It was good enough for Matthew Broderick

December 28, 1988


It amazes me how many things have changed in the seemingly short time I’ve been drawing Arlo & Janis. By “things,” I literally mean things. In 1985, computer screens were black with green type. Or maybe orange. And if you wanted an image, you had to be creative enough to assemble it from type font, of which there was only one available. And computers had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with drawing comic strips. So much has changed. Telephones, television sets as well as television programming, music delivery, even appliances. The common denominator, of course, is the microchip, but it has touched almost everything in daily life. Not to mention, there are myriad things common now that did even exist 35 years ago. Now, you can spend the rest of the day discussing how primitive technology was when you got started. You’re welcome.


44 thoughts on “It was good enough for Matthew Broderick”

  1. Ok, I’ll byte…
    When I first started work in 1973, our computer center got some 50 megabyte hard drives and they were the size of dishwashers. Nowadays, your phone has a 1000 times that memory.

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  2. When I was growing up, I spoke about how transistors had made things smaller and how satellites made TV and phone calls around the world possible. Then came cable TV and VCRs, in the late 70’s and things started to change. I remember being fascinated by a fax machine for the first time in 1984 (It was about the size of a washing machine). Or a CD player that would play music and be so superior to vinyl records. Today kids think vinyl is better!

    Little did I know that by the mid-nineties, cell phones, computers and the internet would absolutely change the world. If you add digital cameras and everything above combined into a black rectangle (See A&J’s strip last week) and WOW! My Mom died suddenly in 1984 and would have loved email has she would type out 4-5 letters every Sunday. Today she need only hit “CC” or post on Facebook.

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    • Haha, I still own not one but two VHS players, and a bunch of videotapes that are waiting to get converted into 0s and 1s…just this year I digitalized my wedding video as an anniversary gift to my wife… She loved it, and I was relieved that the risk of losing it has greatly reduced.

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      • I hope you mean “digitized” as in “put on a DVD”, so you only have to worry about the format becoming obsolete. The archivist’s mantra is “If it’s not eye-readable, it’s not preserved”. Digital files are absolute worst way to store anything you want to save for a long time,

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  3. Memory systems went from huge open tape reels to large floppy disks, then smaller floppies. Onward to CD-R, then DVD-R, then flash drives. Next came Sim cards smaller than a postage stamp with capacity now into the Terabyte range. And I don’t even know how much that is!

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    • My computer in college was a CP/M ‘portable’ machine with a built in 4 or 5 ” orange monitor and no memory storage device. It used two 5.25 floppies, one for your program and one to store your output. It could, however, run off of the 12VDC cigarette lighter in my truck.
      My first tech job after college I worked with reel-reel and 8″ floppy discs for data storage. My job was to actually bring those analog and early digital systems into the ‘modern’ era.

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  4. I looked with amusement at some A&J cartoons emphasizing straps which Janis, et al., wouldn’t dare show. Specifically, the drawings of Jan. 8, 2018 and of Nov. 4, 2010 are referenced.
    In contrast, I am sufficiently aged to remember the girls in my grade school classes (say, 4th, 5th, 6th grades) wearing extremely sheer blouses which allowed easy viewing of four straps for each gal. It was the prevalent style and no one thought ill of it. I sat behind one such female and read her size tag [32] every day until the class shuffled seats. (I never figured out why a teacher would decide to change the seating assignments. Our seats/desks were bolted to the floor, so the overall arrangement did not change, merely who occupied which seat was altered.)
    The above was in New York City ca. 1950.

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  5. My college roommate ‘68-72 spent many hours in Parker Hall (War Eagle) punching cards and running programs for computer science classes. I think the computer took up the whole bottom floor .

    Those used punch cards were useful to elementary school teachers to make flash cards!

    Major advance was Apple II e in our classrooms. Oregon Trail shaped many a 5th grade life and introduced computer use. 1 computer per classroom, sign up for your turn to use.

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  6. I remember COBOL programs that did nothing but print out multi-page ASCII art images. They were amazing to me! The best ones were pictures of girls, of course — men were the ones doing them. Women, if they had access to the computers, didn’t dare use their time on such things.

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  7. I’m old enough that the first personal computer my parents bought was a TRS-80 running the CPM operating system. When we finally switched to IBM (something that had games available!) you had one or two floppy drives (when disks actually were floppy!), no hard drive, DOS with no Windows yet, and still a few years off from dial-in Bulletin Boards (BBS) and services like AOL and Compuserv. Even VGA graphics was cutting edge, most was still EGA or CGA. USB and Plug & Play was ages away, to add a peripheral you had to configure things like COM ports, LPT ports, IRQ interrupts, config.sys and autoexec.bat.

    (Last year I bought a t-shirt depicting a flying rodent as the CEO of a car dealership, captioned “autoexec.bat”. I doubt anybody who could possibly see me wear it will get the joke. Even at the time you had to be a computer nerd to know what it was.)

    Kids growing up today won’t even know what a cathode ray tube display looked like.

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  8. And I have to add (and I might as well since my prior comment about our group apparently being highly predictable doesn’t seem to have posted) that I love the expession on Gene’s face in these. It’s so *exactly* the disdainful, put-upon look of a kid on “substandard” tech due to a “dorky” parent’s inability to get with the program. I would think expression would be one of the hardest things to depict in a cartoon, but Arlo & Janis hits it every single time.

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  9. I’m just going to comment on how much I’m enjoying the Indiana Jones tribute running in this week’s live strip. And……It’s not just that things have changed dramatically over the past 30 years. It’s how dramatically things have changed just within the PAST COUPLE OF YEARS! Who can keep up??!!

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    • According to Wikipedia “The first printed newspapers were published weekly in Germany in 1609.” One would have to think that the technology for print news has pretty well “matured” by now. The wonder is probably not that daily/weekly print news publishing companies are struggling, but that they still exist at all.
      At one point in a Robert A. Heinlein novel, written in 1951 but set in 2007, the protagonist puts money in a newspaper dispenser on the street and waits momentarily while it prints him an up-to-date issue. I suppose it was reasonable for RAH to assume publishing technology would have advanced that far in 400 years. Which it did in a way, except computers and smart phones took the place of the printed paper part. Today, the hero wouldn’t have had to stop and get out of his flying car to read the latest news. Wait, what?

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  10. In 1983 I became the first computerized florist in Texas. Unfortunately we had no one to communicate with. It did make billing easier and faster.

    It was primative of course and outrageously expensive.

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  11. My first year with government I had out $7 million with a yellow lead pencil and a ballpoint pen on scratch paper. We didn’t even have calculators. We did our own math, another person checked it and check was cut.

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  12. Lengthy ’30s observations just left for cyberspace. You’ve seen some before. The only electricity needed in an office was lighting. NYC milkman delivered a qt of pasteurized [homogenize was ’40s, I think], often from a horse-drawn wagon. We were in a 5-story walkup. Better send this before another cyber attack.
    Peace,

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  13. Well, I see The Weather Channel (and likely other outlets) are continuing to let/require their on-the-scene hurricane reporters to stand out in the wind and the rain to report that it’s windy and raining. Someone’s gonna get an eye put out…or worse. I’m still not clear on what, if anything, the rationale is for that.

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    • I think it’s a live action version of those “Weather Rocks” you see in souvenir shops. You know the ones I mean, with the little signs saying “If it’s wet, it’s raining”, etc.

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  14. I was in the printing industry for over 40 years. During that 40 years more change happened than in all the years since the printing of the bible by Gutenberg. We went from camera color separations that required real skill to make to placing a photo in a graphics program and sending the file to an imagesetter that imaged the photo in place on the plate and in perfect register. The skills of a whole set of people were removed from the process by that alone. I had a ob I did for a number of years that required a day to lay out, a day to shoot films, a day to make plates and then it went to press. Contrast that with what it was before I retired, I got the file by email, I sent it to the RIP, (Think glorified printer controller) imposed the pages in the RIP, sent the paged file to the platesetter and was on press in less than 4 hours. That is just 1 industries changes.

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    • Dennis, I remember making those color separations when I worked as an illustrator in the mid-70s. Sometimes I simply reflect, with a kind of wonder, on all the materials we used to use then that are undoubtedly gone now. I mean: rubylith. Remember that?

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  15. Betamax, Ghost? I worked for a public access tv station for a bit in high school. Their videotape was the 1-inch open reel type. If you wanted to edit a story you had to cut out what you didn’t need and splice it back together with a special tape. I also remember the first portable home video system was the quarter-inch recording system Akai came out with in the middle 1970’s. I really wanted one of those, but never got one. Oh, and the tv cameras that station used had the vidicon (think that’s the spelling) tubes that would burn out if you pointed them at a bright light. Even someone striking a match in front of one would burn out the tube. https://obsoletemedia.org/video/

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  16. I see the “Adventures of Indiana Arlo” are continuing. I wonder how long before he starts imagining Janis in costume. Perhaps Princess Leia’s metal bikini. Oh wait…wrong film franchise. Of course, it’s Arlo’s fantasy, so…

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  17. I have my own Mr. Lizard now. Last night I went to set up my coffee maker for this morning and noticed a yellow streak on the wall over the kitchen sink. When I bent over to look at it, it ran down to the countertop and vanished. It didn’t look like any of the locals so I Googled for geckos in Oklahoma and found that the Mediterranean house gecko has established itself in Texas and is moving into Oklahoma. So, I have a natural pest control assistant. Cool, I like lizards and snakes, but deliver me from spiders and rats.

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  18. Disappointed I missed the “back when” discussions yesterday! 🙂 I’ve probably done enough of that already… but:
    .
    I was one of those early geeks that used a Timex-Sinclair computer to write BASIC programs that saved data to a cassette tape recorder. My wife’s father was a tech-type and a college professor. He had one of the early Apple computers. before it was even the Apple II. I took a programming class that used punched cards to write in BASIC, but I also helped my to-be wife write her assembly language programs. Later, things switched to Fortran and Cobol. I was online with Compuserve, Prodigy, and FidoNet before the Internet was public. I built my own suitcase “portable” with various components before Michael Dell did– unfortunately, I didn’t have the foresight to sell them. That was while I was still working for Uncle Sam in uniform. We did have the only infantry battalion headquarters with computerized training and readiness records on Fort Riley. That was back in the data before Microsoft Office existed. Word Perfect, Lotus 1-2-3, and dBase (with the dBase compatible Clipper to create stand-alone database applications) were the business applications of choice. “Things” have changed a lot in the past 40 years!
    .
    😀

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    • Did anyone here ever play Zork?
      .
      You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
      There is a small mailbox here.
      >_
      .
      “It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.”

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  19. My first job after college was in a hospital, Each floor had one copier and it was the size of a chest type freezer. If you treated it just right you could get a (one) copy before it jammed. My supervisor had a hand held calculator, He was the only guy that could afford one. Pay tv? Where do you put the quarters? Good news-the car came in and it’s beautiful. Bad news-I fell and broke a rib so it may be a while before I drive it.

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  20. LOVED Zork! I am not very good at arcade type games that require speed and hand-eye coordination, but I am not bad at solving puzzles. So Zork was lots of fun. One of the games, with a robot, always cracked me up. Whenever you saved, the robot would quip “Oh, now we’re going to do something dangerous!”
    Then along came the Sierra games that were so full of color and not too hard on the arcade style play. I really liked the Zelda games, too, but had to have help from my son to take out the Boss characters.

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  21. I am lost in the jungle of jargon swirling through the memory mist.

    However I did correctly anticipate/guess what Arlo/Indie would find. Since the plane departed it probably is the end. Bravo Jimmy it was a good one with great art work carrying the story.

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