Diary of a self-isolator: WTF would we have done without the internet?

When I hear people bitch and moan about being under lockdown due to coronavirus/Covid19, I think back to my dim and distant youth when the internet was no more than a twinkle in Tim Berners-Lee’s eye.

Telephone landline handsets from the 1960s and 1970s – now museum pieces as you can see.

Earlier incarnations had been trialled but mostly had hissy fits and blew up once someone actually input a little bit of content. It was only when Tim Berners-Price took hold of it all in around 1990 that they managed to make it work. As we know, that revolutionised everything. And even better, it can’t catch COVID-19.

Imagine,” I say helpfully between their bitchings and moanings, “what lockdown would have been like if we didn’t have the WWW?

No Facebook.
No LinkedIn.
No Twitter.
No Instagram.
No WhatsApp.
No AnyOtherPlatforms.
No Email.

No Zoom or Skype.
No Grocery ordering online.

No Click & Collect.
No Amazon.
No Pizza Delivery.
No Netflix.

You would have had a few channels of TV. (One way communication only.)

Radio. (One way communication only.)

Newspapers (remember them? One way communication only.)

Your only way of remote two-way communication with others, and only one at a time unless you had a “party line” in the 1960s, was the good old telephone…

And it gets worse.

Most telephones in the 1960s and 1970s days were attached to the wall with a cord. You couldn’t walk around with them.

NB: mobile phones first hit the UK in the mid 1980s with “car phones” bolted to your dashboard linked by cable to a box the size of a doorstep screwed into the boot/trunk of your car.

The first “transportables” appeared shortly after and were basically that doorstep-like box in a suitcase with a handset wired up to it. You needed pretty powerful biceps to even lift it off the ground, but at least it wasn’t bolted into your car.

One of these broke my big toe.

Then came the “hand portables” which were the size, and weight, of bricks. I dropped my Motorola on my foot once and it broke my big toe.

And all you could use them for was to make calls and eventually send very weird texts, IF you could get a signal which was tricky unless you were within a mile of a motorway /multilane highway.

In most homes back in the 1960s and early 1970s though, there was only one landline handset, usually fixed in the hallway which wasn’t heated. If in winter you wanted a long chat with your friends you’d need to wear a coat and boots to avoid freezing while you sat on the bottom the staircase.

If you wanted to order groceries, you’d use the telephone to call local shops – if they ran a delivery service. Many didn’t. Supermarkets – few though there were in England in the 1960s – certainly didn’t.

Your employer would not have been able to send you to work from home, so you probably would have lost your job. None of this namby-pamby “furloughing.”

Transferring your business online would have been more like putting it “on the breadline.” There was no line on which to put it, other than a telephone line. Ergo, no business.

Still bitching and moaning?

I hope not! Having said that … what do you miss most about the current enforced lockdown? Please share your views…





  1. Measles (3-day, 9-day), mumps, chicken pox, thrush, whooping cough – all referred to back then as “childhood diseases” – did not require quarantines, only common sense. Unless you were plainly symptomatic, you went about life as normal. TVs were luxuries (only one, in the living room, for the whole family); nobody had one in the bedroom. Neighbors still went to the house with the TV (usually one per suburban street) to watch the news, followed by two 15-minute soap operas, returning home at 1:00p. Other than that, radio, of course. Newspapers, magazines, catalogs, books and even junk mail, were eagerly awaited. The patient also got coloring books.