25 Things People Did Before Cell Phones You Wont Believe

Posted by , Updated on June 23, 2024

Cell phones totally changed how we go about our days, making life faster, easier, and keeping us more connected. They let you chat with friends and family miles away over video. They’re great for finding cool places to eat, booking an AirBNB, or catching an Uber. With cell phones all around us, it’s hard to remember life before their arrival. So, ever wondered, “What was life like before cell phones?” Newer generations probably don’t know much about those times. To shed some light, let’s dig in. Check out these **25 Unbelievable Things People Did Before Cell Phones** appeared on the scene.



Used actual cameras


Today, it seems like only serious photographers use actual cameras to take pictures. Everyone else uses their cell phone. However, before cell phones, everyone used a camera. Whether digital, analog, or, disposable, to take pictures you had to lug around another device.


Listened to music on CDs or Mp3 players


Music streaming straight from the internet has become the popular source of music today, but back before the internet was readily available, and depending on how far back you go, people used CD’s and Mp3 players to listen to music. You couldn’t just pick whatever song you wanted at any given moment.


Owned road maps


It might be hard to believe, but when traveling far distances, people bought physical maps, like those huge Rand McNally maps, to help them get to a certain destination. Rather than a computer’s voice kindly telling dad where to go, it was likely your mom holding a map and yelling at him.


Asked for directions


When the physical map failed to get a person where they wanted to go, especially in rural farm towns or confusing cities, people tended to find the nearest gas station and ask for directions.


Checked email on the computer only


Checking email on a phone is a novelty taken for granted. Before smartphones, most people checked their email on the computer only. During the dial-up days, that meant waiting for your modem to make a hideous noise before logging into your email client only to discover you got one email from your grandma.


Calculated tips manually


Few people had calculators at the ready when going to restaurants, so when they needed to figure out how much to tip the waiter, they utilized their brainpower to calculate the amount. It was a magical time.


Used the ATM to check a bank balance


Online banking simply wasn’t a thing for a long time. To know your balance, you had to manage your checkbook register like a hawk or go to an ATM machine to find out your bank balance. It’s no surprise that finding out you were broke on an ATM screen was no less devastating.


Used real taxis


Before cell phones, hailing a random person to pick you up was called hitchhiking, and it was mostly illegal and also pretty dangerous. Instead, you hailed a taxi on a street or called for one on the phone.


Played board games


Granted, people still play board games today, but honestly, it’s usually when their cell service isn’t very good and there’s nothing else to do. For many families and communities, board game nights were a frequent and much-anticipated event that either fostered bonding or resulted in a shouting match.


Used hard cash


Venmo, PayPal, Apple Pay, and tons of other options have made it virtually easy to pay anyone you want through the internet. But, in the before time, you had to resort to using cold, hard cash to pay your neighbor’s kid for mowing your lawn or to tip the pizza guy at the door.


Used the phone as a phone


The phone was a phone before cell phones. That’s all people used it for. It connected to the wall with an extremely long extendable cord that teenage girls got wrapped up in when they talked to their boyfriends for hours at night.


Posted unfiltered pictures

filter pic

People went on Facebook and Twitter on their computers and posted unfiltered pictures. As-is. No elaborate filter. No emojis or graphic art. Just the picture. It was a beautiful time.


Played video games on a Gameboy


Before cell phones, people played mobile video games on a Nintendo Gameboy. Or maybe a Sega Game Gear. There weren’t any in-app purchases or banner ads. Just an incredibly difficult video game that made you want to throw the Gameboy up against a wall. It was amazing.


Used an answering machine

answering machine

Remember, texting didn’t really exist before cell phones, so when people expected a call from someone but weren’t around, they could trust on their handy-dandy answering machine to record it for them.


Used payphones


Quick, you’re walking down the street in a big city and suddenly realize you have to call home. Cell phones don’t exist. What do you do? The answer, of course, is to use a payphone. These relics of yore used to be on every city block. You’d toss in a quarter and could make a call. Understandably, no one really misses them.


Stayed committed to things


Arguably, flaking out on commitments is much easier today than it was before cell phones. Today, you can tell a friend you’re going to help them move, and then a week later shoot them a text saying you’d rather stay home and binge watch Game of Thrones. Before cell phones, you’d have to actually call them up and tell them, suffering through the disappointment in their voice or their yelling in your ear.


Memorized phone numbers

rotary phone

Since people didn’t have a phone on them at any given moment, they had to rely on their memories to keep track of phone numbers. Most people had at least ten different phone numbers memorized for various people in their life. For everyone else, they might have kept a tiny black phonebook or a Rolodex.


Felt genuinely alone


When someone sat in their bedroom by themselves without a computer, television, or cell phone, they were genuinely alone. They couldn’t alleviate it quickly by checking their feed. They dealt with it by listening to music, reading a book, or doing some other hobby.


Used a phone book


Smartphones provide a slew of apps to give us the information we need about businesses, restaurants, addresses, and neighborhoods. Before all that, you excavated a massive yellow tome called the phone book and flipped through it like Gandalf researching at the library of Gondor.


Used three-way calling


Three-way calling was kind of a big deal before cell phones. People didn’t just talk to one person on the phone, but two. This revolutionary communication service was so cool until cell phones and texting happened.


Tied up the home phone line


In the evening hours, the home phone was a valuable commodity. Plenty of fights and family meetings ensued over it, trying to come to a decision on when it could be used and how no one was allowed to tie up the phone for several hours talking to friends.


Went outside


People, kids especially, utilized the outside world like they’d just discovered Narnia for the first time. Kids rode their bikes around the neighborhood for hours, went to the playground, and played games in their backyard.


Sat patiently


When people went to a doctor’s appointment or were required to sit quietly for long periods of time, they just sat patiently and remained. Occasionally, they might read a magazine or book if it was available, but for the most part, they just sat and waited.


Used their imagination


Often, when school was out and the summer days got especially boring, kids pulled out their best toy – their imagination. They’d make up worlds, be able to entertain themselves, and be creative for hours and hours until dinner time.


Made eye contact

eye contact

Not only did people go out to more social events, but when they shook your hand and talked to you, they looked you in the eye.

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