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Is life without e-mails possible?
A Canadian family tried the seemingly impossible: to live for a year as if it was 1986. The experiment proved to be quite a challenge, especially for the kids.
In April 2013 the McMillan-Pateys of Guelph, Ontario, packed their computer, two smart phones, three HD TV sets and an iPod in boxes and stored them away in the cellar. For twelve months they chose to live as if it was 1986 again, the year of the Challenger and Tchernobyl disasters when Morgan Patey and Blair McMillan were born. No social networks and cell phone, no cable TV with hundreds of channels, not even a digital camera.
Months ago they asked their five-year-old son Trey whether he wants to play outside and he replied he rather plays on his iPad. When Blair was told by the family's pediatrist that kids should play at least half an hour a day outside in fresh air, the couple started to think about it.
The family moved to Guelph two years before. After briefly living in an apartment they bought a house built in 1987, with most furniture still from the late eighties. Blair worked for an insurance company and took a year's leave to fully concentrate on the experiment and the family, while Morgan kept her job at a pharmaceutical company in Guelph.
After giving up modern devices a rotary phone without an answering machine was bought. The “new” TV set wasn't suited for today's cable broadcast, but Morgan found a VCR and the family watched movies on videocassettes. The kids got desk games, puzzles and other toys that were available in the eighties. While the two-year-old Denton had no problem whatsoever to adapt on the family's new way of life, Trey was not very excited as he enjoyed playing with Morgan's iPad.
For Trey it was also a challenge to spent time at friends' places, in households where all modern technology was present. But their parents supported the McMillan-Patey project and acted accordingly when Trey was with their children. In Trey's own words nobody ever laughed at him because he had no iPad.
A very disappointing experience for the couple was to see the contact with some friends having ceased, as they obviously didn't care enough to phone instead of messaging the family via Facebook, The McMillan-Pateys found themselves cut off from a lot of information which people nowadays share only on social networks. When the year offline ended the family chose not to continue the experiment anymore. "If you want to return to work, you really need access to the Internet," says Blair.
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