To have a telephone in your hotel room was once such a novelty that hotels marketed themselves with this as their main attraction. Nowadays, the cool, modern trend is for your hotel to boast that it doesn’t have a phone in every room. It doesn’t have a phone in any room.
Waiting by the door for important news to arrive? The first post would tip through the letterbox early in the morning. Important news not there? Then you would wait patiently for the second post to occur, and that would happen somewhere between midday and 2pm.
You could put these on the till in your shop to show that you accepted the daringly modern devices known as credit cards. Today, it’s more usual for merchants to put out signs when they don’t take them.
For more than a century, telegrams brought urgent messages: bad news, congratulations at weddings, and announcements of new babies. Telegraph operators transmitted messages over wires by Morse code; these were printed out and hand-delivered by a messenger, often on a bicycle. Not exactly instant, then, but effective.
The announcer would say something sober and sombre, such as, “We are sorry to interrupt this programme, but…” Then a pause, giving you enough time and enough cold, creeping dread to wonder if the nation had declared war, a tsunami was about to reach your house, or we were about to hear the four-minute warning.
Teletext was like an incredibly arthritic internet. But, when you didn’t have any internet at all, and hadn’t even imagined one, it was like lightning. Before the web, the only way to find out what was happening right now was to wait for the next TV or radio bulletin to air. But Ceefax could get there first.
What do you need to do when mutually assured destruction is heading your way? Build a fallout room. Fill the bath with water. Fire-proof everything. So what did the British government do? Send us a booklet.