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5 Things We Did Before Smartphones

Remember what it was like to wonder about something and have to wait to find the answer? Or what it was like to read the morning newspaper? If you came of age after the late 2000s, you likely don’t know. Life before smartphones required more patience and legwork to get things done. Let’s look at a few things we had to do before smartphones connected us to everything all the time. 

#1- We had printed maps

Today to go somewhere new, you punch in the address to your maps app. Twenty years ago, you dug out the paper maps and planned your route before leaving. If you traveled a lot, your glovebox and seat pockets would be stuffed with folded maps and atlases. Trips anywhere new always required more pre-planning than how we prepare for travel today. 

For a brief period before smartphones, we had a time when we could type an address into a computer and print the directions. However, this still required more pre-planning than it does today, because the MapQuest directions weren’t always accurate.


#2- You kept an address book

Before smartphones, we knew phone numbers. We didn’t have the ability to ask our phone, “Call Mom.” Instead, we punched in her number from memory. We memorized frequent numbers. For received calls, no caller ID instantly popped up with their name. Some people knew where the person was calling from based on the number’s area code and first three digits.

For numbers we didn’t call that often, we had a paper address book! Some of us had a Rolodex on our desk. A Rolodex is a rotating file device that stores business cards and contact information. You would spin it until you reached the person or business needed. 


#3- You read a newspaper or watched the news

What was life like before our phones buzzed with up-to-the-minute alerts about what’s happening in the world? 

We had to read about events in the morning newspaper. It seems antiquated now to sit around the breakfast table reading the daily news, but that’s what people did. If we wanted a more updated version of what happened that day, we also tuned into the evening news. There was no ability to look up what is going on in the world at your convenience. 


#4- Carried around extra electronics

Smartphones’ ability to serve as an all-in-one device makes life more convenient. Before we had them, we had to carry around extra devices. We had a separate digital camera for taking pictures, MP3s for playing music, and GPS devices for navigation. 

Even when we had cell phones, we didn’t use them to check email or get on social media. For that, we had to sit down at a desktop computer. 


#5- Actually talked to people

You couldn’t send someone a text message to check in with them. You had to actually make phone calls and chat with them. We made plans to get together in person–no virtual meetings or FaceTime. Making those plans also required a phone call. If you lost touch with someone, you truly lost touch with them. There was no scouting their social media feed to see what their life was up to.



When you take a moment to reflect on how life was before smartphones, there is no doubt they have made our daily tasks more convenient. They enable us to stay always connected to the world. It’s hard to now imagine a world without their ease of navigation, ability to answer questions, and access to entertainment. Is there anything you miss about life before smartphones? 



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