What Can the Past Teach Us About Happiness

Flashback to the 90s – A Lesson in Happiness

What Can the Past Teach Us About HappinessOk, it’s time to hop in our Delorean and set a course for 20 years ago. We’ve got t a time machine and it’s time to put it to good use. Today, we’re heading to 1994 to look at what life was like.

I was a 10 year old kid, living on Maui at the time, but this isn’t about me. This is about all the things that people could buy with their hard-earned money back then – the latest and greatest gadgets that had people scrambling to keep up with the Joneses. Let’s take a look:

You want the state of the art television? You’re looking at a 20 inch boxy curved screen. You would get absolutely laughed at if you had a TV like this today.

Video Games
In 1994, the ORIGINAL playstation came out… in December. So 20 years ago today, it still wasn’t out. But let’s just take a look at some of the terrible gameplay video from Madden 95 (absolute garbage compared to today):

Fancy households had personal computers back in 1994. One of the most popular at the time was the Mac Classic II. The latest selling point for Apple computers in 1994? Color!

Later that year, the “Power Macintosh” even came out. By today’s standards it was more like the “Impotent Macintosh”. And connecting to the mind-blowing network we call the Internet? At best, you were looking at a brand new 28.8kbps modem bringing you text and small images only at a snail’s pace.

Cell phone? You probably didn’t have one, but if you did, it looked something like this
Nokia Cell Phone
You can’t access the Internet. You don’t have an app store to find amazing tools to help you with your life. People weren’t even sending text messages back then (the technology did exist, but was certainly not utilized by the general public). For the most part, you had to use your home phone or a pay phone if you wanted to connect with people.

In 1994, even fancy households had to deal with their movies on VHS tapes. Don’t remember what the quality was like on those tapes? A YouTuber recently did a hilarious version of what the Game of Thrones intro might look like back then.

Watching movies then was a completely different experience.

Of course, I’m sure there are many more examples of how much worse the gadgets and gizmos of 1994 were – the items that back then showed that you had really “made it”. Cars were worse; homes certainly weren’t “smart” in any possible way, etc.

So the people of 1994 must have been MISERABLE, right? There stuff was worse and they didn’t have access to the Internet as we know it today, an incredible resource for information and long distance human interaction. I bet the whole world was just in a perpetual state of despair.

I think you know where I’m going with this. No, of course people in 1994 weren’t miserable. People were, for the most part, just as happy and unhappy as they are today. A new, 60″ flatscreen TV vs. a 1994 20″ TV? Neither one will make you happy. But people keep upgrading and buying smart phones, then tablets, then connected watches, then Google Glass. And I am no different. I have my smart phone with me right now. These items definitely make life more convenient. They improve my life and standard of living. But when it comes down to true happiness? Those “things” don’t have an effect.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I love technology. I am often seduced by gadgets. Just don’t confuse convenience with happiness. That’s where people get into trouble. So what does this all mean? How can you use this information? Every time you are about to purchase a “want”, take a moment to think about it. Are you trying to buy happiness? Will that fancy new car or flashy new computer really make your life more convenient over what you already have? Or are you chasing the latest and greatest technology just as a status symbol, because “everyone” has it, because you simply have to keep up with the Joneses. Personally, for me, that glance inward led me to getting a smart phone, but deciding I didn’t really need a tablet (or smart watch, or Google Glass). I think you should absolutely spend money on your “wants”. I just think it’s best to truly define what your wants are instead of simply chasing shiny objects mindlessly. If you are thoughtful, you will waste much less money without sacrificing any happiness.

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4 thoughts on “Flashback to the 90s – A Lesson in Happiness

  1. Even Steven September 2, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    I feel like all the items you mentioned that came out in 1994, I ended up getting in 1998. I am usually a few years behind tech gadgets which hasn’t changed much for me. I got the Iphone 4 when the Iphone 5S was coming out as an example, saves a lot of money that’s for sure. I can’t wait to get Google Glasses in 2032!!!!
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    • Mr NYBudget September 2, 2014 at 4:30 pm

      Back in my youth I was a SUPER early adopter. That’s one of the bad habits I broke when I realized how much I could save by purchasing last year’s model at a fraction of the price.

  2. FI Fighter September 6, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Madden 95! Wooh!!! My favorite Sega Genesis game of all time… Sorry, got a little excited there! 😉

    The 90’s were a wonderful time period to grow up in. In many ways, life was a lot simpler back then, especially in 94′ before the internet took over our lives.
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    • Mr NYBudget September 8, 2014 at 6:09 am

      Yeah, I am always torn. 2014 seems to be a year when tech companies are solving the little nuisances that actually affect us. Venmo for paying friends/splitting bills, Uber if you are stuck in a jam (even though I avoid cabs and have only used it once, in theory it is pretty useful), dropbox, etc.

      But on the other hand, you are absolutely right – we had more time without the Internet to deal with those issues manually and weren’t overwhelmed.

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