Back in junior high, before computers were as ubiquitous as they are now, I took a class about how to use them. Yes, kids, there was a time when people had to be taught how to use a computer. I mean, I knew how because we were on our second computer at home (first the Timex Sinclair/ZX-Spectrum clone, and then the C64), but taking a class about it at school was like a free pass for 45 minutes. In fact, we might have known more than the teacher, as these things seem to play out, and in all honesty we were pretty disrespectful of his authority. We spent a lot of time taking the computers apart (Ye Olde Apple IIe), and we occasionally raided the teacher’s desk, knowing he had some games in there…games like The Hobbit that GrilledCheese28 mentions above.
I remember that we didn’t get very far in this game which in some ways I blame on not being familiar with the story of The Hobbit. I further remember that rather than reading the damn book (which I admit I never did until maybe 20 years ago), I got what little knowledge I had from the LP narrative that I owned.
Remembering this just threw me down a memory rabbit hole and left me sad.
It is really difficult to imagine a time when the kinds of things we have at arms reach today were totally not a thing not that long ago. This LP was one of those things, but I also remember sitting in the hallway near the stereo like some goddamn post-Depression Ralphie listening to Star Wars “radio play” that was being broadcast — for free — on an actual radio station.
Right now, I don’t remember how we even found out about it. For TV, we had the “TV Guide” because there was no on-screen listing and the notion of “channel surfing” meant that we had to sit by the TV and rotate the damn dial manually like savages. We didn’t have any guide for radio, and I suspect that the Star Wars event was probably broadcast on some obscure, non-mainstream, NPR-like station (Edit: It was NPR). We might have actually gotten the heads up from the library, which we frequented not only to take out books, but also to take out Atari 2600 cartridges (in little plastic bags with white snap-close hooks, complete with manual if the previous caretakers hadn’t fucking lost it).
Anyway, the closest analogue we have today, I suppose, are podcasts like that “true crime” one floating around a few years ago that had seemingly everyone hooked. As cool as that is, it’s really nowhere near the same. Podcasts are easy to find because we end up hearing about them through friends of friends who saw it on Twitter where it was reposted from Facebook where someone posted about it because they saw it mentioned while falling into a YouTube pit. This was literally one of thousands of podcasts, ranging from “a bunch of people giggling over in-jokes for an interminable hour and a half” to “higher production value than the cost of my house” affairs. The discovery of a single podcast doesn’t seem to stack up to the idea of having that intimate, scheduled time with the radio listening to something you had the good fortune to discover, knowing that this is the only time you’ll hear it (maybe once again at the end of the week, but never again).
I’m sure that Star Wars radio drama is out there somewhere now, though, the Internet being what it is.