I’m currently writing a short book set about 25 years ago. It’s a prequel to my Seasons of Faith series about couples who are in their 40s. My work-in-progress tells the story of how one of the couples fell in love when they were in their 20s.
Writing a book set in 1998 seemed like a simple enough thing to do. But as I get deeper into the story, I’m realising how many things we take for granted now that didn’t exist back then. It’s easy to trip up on the details, so I have to be careful to steep my mind in the world of the late 20th century. It seems so long ago when I think of it like that!
In 1998, I was working as a journalist in Uganda, and I was still one year away from getting my first cell phone. Many of my colleagues had bought phones, but I was slow to jump on the bandwagon. And, of course, these were not “smart” phones. All they could do was make calls. Text messages weren’t a thing yet.
I didn’t have a personal email address—that was still a couple of years away. If anyone wanted to get in touch with me electronically, they sent the message to my office’s general email address, with my name in the subject line. The “email computer” sat in the middle of the enormous newsroom, where dozens of people shared access to it.
Mail order purchases were still common, and nobody I knew did any shopping online.
Researching stories for the newspaper meant going to the library and thumbing through stacks of back copies and looking things up in actual books and encyclopedias.
Automated teller machines had been introduced only a year previously, and only the biggest banks had them. On payday and any other day I wanted cash, I had to queue up for ages, clutching my bank book, waiting for the teller to update my bank balance manually.
In 1998, public alarm was building up about the Y2K bug, which we thought was going to create havoc to all this technology we were dependent on. I find it rather amusing now, considering how much more plugged in we are these days.
What about entertainment in 1998?
Everyone was raving about Shakespeare in Love and Saving Private Ryan, but neither interested me. My favourite movie of 1998 was The Prince of Egypt, and I also found The Parent Trap amusing.
There was no such thing as streaming or video on demand. You watched a show when it came on, or taped it on a VCR to watch later. Friends was at its peak and Seinfeld was in its final season.
I didn’t have access to many Christian books at the time, apart from the works of Francine Rivers and Frank Peretti, and had never read any contemporary Christian romance.
What were you doing back in 1998? What were you watching, reading, and wearing? Does it seem like a lifetime ago or just like yesterday?