One of my early holiday memories involves haze and the 1980s. My family was fortunate enough to occasionally travel abroad. When packing – especially when packing tech – it was a different time. Planes had long abandoned the notion of flying being any kind of luxury, but hadn’t yet hit upon the concept of ‘busses in the sky’. However, nor had they reached a place where consumer tech was deeply embedded.
Today, people grumble when a budget airline doesn’t provide screens in the back of every seat. This, despite most people carrying their own screens with things they actually want to do on them. Back then, you’d be invited to watch a film projected on to the front wall of each seating section within a plane (or, as a child, the top third of said film), while surrounded by an alarming amount of cigarette smoke. That was as good as it got.
By then, my parents were usually conked out anyway, attempting to recover from the horror of their youngling having set off security metal detectors due to hiding die-cast cars at the very bottom of their hand luggage. That wasn’t ideal, because said luggage was crammed full of the goodies required to keep kid and adults alike occupied – not only for the flight, but also beyond.
Big in Japan
It’s easy to forget what packing tech was like 40 years ago. And how big and inconvenient the tech itself was. Dig past tattered paperbacks and a few comics parents laughably thought would keep a child occupied for an entire ten-hour flight, and you’d uncover an old-school camera. Possibly a flash. And film for the camera. And batteries for the camera. There might be a Walkman the size of a brick (and yet more batteries) and tapes to play on it. As much Phil Collins as you could fit on a C90, because you only had so much space.
You might find a Game & Watch lurking too, if you were fortunate enough to own one – and smart enough to not play it within earshot of other passengers who’d angrily trample it underfoot after hour four of the device’s ear-splitting audio. Still, it could be worse. I once saw someone bring a Speak & Spell on to a flight. And, yes, I was jealous, being armed only with a copy of the Beano, a travel Battleships with missing pieces, and a pad of paper but inexplicably no pencil.
Honey, I shrank the tech
Over time, tech evolved. Handhelds became more powerful and hand-crampingly small. Tapes gave way to CDs, hard-drives and solid-state storage. Over-ear headphones vanished in favour of earbuds. Miniaturisation and consolidation meant tech travel woes were gone in an instant, because all we needed was a phone. Only that dream of the future turned out to be as accurate as the sci-fi movies I watched the top third of. (In the future, robots will do our bidding? Ha!)
When packing tech, we should now be taking less. One device to rule them all. Except we need iPads, obviously. And Kindles. Oh, and headphones for both. And Apple Watches. Don’t forget the Switch! And remember chargers. Including bespoke chargers. And cables that are also bespoke because a sadist at Apple wants to laugh maniacally when another tourist reaches their hotel and looks forlornly at having packed a USB-C adapter rather than a Lightning one, the stupid idiot.
So it’s with some consternation this year that I found my hand luggage becoming a terrifying Tetris-style concoction of plastic and metal. Most of which I was ordered at security to in six seconds flat lay out in approximately a billion plastic trays. Still, at least my kid didn’t attempt to sneak any tiny metal cars out of the country.
- Now read: Best travel gadgets 2023: the ultimate tech setup for explorers, wanderers, and holiday lovers