Three Seconds Away from Nuclear Oblivion

I was browsing my local thrift store last weekend and came across a Betamax player. I don’t think I’d ever actually seen one before. I picked it up, marveling over its simplicity. Not to mention its weight – I was surprised by how heavy it was! I remember the whole Beta vs. VHS war in the late 70s/early 80s. It’s weird, because by all accounts Betamax was the superior format, but its undoing was its one-hour limit per tape. Clearly, Americans were willing to sacrifice picture quality for convenience. Who wanted to bother with getting up every 60 minutes to switch tapes mid-movie?!

And we act surprised that there’s an obesity epidemic…

This also made me think of our first VCR. I remember my dad coming home carrying a box so large my first question was, “Where are we going to put the new couch?”

Paging Marty McFly!
Paging Marty McFly!

Seriously. This thing was a beast. But it looked so futuristic! With its gleaming chrome body and top-loading videocassette slot, it reminded me of Doc Brown’s DeLorean in Back to the Future. I figured we’d all be jetting around in flying cars by the end of the decade. Instead, we got the Yugo. Yugo

Our first microwave was a monster, too. It was a Quasar unit that featured groovy fake wood paneling. The design might have been circa 1978, but my folks had that microwave oven for decades. Literally. They just got rid of it a year or two ago, and used it to cook rice (it had a dedicated button for that) right up until the end. Say what you will, but the phrase they don’t make ’em like they used to certainly applied to that old Quasar.


In today’s disposable economy, 30+ years of reliable service is quite an achievement.

I guess I’m feeling a bit nostalgic after watching CNN’s miniseries on the 80s. It’s called – drumroll, please! – The Eighties. And is every bit as fascinating as last year’s The Seventies, and the previous year’s The Sixties. The series covers everything from the Cold War and AIDS to Wall Street greed and A Flock of Seagulls. Captivating stuff. It’s a wonder any of us made it out alive, what with Dexy’s Midnight Runners topping the charts.

Also, that whole three-seconds-away-from-nuclear-oblivion thing. mushroom-cloud-624x467

And really, as distant as the 80s seem, the so-called “modern age” is still pretty new, when you think about it. It’s easy to forget that all these things we take for granted today haven’t been around all that long. Just 10 years ago, “facebook” wasn’t a thing, it was an action. Two words. A noun plus a verb. Something you did in a library when staring at the shelf, deciding what to read. I miss libraries.

I miss simpler times, in general. Even top-loading VCRs and microwave ovens that look like they were built out of wood.

What do you miss the most about the past?


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

12 thoughts on “Three Seconds Away from Nuclear Oblivion

  1. I’ve blocked out most of the eighties – the acid washed jeans, big hair, and fluorescent scrunched. But I miss The cartoons. Such simpler times before trading card based entertainment. Better storytelling too. (Exhibit all movies now being remade)


    1. I’ve tried to block out most of the music myself. There were exceptions, of course, and more than a few guilty pleasures…but by and large, I much prefer both the 70s and the 90s. Anybody know what Robbie Dupree’s up to these days??


  2. OMG Mark, the photograph of the VCR brought back immediate memories for me of when my family purchased our very first one. I think it was around the late 70’s and it was EXACTLY like the one in the photograph. It was HUGE. I recall watching old I Love Lucy episodes that I had taped. And back then, not many people had them so I felt VERY high-tech -ha!

    And we also had a microwave. It was already apart of the home that my family moved to in Florida. It hung over the stove, attached to the kitchen cabinet.

    Like you, I think I miss the simplicity of the past the most.


    1. I could not find the exact VCR we had – that one was sort-of close – but the Quasar microwave pictured is the same exact model we had. I’m just impressed that it lasted as long as it did!


  3. My memory of Beta players was my mom saying that only people who wanted to watch porno movies in their home would buy one. LOL…..that’s my mother!

    I miss Swatch watches (though I believe they are still made, but who’s wearing them?) and MTV playing music videos.


    1. LOL! Well, back in the pre-Internet days, there was quite the boom in porno thanks to videocassettes.

      Or so I’m told, anyway.

      I was an Advertising major and one of my college assignments involved coming up with a campaign for Swatch watches. I remember it well!


    1. I’m not sure about movie times in the newspaper as I don’t get a paper, but last time I checked both libraries (as I’m sitting in one at the moment) and used bookstores (as I went to one a week ago) still exist. Don’t be blaming technology about missing those two things.


      1. That’s always been my dream too. I don’t actually want to sell any of the books. I just want people to come in to talk about books and then ask, ‘How much for this one?’ and I’ll answer, ‘I’m sorry but the books aren’t for sale.’

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice nostalgic post. We are lucky that we lived through those times. I think I’d hate to grow up in this modern age where everything is instant and online…as much as I love it I’m glad I experienced the “without” age too


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