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Ten Things You'll Only Get if You Were a 50's Kid

Andrew Hickey writes about SF, comics, 1960s pop music, and British politics for a devoted audience of dozens on his blog at andrewhickey.info and as part of the Mindless Ones comic-blogging collective. His first novel, Head of State, part of the Doctor Who spinoff series Faction Paradox, was published by Obverse Books in August.

1) Upload Glitches
Remember these? Back in 2052, when people were first starting to upload themselves, you'd get glitches in the process. These days, of course, malformed data is a fashion statement, and people deliberately disable their checksums in order to produce that cool stuttery effect, but back then it happened by accident!
People even sued over it--saying that by corrupting their personal data, the uploading app had infringed their right to personal integrity!
Twenty years on, and it's hard to see what the fuss was about.
2) Feet
It's hard to believe it now, but back in the 2050's there was a massive fad for having feet. These were weird knobbly things that stuck out of the bottom of people, and they were considered so important that you'd even buy special feet-coverings, called "shoes." Some people had as many as five "shoes!" There were whole special buildings that you'd go into, called "shoe shops," just to get coverings for your feet!
But that's not all. As well as shoes there were a whole range of other accessories for feet--nail varnish (a special paint for changing their color), odor eaters (for changing their smell), and more. For a while there, everyone had feet, but now no one even talks about them. Bring back feet, we say!
3) This guy
Recognize him? That's Tom Wyndham. Or Tom Windbag, as everyone called him. He was all over the news in 2051, telling us all that nanomachines were about to turn the world into grey goo, and the only way we could escape would be to upload ourselves. Remember the comedy song Tom's Talking (But We're Not Listening)?
4) The games
Football (those "feet" again!), baseball, catch, Grand Theft Auto XXVI, sex... 50's kids had all the best games. Yes, they relied on only six senses, and at a low bandwidth, but that just meant that the gameplay had to be better and more imaginative. Games these days are far more immersive, but just not as fun as those old simple games.
5) Unhappiness
Remember being unhappy? Kids growing up today don't know about unhappiness, but 50s kids can remember when things used to happen that you didn't want, and there was no "undo" option, and you couldn't even rewrite your own personality so you wanted the thing that had happened.
Back then, we had unhappiness, where liquid would come out of your eyes (remember eyes?) and when people said things like "Australia's been completely destroyed by the nanomachines" you'd have emotions you didn't want to experience, and feel "sad" that there were no more kangaroos (remember kangaroos?).
Nowadays, of course, we have much better emotions, like loyalty to the control algorithm, but some of us still remember what it was like to be sad. 70's kids just don't know what they're missing!
6) Googel
Back in the 50's, your mum would smear you all over with googel before you went to school every day, to protect you against the nanomachines. If you smeared it thick enough, it was supposed to interfere with their connections to their command and control systems, and stop them from assimilating you.
Of course, it was later proved that it didn't work, and that it was just petroleum jelly stuck in new jars, but by then the owner of the company had fallen victim to the grey goo himself, so there wasn't much point being upset about it.
7) Talking
Back in the 50's, people were still individuals, rather than being interconnected. You had to make sounds if you wanted to communicate information to them--making a sort of code that they had to interpret. Remember these? "Hi," "Good morning," "watch out for the nanites!" "What's for tea?" Only 50's kids can remember the thrill of making words with mouths.
8) Old people
Remember these? There were people whose existence had lasted more than thirty years! Of course, that was before we invented self-spawning competitive algorithms, so you could still outcompete younger people even when you were that old, because your mental functions hadn't been rendered obsolete by the younger models. The new 70's kids won't have the experience of knowing someone older than them who cares about them, rather than seeing them as an existential threat that must be eliminated.
9) Hope
Remember back before the prediction systems were in place? Back then, believe it or not, people didn't know the future! They actually had to "guess" what would happen to them, and things like what work they would do, or how long they would live, were just not known! Back then, there was this thing called "hope," where you'd think of a bad thing that was going to happen in the future and say "Well, that might not happen," and that would make you feel good. How mental is that?!
10) The mulletache
Remember these? Mullets, but with huge sideburns leading to handlebar moustaches? What were we thinking?!
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

Author Comments

This one came to me more quickly than much of my fiction. My first novel is an epistolary novel, and I was thinking of how that form can be adapted to the new forms of writing springing up, and to a future in which letters will be unknown, and 2,000 words is a "long read." In an SFnal future, perhaps the epistolary novel will be replaced by the clickbait short story.

- Andrew Peter Hickey
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