Lockdown like it's 1981

The last year has had plenty of challenges for us all. But one of the many heroes to emerge from the pandemic has to be technology. 2021 marks 40 years since Ten-25 was founded and that got us thinking – what would lockdown have been like back in 1981, without all the technological wizardry we have readily available today?

Many of you will remember it first-hand of course, but for those of you born significantly later, it’s probably hard to imagine. Back when the charts were full of acts like REO Speedwagon, John Lennon, Dolly Parton and Kool & the Gang; when UK TV had just three channels, and when the founders of Netflix were only just old enough to legally order a beer in a bar and hadn’t even dreamed of an on-demand streaming service.

So take a moment to think about how the pandemic might have been without a lot of the technologies we take for granted these days.

The internet

1981 was the first year that the word “internet” was used – but it didn’t really exist in any meaningful sense. For context, this was the year Post-it notes were invented – so we were some way off smartphones and laptops for all! IBM released its first ever PC, and Microsoft launched Ms-DOS. The world wide web didn’t take shape until 1989/90 and was a far cry from the internet we’re all familiar with today.

So people used books to get information. They went to libraries to research subjects. Radio and newspapers were the primary sources of current affairs information about the wider world, as well as what was included in the scheduled news programmes on television (for those who had them. The pace of information spread was slower, and very few people had any kind of platform from which to express their personal views.


Given the prevalence of smartphones these days it’s easy to forget how it used to be. Today’s youngsters stare in horror as we talk about sharing the only phone in the house, hard wired to a fixed point in the hallway with a dialling system that strengthened fingers and patience levels alike. There was no text messaging, no WhatsApp, no Zoom or MS Teams. Communication was slow, structured and much rarer than it is today.

Imagine – or remember - the only connection with the outside world being delivered by the postman each day; the only home shopping deliveries courtesy of the local milkman. No email, no Tesco van pulling up with your weekly shop, no Amazon, no Deliveroo.

Of course, some of you may be fondly remembering this as a simpler time, but when it comes to a global pandemic, it’s clear to see how the role of technology has helped life to continue with some rough semblance of normality.

Entertainment and all that jazz

With just three TV channels to choose from, live TV choices were pretty limited. Of course, there was VHS, the radio, cassette tapes, books and newspapers, as well as good old-fashioned conversation and the odd board game. Compare gaming on the Atari or Sega with a PS5, Xbox or Nintendo Switch and you’ll instantly see the leaps and bounds taken in the last 40 years.

Where these days the options available can at times feel overwhelming, as we truly are spoiled for choice, in 1981 things were very different. Add into the mix the opportunities for education, fitness, skills-enhancing, self-improvement and general social interaction, and the rift between the two eras starts to feel like a lot more than 40 years.

So what can we take from all this?

The world has changed a lot in the last 40 years – in some ways for the better, in some ways for the worse. It’s easy to see the negatives of technology – instant communication can have its downsides and pressures, while many parents out there may well bewail the advent of wall-to-wall gaming and social media. Yes, the wealth of choice can be overwhelming, and the idea of 24/7 connectivity can have its disadvantages, particularly for mental health and time management. We all need to have boundaries and limits when it comes to being online of course – but the potential and freedom technology has enabled really is astonishing.

Imagine how the pandemic would have affected you if we only had 1981’s technological capacity. How would businesses have carried on? Could remote working have been feasible? And without the internet, how would information have been shared?

We are very proud to have been producing cutting-edge technology tools for our customers throughout those 40 years, and are constantly amazed at the incredible advances that science and technology have to offer. We believe that technology is an enormously powerful tool that can help our customers to build better business, better working relationships and better practices for sustainable growth.

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