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The story of the guy talking on his cell phone in San Francisco in 1982

November 22, 2012

I was watching the 1981 NFC Championship Game off the DVR the other day–because it’s a good game and football was better back then. (Which makes me officially old.) This shot appeared just before halftime, after the 49ers almost recovered a fumble. So quick, what’s the guy in the lower left–the one in the yellow box–doing?

He’s talking on his cell, right?

Well, no. Not in January 1982. And in 1982, it would have been obvious what he’s doing. He’s listening to the local broadcast of the game on a transistor radio. And my first thought was that he was talking to someone. And even though I know he’s listening to the radio, every time I glance at this picture, my first thought is someone talking on a cell.

Each time I look at the picture, there’s a moment of dissonance. My brain thinks guy on cell phone…except this is 1982…oh, yeah, transistor radio. And I was alive when people took transistor radios to games rather than cell phones. My kids would have a harder time understanding what this guy is doing.

Many of the things we take for granted in the early parts of the twenty-first century weren’t there even a short time ago. But if you’re like me, your brain still says cell phone when you look at the picture, even though you know it’s not possible.

When writing a period piece, it’s hard to keep the modern conveniences out of the story. For instance, you might have a guy use a cell phone in 1982.

There are all kinds of next places to take this post: the need for having someone else read your work to catch things like this, then cuff you in the head; the need for research; the need for FWA to get a blogger who completely understands there were no cell phones during the Reagan administration.

But I won’t go any of those places. I’ll just leave you with the picture.

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