SURVEY SAYS – You Don't Know How Lucky You Have It!

August 20, 2009 ( - Having just dropped a Class of 2013 daughter off at college, I found the Beloit College Mindset list, more than customarily interesting.

This week I asked readers to finish this question – addressed to the Class of 2013 – “You don’t know how lucky you have it!   When I headed off to college/work, we didn’t even have…or we had to….”  

The truth is, every generation has tools and advantages available to it that the last one didn’t – and yet, since those things have always been part of their existence, you can hardly expect them to appreciate what it was like not to have them (my kids still don’t understand what it was like to actually have to get up and turn the channel, not to mention how difficult it was to get just the right amount of tinfoil on the TV antenna).

In looking through the lists, the most common citings were computers and cellphones.   Of course, as more than one reader noted, we parents have benefited from those technologies as parents – for example, being able to keep that “tether” on our kids, to know that if they were in trouble, or running late, they could call….knowing that our kids could do their own research in their bedroom rather than having to drive them to the library…not having to type those term papers for them…

Other Comments

But before wandering into those lists, I thought I’d spend a few minutes sharing some of the “other” comments with you.   For all its advantages, there were concerns that the incoming college class might be missing out on something:

  • At least we didn’t have media overload like we do today with Twitter, Facebook, texting on cell phones…and on an on. If you didn’t get a phone call or a page, you could pretty much be left along.
  • Having all these additional things that were not around when I was in college changes the dynamics of community and communication. The kids can isolate more easily and chat electronically. Face-to-face communication, hanging around, and shared boredom provided for deep friendships. I hope that hasn’t vanished.
  • We showed up in college classes with pens and paper; a notebook was NOT an electronic device.
  • With the advent of home and hand-held entertainment systems (Wii, Playstation, Nintendo DSi, PS3) and social networks (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace) kids now have all kinds of avenues to stay disconnected from societal interaction. Cell phones are used primarily to text, listen to music or play games; heaven forbid you actually use it to talk to someone (talking on it is limited to when you’re driving a car – don’t get me started on that issue). My son’s teacher told his (7th grade) class that his generation will be the one to bring about the end of the world, because they are all “instant gratification” focused and need to be constantly entertained. I pray he’s wrong.

Among this week's responses you'll also find some interesting look backs; " The first time I saw a computer using the Windows operating system was when a professor wheeled his pc into the classroom on a cart along with an overhead projector. I joked that if his computer crashed we wouldn't be able to have class. No doubt, it happened near the end of the semester! I have no doubt if this guy is still teaching he has a Mac-daddy laptop with every bell and whistle you could ever dream of!

Good Advice

And then there was just some good advice:  

Drinking blackberry brandy the night before freshman Parents Weekend is not a recommendation I'd make (still can't stomach the stuff).   If your parents are footing the tuition bill, put in the effort you would if it was YOUR money on the line. If it's your money, don't blow it -- you're the best investment you'll ever make. And, like I tell my pre-teens before they head off for an adventure: Be good, stay safe, and have fun.

As parents (or at least post-graduates), there was a sense that we, too, had heard these tales before:

I try never to make these kinds of comments to my kids because I really used to hate it when my dad said things like this to me.

"Is anyone else out there feeling as old as I do right now? Yikes!," noted one.   Another said, "Reading the Beloit list just makes me feel old."

But this Bonus Survey Editor's Choice goes to the reader who said, "We survived and so will the members of the class of 2013."

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!

We still had to type papers on a typewriter, make edits with correction paper or fluid, and there was no spellcheck. We were graded on how well we typed almost as much as what we actually wrote back in the dark ages. If you couldn't type well, you either paid someone to do it for you, or you were screwed.

We had no Internet access, and the only public computers on campus were in a couple 'labs' full of Apple McIntosh, maybe 20 available in each lab.

. . . spending money or barely enough money for food. We had deposits back then on pop bottles and I used to snag as many as I could and turn them in for the deposit money. With this I had enough to buy a jar of peanut butter and a cheap loaf of bread. To this day I still can't eat a peanut butter sandwich.

We had to use telephones with wires that attached them to the walls. We wrote our papers on typewriters that had to be corrected with an eraser, looked up words in a dictionary to check their spelling, and start all over if the mistake was too big to erase. We had to stay in touch with out-of-town relatives and friends with words written on paper, folded neatly, placed in a device called an envelope with glue you had to lick to seal, put postage on it, and mail it. We had to cook our meals on hotplates and stoves. If we wanted popcorn, we cooked it in on the hotplate in a pan with a little hot oil on the bottom and a lid on the top. We used "address books" made of paper to keep track of our friends. You couldn't make a back-up unless you copied it on the Xerox machine, so if you lost it you would have to go out and make new friends since you couldn't find the old ones anymore. Playing games meant Monopoly or Strip Poker (way more fun in person than on the computer). Remote control TV was getting someone else to change the channel for you. When you borrowed Dad's car you could fill the huge tank on that 4-door sedan for less than $20 - and drive forever on it. If you were female, you could expect to make 52 cents for every dollar your male counterparts did when you graduated, you could be asked if you were pregnant or planning to get pregnant in a job interview, and you could be denied a job because your husband might be transferred to another city by the company he worked for. You could also be chased around the desk by your male boss, propositioned by any male in the company on a regular basis, or asked for certain "favors" if you want a raise or promotion. The "good old days" always have a dark side.

We had to learn to type on a manual typewriter. None of this backspace correcting process. We used carbon paper and had to erase mistakes on all copies.   We had to carry change for payphones in order to make a call while away from home. When I headed off for my freshman year of college in 1983, we had to: share only TWO pay phones on our dorm floor, serving about 20 rooms (double and triple occupancy -- there we no singles!); use our portable Smith Corona electric typewriters to write our class papers (after we drafted in longhand first on lined paper); and carry around "boom boxes" if we wanted to listen to music on the go (on cassette tapes, of course). We certainly didn't have cell phones, internet (or even computers!), or iPods....(you lucky ducks!). a calculator

. ... word processors with spell check! It can take a pretty long time to produce an error-free paper/report with proper grammar and no typos using a manual typewriter. Thank God for Word! Personal computers. You had to type everything by hand and spend hours in the library to do research.

Computers We didn't have a hand held calculator. We had to use a slide rule, which I never could master. A computer was something we saw on television and it took up the whole room.

If I had only had a computer and wordprocessor, college would have been so much easier. Writing papers was such a tedious process when it had to be done long hand and then typed on a typewriter. I am sure I would be a much better writer today if I had been able to use a computer when I was in school.

go to the library and research items in "books" no internet!   Didn't have cell phones.

We had to go to a computer lab to enter the formulas for our computer programs which then spit out a 4" thick stack of hole-punched cards that we held together with rubber bands. This resulting stack of cards was our program, which was fed through the mainframe to run our report. If even one card was incorrect or out of order, the program would fail, and there were no error reports! The computer lab was so busy, we had to schedule an appt. to run our program, so you had to hold onto those card stacks until your appt. time, which was sometimes in the middle of the night! Several times a week you would see some poor student's cards scattered all over campus.

Have a department get approval before a computer could be used which is less powerful than any of the games you play. And phones were used to phone people. That means talk to them, suing real words, with sentences and punctuation and everything.

We did not have a laptop computer and PCs were rare. We had to type our papers on a typewriter.

Computers. Everything was typed on a typewriter with multiple carbon copies.

Women in pants. All women had to wear skirts or dresses. No pants at work.

Running water!!   (Editor's Note: OK, I'm guessing this one was snuck in to see if anyone was reading)

I think I had it luckier back in the day (early '80s) although we didn't have all the conveniences of today -- cell phones, texting, email/internet (facebook), etc. But, imho, these are really just electronic balls and chains if you think about it. Parents today expect to be able to reach their kids 24/7. But, that said, if I could, I would gladly trade the bulky Sony Walkman we carried around for an ipod of today. And, Google would be awesome to have for writing papers.

We didn't even have. . . unlimited long distance phone service.   We didn't even have. . . ATM machines on campus.   We didn't even have. . . supermarkets open until midnight.   We were allowed . . . four suitcases per passenger on the airplane.

. ...use a typewriter or work processor for research papers. Laptops were unheard of and a good pc was unaffordable for most families.

The wheel, fire or indoor plumbing...guess I'm feeling my age today. Laptops? Desktops? I wonder if the class of 2013 has ever seen a manual (not even electric) typewriter. Do they know what carbon paper is? My gosh, I do sound like we lived in caves back then, don't I?

We had to wear dresses or skirts and sweaters Monday through Friday. No pants allowed even in the evenings. Even in the dead of winter. And I attended a large state university.

We had to walk uphill both ways for 7 miles in 4 feet of snow while carrying all our belongings.....I sounded more like my parents there!.   But I do want to throw in the fact that if we wanted to on the internet, our computers had to be plugged in. And cell phones were merely phones so we had to find creative ways to pass 8 hr. bus rides for games by doing things like playing cards against real people! And that was when watching a poker game on TV would have been laughed at!

We had to create computer programs using IBM punch cards for computer classes. (I seemed to have a knack for dropping the entire 1-foot stack of them as I was leaving the computer lab! -- do they still have computer labs?)   Editor's note:   yes, they're called dorm rooms).

Didn't have computers or cell phones.

We didn't even have computers - at least where I worked.

Cell phones, internet, laptops, ipods, graphing calculators, CDs - it's all technology that we survived without. I can remember my parents thought it was scandalous that I had a phone (what is now known as a land line) in my dorm room. My junior year (1986) I bought a Leading Edge desktop computer with a dot matrix printer. I think it had 256 RAM; we used floppy disks in the disk drive (I think they were about 5 inches square). While writing papers on the computer, I would listen to cassette tapes. But I have programmed a computer with punch cards; the computer was bigger than my dad's Buick and needed it's own air conditioner. And phones! Anyone remember party lines and 5 digit phone numbers? I miss the Victrola - which played 78 records. Maybe there will be "technology free preserves" we can vacation in or visit? They make theme parks out of everything else.

We didn't have cheap long distance. We had to put our parents in big debt for staying in touch. The most expensive type of call was calling your old high school friends and charging it to our parents -- yikes. Now you have your new fangled cell phones with free long distance, in calling, unlimited calls, etc. It was just one more thing to worry about.

We didn't have calculators only a slide ruler to do all those math and chemistry problems.

  ... we didn't even have a computer OR cell phone!

I didn't even have a car on which I could reasonably rely. It was 1983, and I had a 1976 Mustang II. It only started on cold winter mornings if you left the batter charger on it all night, and wrapped the motor with a warm blanked. It also helped if you left a small light hanging under the hood to provide a little extra heat. (I am serious!) I just took my daughter to college with a brand new Mini Cooper - a reward her dad has always promised her if she earned a good scholarship, which she did. Really, I am just glad we were able to reward her efforts in that way.

We didn't have computers or laptops. Our papers were typed on a manual typewriter!

We did not have computers so all term papers were typed on typewriters or hand written. I had a portable model that I could fit in the back of my VW bug and use the back seat as my desk top and type papers between classes.   Since nothing was computerized, to change/add/or cancel a class you had to wait on a ridiculously long line at the bursar's office - it went up the stairs from the basement office were frantic scheduling negotiations were taking place, through a vestibule and out the door. Some people paid others to hold their spot in line so they could use the rest room or even go to class.

Sadly, even after a whole class period, the line might not have moved enough to get you into the building.

We didn't have the internet!   We had to do research in a library not on the internet! Whipper snapper!   Most of us didn't have personal computers, we used (*gasp*) typewriters!   We used to write out our 20 page papers by hand in High School!

We had to make collect calls to phone our parents once a week or so -- and had to check the mailbox every day in case there was a check from Mom and Dad (which we then had to take to the bank to deposit or cash). And the craziest thing of all is that we had to (gasp) put actual coins in the vending machines on-campus, because they hadn't yet invented those nifty debit cards that allow you to get anything you want out of the machine or at the cafeteria because mom and dad will keep that debit card stashed with cash!

Type my papers on a manual typewriter and take notes by hand.

We didn't have a computer so we had to write our papers by hand or type our papers on a manual typewriter (yes, I'll have to explain what that is) and we had to go to the library to do research.

Computers & the internet in the mid 70's. Oh how much easier that would have made life.

Virtual classrooms. E-learning opens up so many new opportunities for people to take advantage of classes!

. ...we had to know how the Dewey Decimal system worked.

We didn't have cell phones or personal computers. We actually had to go to the library and read real books for research. As freshman, we couldn't have a car on campus. Although, I believe that the partying is still the same. My first night on campus - someone OD'd, a fire was set and every floor in the elevator was always lit up. Somehow I survived.

We didn't have computers; I had to type all my papers on a manual typewriter. If you made a mistake, you had to use an eraser to correct it or start all over again. We used a slide rule for math computations.   No cellphones either, just a central phone in the dormitory hall for all to share.

Computers and Internet - all research had to be done at the library; Combo microwave/refrigerator in dorm rooms - one stove and one refrigerator in common area for 120 students, definitely not touchable after first month; Cell phones - there was one land line in each dorm room; BUT ... my parents definitely had it better than I do ... they paid my quarterly tuition of $260 for a University of California campus, now my daughter attends same campus and we pay $3,307 per quarter.

Computers to use in our dorm or class! Computers, I mean big machines, were stored in one room and I went to a big university!

I also dropped off a child (my eldest) this weekend for his first year at college. I used the line that we didn't have email/text messaging so that takes out all our old excuses for not communicating. We'll see if it works. So far - 8 text messages yesterday - but classes have not started and he is at a school where he knew no one when he arrived. But, I'm sure that Mom's cell phone number will soon be replaced by many others.

We had to call home (collect, of course) using the pay phone at the end of the hall in the dorm. There were no private phone calls unless you were fortunate enough to be fluent in a foreign language (which I wasn't).

Get off the sofa to change the TV channel -- and we only had 7 channels!

We didn't even have: computers, email, conference calls, faxmail at college, I had to: completely re-type my final thesis after getting comments from my advisor. At work, we had to: hand-write our work, which was then sent to the typing room to be typed up.

We didn't all have computers. If we wanted to type up a paper or do research, we had to go to the library and HOPE that one would be available. Sometimes we would have to wait hours to get to use one.

Live in a dorm without air theSouthwest United States . Perform all our research in a library, without a laptop, internet or computer of any kind. Perform math functions without a calculator, using your BRAIN and a pencil (now there's a novel idea). Listen to music on a radio, mostly AM tapes, CDs, much less Ipods. Wait in line to make a call home on a public cell phones. Drink soft drinks from a bottle, but only pay a dime for 12 ounces.

Only see movies at a theatre sometimes outdoors, no tape or DVDs and very few on television.

Only have access to three TV channels ABC, CBS, NBC, no cable, no ESPN, no Fox, etc.

Drink water from a tap, not a plastic bottle.

Most students had to go to the library to use a computer. Very few had their own in their dorm, it was still word processor. And that was 1993!

Two things immediately come to mind that I have spoken to my daughter I went to college with my electric typewriter....I was really lucky, most students had to use the manual ones.....typing term papers, and retyping, and retyping and there WAS NO WHITE OUT.....when WhiteOut came along, I thought I had died and gone to heaven and when lift off tape came around AND was a part of the typewriter....I knew I was in the major leagues.   CELL PHONES and the INTERNET....if you wanted to talk to a friend ANYWHERE, you paid huge sums of money in long distance phone calls.....or you...wrote a letter...what's email, no twitter, no FACEBOOK......someone find me a stamp...!!!

We didn't have cell phones. We were given a "calling card" for whenever we needed to phone home. Also, registering for classes meant standing in line for hours.

We had to pack a roll or two of quarters for the one pay phone down the hall. Oh yeah, we also needed coins to do our laundry until we learned the fork trick. And writing paper & stamps...I could go on.

We had to wear skirts on campus at all times except on weekends, even in the dead of winter when the temperature was 20 below zero.

We didn't even have a computer, cell phone, ipod, etc.....

PCs, we had to punch cards, run them through a card reader and wait till the next day to get a printout and see if our program ran or had bugs to be fixed!

We had to run our lives with only a checkbook and cash - no credit or debit cards and no meal cards (or whatever they are called) for meals at campus facilities, which by the way was limited to one student union cafe. And when we ran out of money we had to do without until the next part-time job paycheck or the next scheduled check from home. We also had to know basic math to tell where we stood in that checking account - no computers to do it for us. IT WAS VERY USEFUL TRAINING! Ought to be required even now.

Be back in our "females only" dorm by 10:00 P.M. before the doors were locked!

We had to build shelves out of cinder blocks and planks of wood. We'd steal plastic milk crates left behind the grocery store for other shelving needs. To create a favorite music playlist on cassette, it would take all day to fill a 90 minute tape.

We didn't even have laptops.

Over summer break, we actually corresponded with our friends via letters! In the mail! With stamps and everything.   Of course, I'm not convinced that today's alternatives--Facebook, Twitter, Blogging--are having it very "lucky." Our way might look dopey today, but it was nice to get those personal letters. I liked getting to know my friends' handwriting. In something that they wrote to me and me only, not to everyone on their buddy lists.

We didn't even have computers! Everything had to be typed on a typewriter or handwritten.

When I headed off to college we did not have the internet to do research. Everything was encyclopedias and microfilm in the library. Also, we did not have Microsoft excel or word and essays/compositions, etc. was still typed on a typewriter. The thing is this was only in the late 1980s/early 1990s!!!

When I headed off to college -- we got writer's cramp from furiously taking notes with pen and paper!

When I went off to college (to a Jesuit university in 1965), we had to wear jackets and ties to class, the school was single sex (visiting women weren't even allowed in the dorms), no computers or even electric typewriters, pay phones...and I could go on.

Personal Computers, Cell phones, Text Messaging, Twitter, DVDs, Broadband…We had to use pens for Pete's sake!!!

We (women) could not wear pants unless the wind chill was 5 degrees below freezing.


We didn't have a portable calculator small enough to actually carry with us to class. (And the calculator we did have only did four functions, plus maybe a square root!) We had to copy our homework assignments down in a notebook during class.   We used a hot-plate or an immersion coil to heat up food and drink in our dorms. We had to read the student newspaper to find out what events were going on at school.

When I graduated from college, students (as well as professors) could actually smoke inside in the classroom, and on my first two jobs after college (between 1981 - 1989) people could still smoke inside the building while working at their desks.

When I went to college, we had to walk all around campus. Now, they have bus service.

The kids today have a sense of entitlement...if they had to pay for their own education, cars, car insurance, food, etc., it would surely be a different outcome. Everything is handed to today's generation...they really never develop a real sense of the importance of working for or towards a goal, that they've done on their own. I think it'll be toughest for this generation when they get out of college with their degrees, and they find out that the world doesn't revolve around them...that the word "NO" does apply to them, and lots of disappointments may happen before success finds its way into their lives.

Try typing a paper when if you made a typing error, the only way to correct it was to RETYPE THAT ENTIRE PAGE OF THE DOCUMENT!

When I headed off to college we didn't even have computers. Electric typewriters were it! Nor did we have cell phones...and a letter from home with $20 was a treasure to be had!

. .....computers, the Internet or cell phones, and I had to lug a manual typewriter to college with me that must have weighed at least 35 lbs.

WE had to schlep a record player (prehistoric stereo) and pounds and pounds of vinyl off to school if we wanted any kind of musical entertainment at all.

We didn't even have equality or any pay equity. Women were routinely discriminated against in the workplace. I was always the only woman in management in my jobs in the early years. I was actually asked what my father did for a living and what I planned to do about birth control when applying for jobs even with large companies.

Cellphones! If we had car trouble we had to walk to a payphone and call AAA. My mother never let me leave for a date without a dime in my shoe in case I had to call my dad to defend my honor.

We had to use typewriters and carbon paper for papers. I suddenly feel very old!

We didn't have refrigerators in our rooms---microwaves weren't even invented for the home yet (1973), and all of our clothes fit in the tiny closet and two dresser drawers you were allotted. Girls and boys were in different buildings, and only some campuses had gone to co-ed---alternating floors with girls then boys, not the "same floor, different wing" option nowadays.

…much in the way of computers. I was lucky, my family (my mom was a teacher) had a desktop with Wordstar and a floppy drive so I did not have to type my papers on a typewriter (which I did all through high school).