Then And Now Photos Show How Much Everyday Items Have Changed Over Time

These days, it seems like a new device comes out every week. If you look back at the technology of the past few decades, it puts into perspective how much things have changed. But cellphones and televisions aren’t the only things that look and operate differently nowadays. Even more basic items like the shower stall, football helmets, or coffee machines are night and day compared to before. Read on to see how much everyday items have transformed over time.

Washing Machines Were A Lot Of Work

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© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images and Getty Images
© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images and Getty Images

Those who think washing machines are a more basic technology may be surprised to see how intricate the older models were. This early edition washing machine looks like a wooden barrel sitting on top of wooden planks. Up top is some sort of machinery that we imagine wasn’t the safest to operate.

The more modern versions look far more basic because all of the technology is tucked away in the machine. All we have to worry about is throwing in some clothes and pushing a few buttons!

Coffee Makers Weren’t As High Tech

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Claere Sonderhoff/ullstein bild via Getty Images and Phillip Chin/WireImage/Getty Images
Claere Sonderhoff/ullstein bild via Getty Images and Phillip Chin/WireImage/Getty Images

These days, there are a ton of simple ways to make coffee. From Kerigs to french presses to drip or espresso machines, people have more variety than ever before. Best of all, it only takes adding a little water and grounds.

Back in the day, though, coffee makers weren’t so straightforward. We would have no idea how to operate the older editions. By the looks of it, that coffee maker may have only been to grind the beans, which would mean you’d need another device entirely to brew it.

Motorcycles Were Bulky And Fragile

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© Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images and Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Harley Davidson
© Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images and Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Harley Davidson

As dangerous as the motorcycles of today seem, they’re actually far more robust than their earlier counterparts. It’s hard to believe that the bulky motorcycle pictured here is an early edition Harley Davidson.

To be fair, part of why it seems so boxy is because there’s a sidecar. Still, we’re surprised those thin tires could support all that weight. The motorcycles of today look much more stylish with their sleek yet tough exteriors and condensed machinery.

Calculators Used To Be Basic

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Chaloner Woods/Getty Images and Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Chaloner Woods/Getty Images and Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

One of the things many of us probably take for granted is calculators. Old-school calculators like this one were bulky and basic. They could only perform simple tasks like adding and multiplying.

Nowadays, many of us have a calculator on our phones, or for more complex equations, use a scientific calculator like this one by Texas Instruments. These impressive calculators can perform functions many of us couldn’t dream of doing by hand, making them well worth their $100 price tag.

Vacuum Cleaners Weren’t As Easy To Maneuver Before

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Camerique/ClassicStock/Getty Images and James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images
Camerique/ClassicStock/Getty Images and James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

Vacuum cleaners get into all the nooks and crannies of the home, so you want them to be maneuverable. Unfortunately, back in the day, they were just trying to get the thing to work.

This old vacuum looks so intricate that we can imagine it was probably a hassle to lug around the house. It even has two handles instead of one for extra support. Nowadays, there are robot vacuums that do all the work for you.

Cash Registers Were Far More Manual

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Getty Images and JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images
Getty Images and JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images

Cash registers required a bit more attention back in the day. As you can see, they had a ton of buttons and they weren’t digital. They essentially functioned as big calculators so the checkout clerk wouldn’t want to make a mistake when adding up the total.

That also meant taking something out of your purchase was more of a hassle, and we don’t even want to think about the complications of returns. These days, many registers are lightweight tablets and have far more functions.

Football Helmets Weren’t As Robust

New York Times Co./Getty Images and Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
New York Times Co./Getty Images and Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

One of the more risky aspects of football is the potential for head injuries. That’s why players need to wear helmets, but they weren’t always as robust as they are now. The early football helmets look like they couldn’t absorb much impact.

To top it off, the old ones didn’t have a guard in the front, so their faces could easily be struck. These days, helmets are much wider, offering more padding and a stronger exterior. Football players can still become injured, but they at least have more protection.

Radios Weren’t Portable

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E. O. Hoppe/Getty Images and Joseph Branston/MacFormat Magazine/Future via Getty Images
E. O. Hoppe/Getty Images and Joseph Branston/MacFormat Magazine/Future via Getty Images

Though radios are rarely used nowadays outside of cars or emergencies, they’re still much more convenient than the older versions. The early radios were too large to carry around, and they had a massive speaker that took up space and made them more fragile.

Radios nowadays are so compact that you could bring one with you just about anywhere. They also have more advanced technology, like built-in speakers. Some even have a touchscreen like the one pictured.

Telephones Were Fixed And Keyless

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H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images and Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images and Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Imagine having to talk to an operator every time you made a call. That’s how telephones used to work! Not only were they without keys to dial numbers, but they also were fixed to a wall. They also had a separate ear and mouthpiece.

And you could forget about ringtones because they only rang via bells. Nowadays many of us have smartphones that basically function as miniature computers. They can perform tons of tasks and are highly customizable.

Airplanes Were Small And Open

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Getty Images and FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
Getty Images and FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

If you think driving with the windows down or riding a motorcycle is chilly, imagine flying on a plane with no enclosures! Early planes look like paper mache versions of today’s aircraft.

The flimsy aircraft were not only ill-equipped for a crash landing, but they also couldn’t hold more than a couple of passengers. The planes of today are several times larger, enabling them to carry dozens of passengers. They also have plenty of emergency devices in place for increased safety.

Cars Were Not So Convenient

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National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images and Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images
National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images and Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine life without cars. For many, commuting is a regular part of life. The earlier cars, though, weren’t nearly as convenient as the ones of today. They were much slower, bulkier, and dangerous.

Though the car couldn’t move that fast, it also didn’t have many safety precautions. It more or less looked like a wagon without the horses. These days, cars are faster, have more safety measures, and feature tons of bells and whistles they didn’t have before.

Gas Stations Were Much Smaller

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Buyenlarge/Getty Images and Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Buyenlarge/Getty Images and Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Not only were cars significantly different back in the day but so were gas stations. With fewer cars on the road, there didn’t need to be as many gas station spots. They also didn’t have a roof to protect drivers from harsh weather while filling up.

The design of the gas tanks was more basic as it featured fewer options, and there wasn’t always a convenience store attached. These days, gas stations have a roof, lights, and stores that are packed with road trip needs.

Showers Were Less Spill-Proof

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English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images and Mike Cooper/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images
English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images and Mike Cooper/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

One everyday item you may not expect to have evolved much over the years is the shower. But as you can see, showers were designed a little differently back in the day. They had tall walls that only came out about two feet or so.

While it helped keep some water in, it was not nearly as well-contained as today’s showers, which have curtains or doors. This vintage shower was also separate from the bathroom walls, leaving the pipes exposed.

Grocery Stores Were Much Smaller

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Underwood Archives/Getty Images and Stephen Chernin/Getty Images
Underwood Archives/Getty Images and Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Another thing that’s easy to take for granted is grocery stores! While markets have been around for quite some time, they weren’t like the massive ones of today. Sometimes they wouldn’t even be indoors, like this one that features produce buckets arranged outside.

Nowadays, grocery stores have just about everything you could need. Some even have a butcher section and a pharmacy so you can make that many less trips. Before, you were lucky to find a less-than-ripe veggie.

Computers Were Too Large To Carry

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images and James Sheppard/iCreate Magazine/Future via Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images and James Sheppard/iCreate Magazine/Future via Getty Images

You don’t have to go back that far to see how much computers have changed. While the first ones were massive, the computers that became widely available for homes and offices were less overwhelming.

Still, they were much too cumbersome to lug around anywhere. The computer itself wasn’t even attached to the monitor! It was a big box sitting on the floor. Nowadays, desktop computers are flat and don’t require a box. Even more convenient are laptops, which can slip into a backpack.

Cameras Weren’t Digital

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Kenneth Rittener/Rittener/Getty Images and Olly Curtis/Digital Camera Magazine/Future via Getty Images
Kenneth Rittener/Rittener/Getty Images and Olly Curtis/Digital Camera Magazine/Future via Getty Images

While vintage cameras are cool to look at, many of us would have a hard time operating one. Unless you’re a professional photographer, you probably don’t want to go through the hassle of developing film, especially if it wasn’t a flattering photo.

More modern cameras display a preview of the photo through a viewfinder, since they’re digital, which also makes downloading images easy. But the professionals are typically the only ones dealing with cameras anyway since cellphones have decent cameras built-in.

Tractors Weren’t As Safe

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Topical Press Agency/Getty Images and STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP via Getty Images
Topical Press Agency/Getty Images and STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP via Getty Images

You don’t have to be a farmer to see a few major differences between these two tractors. For one, the more modern tractor is covered, making it much safer for the driver. Back in the day, falling off your tractor could do some damage.

Another difference is the wheel size. The older tractor would have had a harder time driving over rough terrain on such thin wheels. The modern ones look like they can handle more.

Televisions Had Small Screens And Big Bodies

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Getty Images and Neil Godwin/T3 Magazine/Future via Getty Images
Getty Images and Neil Godwin/T3 Magazine/Future via Getty Images

Like computers, televisions were much more difficult to transport back in the day. One set was a large piece of furniture that took up space in the room and yet only had a tiny screen.

These days, televisions are the exact opposite. The screen is huge to enhance the viewer experience, but the body of the television is very thin so it doesn’t take up space. Many of us even mount our televisions to the wall, which would have been impossible before.

Strollers Weren’t Collapsible

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Keystone View/FPG/Getty Images and Mikhail MetzelTASS via Getty Images
Keystone View/FPG/Getty Images and Mikhail MetzelTASS via Getty Images

Back in the day, strollers were built for one thing: to carry a baby on a walk. Now, strollers are designed with a lot more in mind. This vintage stroller has a hard and fixed body that would take up a ton of space in a home.

More modern strollers are made with fabric and collapsible for easier transport and storage. They also have places to hold items, like a basket underneath or cup holders.

Eyeglasses Weren’t So Varied

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SSPL/Getty Images and Andrew Toth/Getty Images
SSPL/Getty Images and Andrew Toth/Getty Images

Eyeglasses have become such a fashion statement over the years that they even have ones that aren’t prescription. The first eyeglasses weren’t so style-oriented. They were two round lenses with thin metal frames and that’s about it.

These days, glasses come in all sorts of shapes from round to square to cat eye. The frames are sometimes plastic, metal, or wood, and they come in all sorts of colors and designs. Even the lenses themselves can be scratchproof or darken in sunlight.