In today’s society, it is difficult to imagine a world without technology. From iPhones to laptops to artificial intelligence, technology is central to every part of our lives and only continues to advance every year.
But even if we have become so accustomed to the efficiency of our current devices, our generation can still remember a time when technology was at the cusp of its digital transformation. A time when flip phones were common and the Nintendo DS was the hot item that every child wanted. A time when we needed to use the landline to call relatives around the world rather than simply FaceTiming them in an instant. A time when streaming services did not exist and we needed to organize cases of DVDs to watch our favorite movies.
Though we tend to focus on the functionality of technology, its entertainment value greatly influenced the memories I made growing up, as it evolved alongside my childhood years.
Portable DVD players
Throughout my childhood and up to the present, my family has had two key bonding activities — watching movies and taking family vacations — and for a brief period of time, our portable DVD player remained at the center of both.
Long before iPads and Netflix were the norm, my brother and I relied on our portable DVD player to watch movies during long road trips. Whenever we traveled, we made sure to bring our flipbook of DVDs — sorted in alphabetical order, of course — in order to watch all of our classic favorites and pass the time. From Cars (my brother’s choice) to Enchanted (my choice), I remembered many moments when we huddled around the illuminated screen, ready to enter another movie’s world to distract ourselves from the steady hum of the engines and the darkness of the world outside.
Because our dad has very sensitive allergies, my brother and I could never get a puppy, though we were constantly surrounded by pets during Sunday visits to our grandparents’ homes. As an inferior substitute, we took care of our Tamagotchi pets instead.
I still remember when the black and white Tamagotchis were the only ones available. I worked hard to make sure my pets were getting fed and washed properly with high XPs and health, and would constantly rush home after school to make sure they were not sick. My brother and I strived to get our Tamagotchi pets to reach old age rather than pass away because of our own failures to care for them.
Soon, colorful Tamagotchis became available, which changed the whole game with all of the new features that expanded the Tamagotchi world. We spent various amounts of time remodeling our homes, visiting other pets in the park and setting them up through the Matchmaker once they were of age. Once our pets were married off, they would leave their child with us, and the cycle would continue. We could even have our pets interact and compete with one another in games.
Our generations of digital pets lived long and fruitful lives before the Tamagotchi craze soon died down, as similar games were developed for Apple and Android devices.
When I was still in elementary school, I remember how ecstatic I was to receive my first pink Nintendo DS Lite one Christmas. I eagerly chose various games to load the memory card, such as Cooking Mama, Diner Dash, the early versions of Mario Kart and so many more that I cannot even recall.
Of course, my parents limited my DS times to the weekends, and I needed to share it with my brother at first, which was short-lived since he kept clamoring for his own Nintendo DSi. He was always better than me at every game we played, unfortunately, and he developed quick reflexes as a result that have benefited him in his sports career.
While my cousins and I were growing up, playing on our individual Nintendo DS’s together was a staple in building the competitive spirit among us. We would choose games to connect our devices and compete against one another or sometimes just go on PictoChat to draw silly graphics and send each other random messages.
With the great hold the Nintendo DS took over our lives, everyone was appropriately excited when the Nintendo Wii came out a few years later. I remember when my brother and I first got the Wii, along with our starter set of games: Wii Sports, Rock Band, Mario Kart, Wii Fit, Just Dance, Wii Play and Lego Indiana Jones. We spent hours making Miis for all of our family and friends and many weekends challenging friends to friendly competitions of dance, go-kart racing and various sports.
Over the years, we steadily worked our way up to becoming “experts” at bowling and tennis, completing various challenges in adventure games and memorizing the routes in Mario Kart – even today I have yet to win a race against my brother. My brother and I even participated in a Wii Just Dance tournament on a cruise ship and won!
Though the Nintendo Wii and DS have now been replaced by the Nintendo Switch, with some games being updated for the new software, there are still times when my cousins and I will start up our dormant Wii machines and relive our childhood playing old games, as the iconic Wii theme song floods our minds with memories of the past.
All of my friends know that when I was younger, I was obsessed with Taylor Swift’s music, an affinity that has persisted to the present. The problem back then was that I could only listen to her songs in the car or subject my entire family to her music at home, which my brother laments is why he recognizes some of her songs to this day.
Long before Bluetooth features were the norm in cars, we always had cases of discs in our glove compartments, similar to DVDs. However, we could only listen to one complete album at a time, which meant listening to my dad’s ‘80s club music remixes when he was behind the wheel (kidding, they were fun!). Imagine how that changed when the iPod was invented, and we could each listen to our own music through a single device that held thousands of songs.
Presently, that may sound like nothing compared to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music that provide access to almost every song imaginable, but it was a huge step forward during that time. Our iPods were especially necessary during long car rides to and from school with the Philippines' infamous traffic, as well as road trips and flights. My iPod also allowed me to expand my music preferences with greater access to new songs, which greatly influenced my music taste today.
With my families’ predisposition for bad eyesight coupled with our prolonged screen time, it was no surprise that my brother and I developed high eye grades quickly based on the amount of time we used our gadgets. However, more than just providing entertainment during times of boredom, the technology connected my family and left us with memories that we look back on fondly as we all grow older and enter the next phases of our lives.