Back to the technological future of 1986

Today’s session was a tale of two indexes. The Dow jumped triple digits for the third-straight session, but poor performance among some large tech stocks, particularly Apple and suppliers to Apple, such as Qualcomm and Broadcom, dragged the Nasdaq into negative territory.

The Dow gained 135 points, with 26 of its 30 components advancing; the S&P 500 rose 5; and the Nasdaq dropped 4. Advancers led decliners by five to four on the NYSE and decliners narrowly led advancers on the Nasdaq. The prices of Treasuries strengthened. Gold futures fell 20 cents to close at $1,363.80 an ounce, and the price of crude oil gained 17 cents to settle at $107.56 a barrel.

In Other Business News:

  • Verizon Communications, seeking to fund its $130 billion buyout of the rest of Verizon Wireless from Vodafone, announced a $49 billion bond offering, which it sold today. It’s the largest-ever corporate bond sale. The offering was spread over different maturities, with the largest portion coming from $15 billion of 30-year bonds (priced to yield 6.559%), and the second largest, or $11 billion, in 10-year bonds (priced to yield 5.192%). Verizon’s shares (VZ) rose 0.11%.
  • Plummeting Apple shares dragged down the market-weighted Nasdaq. Several analysts downgraded Apple after the company’s product launch yesterday, claiming that Apple’s new iPhone 5C aimed at developing markets was still too expensive to make market share inroads, as the telecoms in developing markets such as China don’t offer the same phone subsidies as in the U.S. The iPhone 5C will be $99 (subsidized by phone companies with a two-year contract) in the U.S., but $733 (unsubsidized) in China. Apple’s shares (AAPL) fell 5.42%. Suppliers of smartphone components to Apple also suffered. Qualcomm (QCOM) dropped 2.85%, and Broadcom (BRCM) fell 2.39%.
  • Wholesale stockpiles rose 0.1% month over month and 2.2% year over year in July, according to the Commerce Department. The increase was lower than expected by economists, given that inventories fell 0.2% in the previous month and more restocking was anticipated. Wholesale sales rose 0.1% in July, compared with a 0.4% month-over-month gain in June.
  • Mortgage applications fell 13.5% last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s mortgage index (the numbers are seasonally adjusted, as well as adjusted for the Labor Day holiday; unadjusted, the index dropped 23%). The drop largely came from refinance applications, although applications for new purchases dropped an adjusted 3% (14% unadjusted). Refinance applications dropped from 61% of all mortgage applications to 57%. Week over week, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose from 4.73% to 4.8%.  


It’s all the rage to quit the internet (or at least threaten to quit). More and more people are resolving to go on digital cleanses, either informally or in digital-free summer camps. They vow not to use Facebook or check email or use their smartphones for a day, a weekend, a week, or even, in more extreme cases, for an entire year.

I’m not sure I could do that (by which I mean, I’m not sure I could convince my coworkers to transcribe my handwritten notes). But now there’s something even more difficult than giving up technology: Vowing to use no technology that was created past a certain year, according to the Toronto Sun. In this case, the year is 1986, and the family is the McMillans, who’ve decided that they and their two small children will go back in time for a year. They’ve chosen to avoid any technological invention that was created after 1986, the year they were born. That means no smartphones, World Wide Web, GPS, email, tablets, Facebook, even cable. They go to the bank in person. They take pictures with this thing called “film” in something called a “camera” that isn’t an extension of a smartphone. When they’re not playing outside, the kids play on an old Nintendo. They listen to music on the worst of all formats, the cassette tape. They use—and here my knees buckle in horror—fax machines. Blair McMillan, the father, wears the classic 80s hairstyle, the mullet. It’s unclear if the mullet pre-dates the decision to live like it’s still 1986.

These stories about getting away from technology seem to be popular, even though, as a general rule, people love the latest technology, as the hype about Apple’s product launch yesterday indicates. Yet there’s a growing sense of unease as well, as if all that technology has stolen something from us. Time. Peace of mind. Feeling unconnected to work or the 24/7 pulse of breaking news that isn’t really breaking. The bliss of not knowing that all your friends are doing awesome and interesting things and posting pictures of those things to Facebook. (On that note, there should be a requirement that the totality of posted pictures needs to accurately represent the poster’s life, in which case there’d be more pictures of people staring at TV, doing dishes, and a good quarter of the pictures would show time spent in meetings or waiting on the phone.)

I don’t think giving up technology will solve all these problems, but I like the idea of temporarily giving up things, just to regain some conscious control from habits that, over time, become our default settings, whether those habits are checking Facebook every two minutes or eating too many sweets (I’ll admit to one of those problems). For the McMillans, the breaking point came when they couldn’t drag their kids’ attention away from their iPads to get them to go play outside. There might have been other ways to solve that problem, but this is one path they chose. I look forward to their reports updating their progress, which will no doubt be sent via fax.

Do you ever dream of taking a vacation from technology? And if you had to choose a year beyond which you wouldn’t use technology, what year would it be? Leave your thoughts in the comments area below.

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2 Responses to Back to the technological future of 1986

  1. Todd says:

    I agree technology has become a distraction, I think that it is more so with the Generation Y group. For those of us that were born in the late 60’s and early 70’s we still know what it is like to be physical and hands on with day to day life and how to enjoy ourselves without looking at a smartphone or tablet 24/7. For me if I want to socialize I’m going to pick up the phone and call you. The kids now they grew up with this new and emerging technology and it is all they know. As a parent to new generation, I find myself “Raging against the Machine” to get my son outdoors and doing physical activities. Hence we are both engaged in Boy Scouts, baseball, skateboarding and if walking everyday at least 2 miles. For those of us that are considered the Generation X we know and understand or at least remember what it was like for us as kids to grew up “outside”, this new generation, Generation Y, well if you haven’t heard it already there answer to everything is “WHY”, if they stay inside then they will not be outside getting into trouble. As I tell my son, “Get into trouble, at least I know your human.”

    • Kathi Kwiatkowski Jeremy Ryan says:

      I’ll bet the Boy Scouts will ultimately release a video game version of themselves and the outdoors as we know it will be history. But seriously, given how the economy is moving toward a more technologically oriented future, it’s probably good that kids grow up knowing how to use tablets and the like, but you’re hitting on the fundamental difference between the pre- and post-computer age: physical exercise. It’s not just being outdoors for the sake of being outdoors (although that’s something to be appreciated); it’s being outdoors and moving around for big chunks of the day. Many kids are turning into little versions of office workers: sitting motionless in chairs for eight-hour stretches watching screens, and then (maybe) performing concentrated bursts of activity in organized sports. It’s too easy to be sedentary today (I’ve devised at least three excuses why I shouldn’t go for a run this evening), so forming good habits early is crucial.