Opinions and Rants #43: 15 Ways Life Has Changed Since the 1970s

I know the youngsters out there will roll their eyes at this post, but it has to be said.  Things are markedly different from back in the 70s (and, to be honest, the 1980s as well).  I could easily make this a top 1,000 list and only scratch the surface, things have changed so much; however, we'll keep it  short and sweet, and in no particular order.  So, here goes...

1. Activism

We all have our opinions, but there's a deep and abiding reality that they don't really matter anymore.  The elected in DC are on the take and the populace are just spectators.  Political activism will be tolerated to an extent, but ignored.  The feeling that you can "make a difference" is gone, and in its place is an unhealthy cynicism.  Worse even, activists are often mocked and derided by the media and the brainwashed masses are only too quick to follow their lead.

2. Driving

We traveled the country with nary a seat belt.  We sat in the floorboard, on the emergency brake, and on our mother's laps.  Car seats for children was unheard of. Yet, cars back then were actually made out of metal.  Our minivan (a Nissan Quest) I swear has more plastic than it does metal.   We're buckled up, but we're riding in a plastic envelope!

3. Music

Albums have been replaced by audio Twinkies - a few singles to shill on iTunes and giveaway at Wal-Mart.  The days when a band like Steely Dan could spend an entire year on a record are over. Musicianship is not even an afterthought - it's simply a barrage of hype and then move on to the next new flavor.  And the Clear Channel airwaves are about as homogenized as they can possibly be.

4. Movies

Not that you have to take out a second mortgage to go see a movie nowadays, it has changed the face of the industry.  With tickets so expensive audiences expect a big-time extravaganza, and thus the movie budget gets inflated.... and subsequently producers are less likely to take risks with that kind of cash on the line.

The result - nothing really innovative gets made by the big studios, and low budget grindhouse fare simply has no place anymore.  It was okay to see a crummy B-movie when it only cost a buck.

5. Sex

I've said it a million times - a generation as massive as the Boomers all simultaneously reaching their sexual prime could only result in something like a sexual revolution.  Unfortunately, all this libidinal liberation had its consequence - a major cultural backlash and STD epidemics.

Thus, today you have this sort of troubling duality where there is exists a hypersexuality beyond that of the seventies (porn profits are exponentially higher and sex among minors is far more common); yet it is simultaneously maligned, ignored and denied.  For instance, you would be shamed by your peers for being caught standing in line at a burlesque club, yet Pay-Per-View porn is a multi-billion dollar business.

6. Global Positioning

I honestly don't think anyone gets lost anymore.  It sounds trivial, but getting lost, finding your way, asking for directions, serendipitous discoveries, crumpled maps and hidden shortcuts were a part of life that just went POOF!

7. Shopping

Not only can get anything your little heart desires at the local megastore, you can also find it with a few clicks of a mouse.  Need a USB cable, a fanny pack, heartworm medicine and some prescription lenses?  No need to travel to four different independently owned shops - just go to Wal-Mart..... or better yet, don't leave your couch.  Do it from your iPad.

Of course this means your local establishments get crushed by the megastores, but now you'll have more time to..... to...... to buy more stuff!

8. Playtime

Kids need time to play, explore, rough-house, and discover their world together without adult intervention.  Unfortunately, it's all about "play dates' these days.  Thankfully, my kids have a neighborhood where they can roam with their friends, but I see far too many communities that are dead zones - any playtime will have to be strictly monitored and arranged.  It's too "unstructured" and too "unsafe" to leave kids to their own devices.

9. Fashion

There's been a few distinctive styles of late (baggy jeans, hip huggers); but dominant trademark fashions are largely things of the past. The difference between fashions of 1975 and 1985 is gigantic; the difference between fashions of 2003 and 2013 is microscopic.  I wrote a whole post on this.

10. Homework

I can probably count on one hand the number of times I did homework in middle school.  Nowadays, kids in first grade are burning the midnight oil.  Yet with a thousand percent increase in homework, are our kids any smarter? My theory is that parents demand it - they measure the worth of an education by the volume of homework.   Homework in moderation is fine, but drowning our students in it is as misdirected as it is pointless.  We need true depth of understanding, not piles of busywork.

11. Gender Equality

Women got what they wanted: an equal opportunity to join in the rat race. Sure, men still get paid substantially more on average for the same work; but females can toil, sweat, and stress their way to an early grave just like men now.

Even better, they don't have to endure men holding doors open for them or offering to help them in any way.  They won't have to put up with men acknowledging their attractiveness publicly.  Plus, they can enjoy the new economy built around two income homes; so, even if she doesn't want to work she now has to.  Hooray!

12. Television

In the 1970s, homes had only one TV and on that TV were a whopping three to four channels.  Now, it's common for homes to have televisions in all the bedrooms in addition to the living room.  Plus you have tablets, PCs and phones to watch television on.... each with hundreds of channels and premium services like Netflix instant, Hulu, and other on-demand stations. If our government wanted their population distracted, they got it.

13. The Environment

Things got pretty polluted and unkempt during the seventies.  It's hard to explain, but cities and towns just started to look "dirty".  Yet, with an ever increasing rate of urban sprawl, it's getting hard to find find untouched land.  The hippie mentality of preserving it at all costs is ridiculed by the media ("tree huggers") and is bad business for short term minded corporations. 

We all have memories of large strips of land that are now Wal-Marts or Hyundai plants or Hampton Inns or TGI Fridays or [insert business name here].  I'd love to say all this development makes for a strong upwardly mobile economy, but the US is flat broke and deep in debt.

14. Food

Pretty much everything you eat is now made of corn.  Subsequently, it's a helluva lot cheaper but the price is paid in ways other than by your pocketbook.  The American diet has no variety and the portion sizes are enormous.  We have food ready to be stuffed into our mouths at every corner - there's a McDonald's always at your fingertips, and big vats of high fructose corn syrup always within arms reach.  We are well fed these days; unfortunately, we are fed on homogenous, synthetic, genetically altered, hormone infused, corn based garbage.

15. Health Care

Perhaps the biggest mess of them all, and a ticking time bomb.  Health care has gotten insanely expensive, and insurance coverage unaffordable to millions.  If you work at minimum wage you'll toil most of the month just to pay your insurance premiums.... yet when you buy meds or visit the doc, there's still more bills to pay.

Add to that, Americans are being pumped full of prescriptions at an alarming rate.  It's making bacterial strains resistant and the population dependent on pharmaceutical companies.  Can you even a imagine a world where doctors made house calls? It's laughable.  Yet, when doctors stop giving such personal and attentive care and just start doling out pharmaceuticals, bad things are bound to follow.

So, there's a lot of things that have changed from back then. I could certainly rant all day on the topic, but I'll reserve that crankiness for another post.  Toodles.


  1. Wow Gil, you nailed every single one of those...I'm still nodding in agreement...I grew up in the 70's, and for all that decade's imperfections, in a lot of ways, it was a better time. My 16 year old son recently said to me he thinks it was a better time to grow up in, and that it would be cool to have some of this generation's tech, but live like we did back in the 60's and 70's

    1. "My 16 year old son recently said to me he thinks it was a better time to grow up in"

      It's an interesting phenomenon. Many youths of today feel they missed out on something by not being around in the 60s and 70s. Think how many 17 year olds are wannabe Deadheads. I see young kids at concerts by classic artists like Dylan, Neil Young, CSN, etc. They listen to Pink Floyd. When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, none of us said "I wish I was around in the 30s and 40s, it was so much hipper" or anything like that. Because it WASN'T so much hipper. We knew we were in a cool time.

  2. BS! I know plenty of people that are politically active. And you hear about activism a LOT on the news. Occupy Wall Street ring a bell?

  3. Occupy Wall Street? That wasn't activism. That was just a bunch of middle-to-upper-class hippies and hipsters camping out and not working, not contributing to society in any way.

    The Gender Equality opinion is excellent and so true, Gilligan. It's no wonder most kids from grade school age to college age have no manners, no ambition, no worth, and no fortitude - their moms are all away at work while the kids get stuffed into some place that claims to provide daycare, and when they finally get to see their parents at night, they can't tell which is which because the mom is bitching about the bitchy women at work with the anger and obnoxiousness of some old drunk guy, and the dad has been pussy-fied into femininity by not being the king of his castle.

    BTW, as in the GPS panel, I've been waiting my entire life to see somebody go feet-up like that when something bad/goofy/crazy happens.

  4. My wife is a stay-at-home mom. She says, "Why do women want to work? All these women want to work, then they complain about work like the men do." Of course we know women who have to work, she's not judging them.

    We do with a lot less, we have one TV and a portable player the kids bought with Christmas money one year so they could watch stuff on trips. Our van (which is our newest vehicle) is a 1999, 14 years old, and still running strong.

    We also homeschool, but that came later. You know why? Homework. That and the teacher's comment, "You know, drugs can do wonders." Meaning doping the kid so he'd sit still. But the homework in first grade was too much after he'd been sitting in class all day and was already in a bad mood to try and get him to do that some more instead of running around was hopeless. He NEEDED to run around, climb a tree, sword fight his brothers, etc.

    High fructose corn syrup is the reason for a lot of digestive problems. My wife was having a lot of trouble with upset stomach, acid reflux whatever, and we cut way back on the HFCS and immediately it made a big difference. She doesn't drink Mylanta every night now.

    Don't get me started on music.

  5. If I may quote a riff from Cinimatic Titanic: "See, you can tell it's the 70s, because the kids are actually playing outside."

    Anyway, Giligan, you're absolutely right, especially in regards to health care and nutrition. But, you'll be happy to know that more and more people are starting to reject franken-food, and buy real food from local farmers markets and co-ops. It's a small minority, but it's growing.

    I don't know, it seems like things were progressing for the better (socially, intelletually, etc.) in the 70s, and then all of a sudden the 80s happened, and instead of doors opening, they were slammed shut. Or is it just me? :p

    1. and I realize I misspelled intellectually - XD duurhey :P

  6. Are there still really thousands of businesses that are allegedly paying women less than men for the exact same job and with the same qualifications ? If such places still exist in 2013, how do they continue to operate in complete violation of the law ? I've heard this "gender pay gap" claim for years. Are there any Department of Labor or other actual statistics that back this up ? I thought there were lots of government agencies such as EEOC that investigate claims of gender pay inequality ?

    1. Is this what you speak of - http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/10/19/women-in-obama-white-house-earn-less-than-men-amid-equal-pay-debate/

    2. Thanks for the link Anonymous. As you can see from this quote below, the article itself admits that women in the Obama White House are not being subjected to any pay discrimination.

      " In the Obama White House, for instance, the difference appears to be not that women are routinely paid less than men for the same job -- but paid less because there's not as many women in the highest echelons as there are men. "

      In other words, women are paid exactly the same as men who have the same job description. The issue however is that there are fewer women in the more senior positions. However, any women who do attain the senior positions receive the same pay as men at that level of seniority.
      Being paid less than senior staff who have more responsiblities is not illegal discrimination. The main point is to compare apples to apples- equal pay is only the law when the job description and responsibilities are the same. And I believe that this degree of equality now exists much more than back in the 70's. Just adding up all the women's salaries and comparing the total to the men's total is bad math if they all have different jobs.
      However if the President is failing to make an effort to promote fully qualified women that would indeed be an issue. However, from what I have seen of Obama's record so far, he is the last man I would accuse of gender discrimination.

  7. Agreed on most points except, “activists are often mocked and derided by the media” and “mentality of preserving [the environment] at all costs is ridiculed by the media”…The media will fawn over any activist cause – be political or environmental (now almost redundant) as long as it is left-leaning.

    Otherwise, great write-up for those of us old enoung to remember the good old days...

  8. Echo #6 GPS - half the fun in taking a roadtrip was ending up in some out of the way neck of civilization where you found shops, eateries and people unlike your own town. What's the point in traveling anymore when every city looks like the last stretch of malls boasting all the same corporate entities... heck and that is global now. Even the most remote corners of the world are guaranteed to have a Starbucks, KFC etc..

  9. Like every generation, our "youth" was the Golden Age and things went down hill from there. Why should we expect our generation to be any different?

    1. Activism - Ah, the glorious days of Dean's Office sit-ins and and Pot ladled protests. The sort of youth activism that gave us the 1972 Democratic Convention, and the current crop of politicians in charge. Is it a wonder that MSNBC derided the "Tea Party" as the "older generation " but glorified "Occupy Wall Street" as the voice of a generation. The only similarity to them and their 60s counterparts was the environmental destruction they left behind.

    2. Driving - Yep, the cars were heavier and the deaths more common. Not sure the glory point on this one. The average MPG was 15 and gas was .50 a gallon. Yet we still complained of the high cost.

    3. Music - WHAT generation has not complained about the current state of "music." What did your grandparents say about the Beatles, Canned Heat, and AC/DC? I agree with all you said here, but we are listening through different ears than the "kids these days.".

    4. Movies - While I totally agree with you on this, again we are looking at the past through rose colored glasses. The "independent" films were not synonymous with goo all the time. We enjoyed the American International films becasue we either saw them for free on TV, or our parents made whoopie to them in the Drive-ins. We would hardly go to the theaters to see them today, even at half the price. They are nostalgically loved. Innovation still happens today, but even a small film costs millions to make and most "creative" movies bomb at the box office. A studio needs "Transformers XX" to pay the bills for "Life of Pi."

    Don't know the answer to that one, but the country is larger now than it was then, and so far, the internet has not be able to pay for the films the young and rising talent want to produce.

    I'll leave the rest for some other time, except the last one.
    Healthcare is more expensive for a lot of reasons, the largest of which is who is and is not paying for it. Like the blockbuster movies I mentioned above, the few who pay have to pay for themselves and all the others who do not, will not, and cannot pay. That is why hospitals charge you and I $20 for an aspirin. Go to an ER this weekend and see how many "patents" can afford the latest iPhone, but cannot take the time to go to a clinic for their health care needs during the day, but know someone else will pay for the same needs at night in the Hospital ER.

    This is related to the "entitlement generation" and they were not a factor yet in the 1970s. It is the generation that came of age in the 60s and 70s that are responsible for them, and much of you laments.

  10. RE: Driving & Cars
    I remember when I was 4 or 5 years old sitting on my dad's lap with my hands on the steering wheel while "we" drove on some highway. Then I'd scooch across the bench seat to sit with mom. I now cringe at the thought of how dangerous that was, but back in 1974 we were unaware or just stupid.

    As for cars being made of plastic, it's funny you brought that up TODAY. Earlier this afternoon I noticed a hole and deep scratch marks on the plastic trim below the drivers side door of my Toyota. Apparently a squirrel had gnawed at it, trying to get inside. I had left some groceries (fruits & bread) on the back seat floor and I guess the squirrel smelled it and wanted in. That would never happen to a car made before 1990.

    1. You were stupid in 1974 and stupid today.

    2. "You were stupid in 1974 and stupid today."
      WTF? You're a douche.

    3. Whoever made the Anonymous post on April 2, 2013.. why stupid? I thought that was a sweet memory. People were all less uptight about stuff back then. Grow up.

  11. Agree in general. Might be a bright spot with kids. Living the last 20 years in the same neighborhood, I've noticed a distinct return to normalcy. In 1993 the kids around here looked and acted just like South Park characters: pasty blobs with nasty attitudes. Now only a few of them are Cartman types; most look and act like '50s kids, and they're outside from dawn to dusk in summer.

    (Their parents, who WERE the kids of 1993, are still pasty blobs.)

  12. I feel so blessed to have been an '80s teen. Not only did I enjoy the great music of the '80s, but there was still plenty of good stuff from the '60s and '70s that was still cool. It was still a blast to be young, and to wear distinctive youthful clothing, and to listen to youthful music. Rock was still the anthem of youth, and being into it felt like being part of something big, and fun, and quirky, and happening, and rebellious even. Today, things seem so... eh... "routine" and plain. And while there is some well written music out there, there isnt the same "join the circus" type atmousphere that '60s, '70s and '80s rock always had. Maybe we lived through a blessed era of creativity.

  13. The thing about no car seats in cars just brought up a 40-year old Easter memory. It was in the early 70s. We had gone to Superior, Nebraska to visit my Grandmas (both grandfathers died before I was born) for Easter. On the way home to Loomis, a snowstorm hit. I was riding in the back of my Dad's 1969 Dodge Sportsman van where the third row would be (the van only had second-row seats in the back). There were only blankets in the back of the van. Dad got us home safely, that was a 100-mile trip. You could sit on the engine compartment of those 60s vans with a special cushion with a heat shield.

  14. I'm amazed that 30 years ago, there was more to watch on TV with just 3 or 4 channels than there is now sometimes with 200 channels! At least, that's how it seems much of the time. Before infomercials, TV stations actually had to fill programming, so we got reruns of "Mannix", late-late movies, etc.... I swear, I'll look thru the TV schedule now and can't find much I want to watch.

  15. #11: You obviously don't live in Texas. Men open the doors for women here, and we don't have a problem with it. What's changed is that a woman can open the door for a man without it being a weird and awkward thing, when it makes sense to do so. Who knew manners and common sense could co-exist, right?

    The idea of a gender-based pay gap makes for nice outrage, but when studies adjust the data to account for choice of profession, average number of working hours per week, and career gaps (often for child-raising), the pay gaps shrink accordingly. In my own work as a compensation analyst, I've pulled data annually for gender gap reviews and found no pay differences between men and women that can't be explained by a difference in education, experience, attendance, or some other factor.

    Yes, it's tragic that women with brains and ambition are no longer forced to waste their talents in a typing pool or stay home filling sippy cups. We gals long for a return to the days when we had to pass ourselves off as men to be able to take advantage of educational opportunities, such as when my high school biology teacher leveraged her androgynous name to get into a "no women allowed" marine biology program in 1974, and then was abused and harassed for the duration of the program. I'm also sure that many men shed bitter tears at being able to pursue their dreams today, even if those dreams aren't sufficiently lucrative to support a family. Why, you should've heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth when my husband was able to quit his dead-end job and go back to school and train for a career he would love, because I could support us both for a little while. Sad, so sad, that men now have wives who are real partners instead of burdens.

    Likewise, I long for a return to the early '70s when I wouldn't have been allowed to get a bank account without my husband's permission, or when I might've been denied employment because I might get pregnant. Or what about my husband being able to legally rape me? Yes, this gender equality thing sure does suck.

    Damn the '70s and all those new laws guaranteeing my rights!

    1. Sheesh! You must have Aspergers or something.

  16. I was born in 1961 in the USA. The 70's more or less sucked! Most of the music past 1974 was god-awful.
    3 or 4 channels of TV? It was as crappy as it is now. Do you really wanna watch "Supertrain" again? The clothes were ugly. Cars were unsafe. Politics was a sham just like it is now. There were a couple of protests, like the gays and the anti-nuclear movement, much like now. But mostly there was apathy. And the 80's were 10 times worse! The 80's were every bad idea from the 70's amped up to 10 and painted day-glo green and orange!

    You can look back at any time period and find certain things that were cool or different. It has nothing to do with when you were born. Sure, kids today seem like a bunch of dullards with no people skills. We seemed like that too, to our elders. Take off them rosy glasses!

  17. Agree in general. Might be a bright spot with kids. Living the last 20 years in the same neighborhood, I've noticed a distinct return to normalcy. In 1993 the kids around here looked and acted just like South Park characters: pasty blobs with nasty attitudes. Now only a few of them are Cartman types; most look and act like '50s kids, and they're outside from dawn to dusk in summer.

    MPC Terbaru

  18. I am with you 100% - sure, while there will always be the "it was better in my day" ethos, in my estimation since about 1985, things in America have truly been on a decline ... why? TECHNOLOGY.

    It's changed everything, and today many aspects of life and living are now poor copies of yesteryear, and our minds and bodies are paying the price. Food is now "food," music is now "music," etc.

    Great feature here on Retrospace - almost the best I've read!

    1. True, on the other hand, TECHNOLOGY allows you to enjoy this fine blog and all that it has to offer.

      So, as usual, it is a double edged sword.

  19. I love this blog, you always have such awesome nostalgic trips! However, I have to disagree with this one. I was born in the 70's, raised in the 80's, and I think things have definitely changed for the better. Technology has made things safer, faster, more efficient and more fun! How many bands have we all discovered with the internet that we wouldn't have otherwise known about? You have to admit, radio has always sucked. TV shows and movies are waaay better now. Yeah, a movie ticket costs more, but if your 8 year old self saw the new Spider-Man in 3D, he would tell you it ROCKS! Every generation has nostalgic feels for the time they grew up, that's just human nature. But thinking things were "better" back then is just a symptom of growing old. We don't want to admit it, but the new gadgets are little harder for us to get the hang of than a Nintendo. We are turning into our parents and we all know what our parents said about OUR technology, clothes, attitudes, etc. I'm just saying I'm actually GLAD that I can drive anywhere and not have to worry about making a wrong turn or reading a map wrong!

  20. This is some knee-jerk get-off-my-line stuff, the same line that the older generation has been saying since recored history. Yes, some things are worse, but some things are much better. We have much better environmental policies today thanks to those that started in the 70s (never forget that it was Nixon who signed the EPA into existence). I see a ton of activism, and young people who care about and are genuinely engaged in trying to make the world a better place. The music is just as good and bad as it has always been, and now there is so much more of it. Ok, so Clear Channel controls a majority of radio stations, but radio is no longer the dominant way people find out about music. And now you don't have to plop down thousands of dollars in a studio to make music. You can do it in your bedroom with a decent computer and mic, put it online and share it with people. That makes for a lot of crap, but it also makes for a lot of great music that would never have even been made 20 years ago.

    Bottom line, things are tough all over as they've always been tough all over, and whining about it isn't going to make the situation change. Either learn to accept the times we live in, or work to make them better.

  21. Enjoyed the Archie Comics reprints, ESCPECIALLY the long obscure "Wilkin Boy" which took up the second half (as in the lead grousing over the establishment versus HIS generation's 1970s fashions). Great artwork., Samm Schwartz rules. (long rip).