friends of mine used to play 'wad' each time they met - who had the thickest wad at that time. The rest of us, though, would use cash for up to and over 1,000 purchases, such as computers etc. It was a rule of thumb that if you were buying something amazing, you wore your worst clothes so no-one would think you had money on you.


4) Internet/Computing. How many people actually knew of this new 'information superhighway', and how many of them had even seen it? Did anyone actually have a 'net connection at home? Would secondary schools teach I.T., and did they take it seriously?

A few knew of the information superhighway, mostly those who'd been in higher education recently. A few more had seen it (I saw it for the first time in summer 1994, when a new friend showed me the internet, taught me about smileys and acronyms and how not to type in all-caps). A few people had 'net connections at home, mostly dial-up modems paid for by the minute, and mostly hobbyists and IT professionals. Some secondary schools taught I.T. and took it seriously, but some (like mine) didn't. My secondary school had a computer room full of Acorn Archimedes, and a library with a couple of Windows PCs, and a few old BBC Micros kicking around. When I went to sixth form in town, I was doing an A-level in Computing; there was a computer room of PCs and a library with more PCs, and computers were being taken seriously. AFAIK a full-time permanent connection was almost completely a feature of the major universities at that point.


5) Sky / Cable TV. How many people had it? Was it expensive? And was there actually anything worth watching on them?

Quite a lot of people had Sky. Cable was rolling out in my area - they got to my village about that time, and villages closer to town got cable earlier. I was near Cambridge, though, so the area was probably early adopting. Sky and Cable had some interesting stuff among all the boring sports; MTV at the very least, and I'm tempted to say Discovery. Mostly it had more than four channels, which was sheer bliss. A steerable satellite dish was a really upmarket item but actually owning one was perceived to be worse than common, because you must have wanted to pick up European satellites and that meant porn.

Other stuff - 3.5" floppies were standard but 5.25" discs were still common. Laserprinters existed but were hideously expensive; dot matrix was about as fast as it'd ever get and on the way out; inkjet and bubblejet were up-and-coming. A gigabyte of hard drive space was on the horizon but laughable because no-one would ever use that much, and 4meg of RAM was huge amounts.

shaldna
04-08-2014, 04:33 PM
I'm writing a YA novel set in the UK Home Counties in 1994, and am trying to get the technology level right - no so much the tech itself, but how far it had got into everyday life. My main questions are...

1) Mobile Phones / Car Phones. How much of a status symbol were they? Could they hold numbers in them? Battery life? And was the network coverage as bad as the old jokes made it out to be?

It was the late 90's before they really took off here. I got mine in 98/99 and I still have the same number now. :) They were clumsy things, call and text. Network coverage depended on where you lived and what the weather was like.


2) Pagers. How often were they used, outside of a hospital? Could they receive basic text messages, or was it simply of 'call XXXX' type?

I knew a few people who had one, but not many. Don't really know how they worked to be honest.



3) Banking. How often did people use ATM's, and how many of them were about? Or did most people get their money through the cashier inside? How many people had credit cards? Oh, and how suspicious was wads of cash - like buying a used car with a couple of inches worth of tenners?

ATMs were common enough, and that's how most people got their cash. Although depending on the type of account you had you might have had to go into the bank - ie. if you had a savings account rather than a current account you would have to go in, fill out a form and get your money from the cashier. Some people still prefer to do that rather than use the ATM. Also, you were pretty restricted on how much money you could lift on one day. At about that time the daily limit on my account was something like 50


rnet/Computing. How many people actually knew of this new 'information superhighway', and how many of them had even seen it? Did anyone actually have a 'net connection at home? Would secondary schools teach I.T., and did they take it seriously?

We took IT in school. It was a proper subject, but it focused more on typing (Mavis Beacon) and how to use a computer rather than internet. But that changed very quickly, and by about 97 or so it was pretty common and a lot of folk were getting their own computers. Internet was dial up and very slow, and the things you could do were pretty limited. Our home PC at aboutt time cost 1200 (which was a huge amount of money) and had 500MB harddrive. Yep. MB. :) Everything was saved on floppy disks, which often failed. The internet wasn't really taught to us in 94 (I was first year at school at that time) but by about 4th year we were learning a lot about it and how to abuse it - mostly to play games on. Everything seemed to happen very quickly over those couple of years in terms of strides in technology.


Sky/ Cable TV. How many people had it? Was it expensive? And was there actually anything worth watching on them?

We got sky in about 95/96. It was pretty expensive comparatively speaking, and it was a pretty big deal. Not everyone had it, it wasn't common, but it wasn't unheard of.


Thanks in advance - oh, and mention any tech of the era that I've missed out!

Word processors were still a big thing, and a lot of folks had computers like an Amiga on which you could type and play games - all loaded via floppy disk.

Walkmans were out and portable CD players were in.

Helix
04-08-2014, 04:39 PM
This is an interesting thread.

I was just wondering at the 500MB hard drive thinking it must be kB, but of course they were multi-megabyte drives in the 90s. I seem to have mentally skipped about 30 years of computing.

(I learned programming on punchtape in the..er...70s)

shaldna
04-08-2014, 04:44 PM
A couple inches of tenners is a few hundred pounds, at best.


I think a couple of inches of tenners might be more than that. Maybe a grand or two.

JimmyB27
04-08-2014, 05:18 PM
A couple inches of tenners is a few hundred pounds, at best.


I think a couple of inches of tenners might be more than that. Maybe a grand or two.

I make it about 4600.
Two inches = 50.8mm
According to this (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_thickness_of_a_Bank_of_England_Ten_Pou nd_note?#slide=3), a tenner is 0.11mm thick.
So your two inches is around about 460 notes, times ten = 4600.

I was 12/13 in 1994, so I obviously didn't have a credit card. I don't think I knew anyone who had a mobile or a pager either.
I think I was still on the Amiga at this time, so the Internet was well out for me, though we did get it a little while before I started university in '99.
My mate had Sky, and we used to go round his for the football, and to try and get away with watching late night mucky German channels (What!? I did say I was 13!).

Mr Flibble
04-08-2014, 08:00 PM
I make it about 4600.
Two inches = 50.8mm
According to this (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_thickness_of_a_Bank_of_England_Ten_Pou nd_note?#slide=3), a tenner is 0.11mm thick.
So your two inches is around about 460 notes, times ten = 4600..

New notes from the bank, all banded up, possibly about that, yes. (it is quite a lot less when they get all crumpled etc -- when I'm counting cash at work, it's about an inch a grand in tenners.)


Quite a lot of people had Sky. Cable was rolling out in my area - they got to my village about that time, and villages closer to town got cable earlier.

We still don't have cable. The council got all snotty about digging up roads or something (especially the next road over, which as it was a depot during the war, apparently has tank traps (http://s0.geograph.org.uk/geophotos/01/90/87/1908704_7df64aef.jpg) underneath it! Which would make things difficult/expensive) so it's Sky or nowt in town, though some of the villages have cable.

Torgo
04-08-2014, 08:23 PM
1) I was starting my sixth-form in 1994, and GSM mobile networks had been up for a couple of years. Some of my friends already had mobiles - I think they became ubiquitous between 94 and 98 or so. Car phones had already sort of disappeared in favour of untethered mobiles. I think you could say mobiles were still a status symbol, but they were becoming everyday items. They all held numbers, yes, the battery life was way better than smartphones of today, and the network coverage was OK in London at least.

2) I had a pager way before I had a mobile - it was what I took up to university with me in 96-7. It was a much cheaper alternative to a mobile for a lot of people. I remember being able to send text messages?

3) ATMs were entirely a thing back then, yes. Wodges of tenners weren't immediately suspicious, although the only thing I would use wodges of tenners for in my late-90s sixth-form/student days was for buying drugs. We had debit cards (but dealers didn't take them...)

4) I was on Compuserve back then, posting embarrassing teenage poetry to newsgroups. The web existed, but not broadband - I had a 14.4k modem, so pages were slow, ugly, and multimedia content was more hassle than it was worth. Search engines were rubbish (God bless Google.) When I was at school we had computer classes which meant learning to program simple BASIC programs or maybe spreadsheets.

5) Satellite TV was a thing - BSkyB existed in 1994, doing a lot of Premiership football. I think we might have had it around that time, for the cricket? Cable seemed to come later, as it involved a lot of cabling.

ClareGreen
04-09-2014, 12:22 PM
Oh god, newsgroups. I used to RP via newsgroup. You had to wait a week for your message to propagate out and the replies to come back, and even then there'd be other replies arriving a day or two after that week was up. Even ten days wasn't a safe bet.

KarmaPolice
04-12-2014, 10:42 AM
Thanks for all your help, people.

It seems I got the basics right, though had forgotten about a few things (such as Sunday Trading). Mainly off on the computer thing, though; the school I went to didn't do it well at all (our first four IT lessons didn't even feature a computer, for example). Didn't realise they were so common in homes either - we didn't get one until '98, and the only other ones I saw at friends houses were like old Amigas and Commodores. I think it would be a little of a laugh to have the MC pretty good with IT from school... but she'd been taught on Amstrads or the like.

Bolero
04-12-2014, 08:48 PM
With Amstrads, remember the screen was light green on dark green/black.

Los Pollos Hermanos
04-12-2014, 09:18 PM
Another couple of things you might want to consider are Top 40 music (or maybe less mainstream, depending on your characters) and fashion. There's plenty of stuff out there on google.

I've never been a slave to the Top 40 and, if I recall correctly, The Smiths were my favourite band back then.

As for my wardrobe, although most of my purchases were from the High Street I never went for the fashion victim look.

Los Pollos Hermanos
04-14-2014, 03:32 AM
A friend of mine put this link on Facebook:

http://metro.co.uk/2014/04/13/nine-things-the-kids-of-today-will-never-understand-about-britpop-4696887/

I could never be arsed with the whole Oasis vs. Blur thing though!