If you want to feel prehistoric while simultaneously reliving the joys of your childhood, this book is for you! That’s assuming that you were around in the 1970s and 1980s, otherwise much of 21st Century Dodos will feel inexplicably bizarre.
Steve Stack has assembled a collection of things that are either now extinct or rarely seen these days. These aren’t just limited to gadgets, foodstuffs or TV adverts they don’t make any more, but also include activities, ways of doing things and even concepts. So alongside entries for ‘Rotary Dial Telephones’, ‘Candy Cigarettes’ and ‘Humphreys’ you will also find ‘Mixtapes’, ‘Half-day Closing’ and ‘Waiting Ages for American Films to Come Out’.
Many of these really struck a chord with me and brought back some detailed memories. ‘Loading Computer Games from Tape’ – how many hours were lost watching my Commodore 64 upload a simple game from cassette? ‘One Phone in the Home’ – the awkwardness of gossiping to your mates with your Mum pretending not to eavesdrop! ‘Calculator Watches’ – I owned a digital watch that you could play Pac-man on which made me the most popular kid in school for about five hours!
There is some genuine research into many of these, alongside the author’s own personal reminiscences. ‘Nuns’ made me laugh while also realising he was right – you really don’t see them as often as you used to. And his entry for ‘Handwritten Letters’ is a gem.
Steve writes with a light touch and plenty of humour, but also a strong observational slant. He doesn’t claim that the past is better than the present, as you might expect such a nostalgic book to do, but isn’t afraid to state where he feels the modern world has gone astray. There are some mild but insightful commentaries on heavyweight topics such as corporal punishment and over-protectiveness towards children. These add a little Weetabix crunchiness to balance out all the Woolworths pick’n’mix sweetness.
This is a funny, thoughtful romp through yesteryear that really highlights how much life has changed in the last few decades.