The Mystery, Crime, and Thriller Group discussion

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General Chat > Does Outdated Technology Spoil a Story?

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message 1: by M. (new)

M. Myers (mruth) | 100 comments With technology changing at an ever-faster pace, does reference to something outmoded like a bank of pay phones or a Walkman or boom box spoil a mystery for you? (This assumes, of course, that it's not integral to a plot.) Would this bother you more in a book set in the 80s or 90s than "old" technology in a WWII novel where you know they didn't have cell phones or laptops?


message 2: by Creature (new)

Creature | 93 comments Hello:
It wouldn't bother me a bit. Heck, I probably wouldn't draw any attention to it.
Now, those fancy new fountain coke dispensers in the fast food chains...now that's another story.
Have a Great Day!!!
The "Creature"


message 3: by Brian (new)

Brian January (brianjanuary) | 40 comments That's a very good point. As a thriller author, I make use of technology (phones, computers, etc.) to a certain degree, and I worry that a year or so from now readers will be put off by the old-fashioned technology. But I guess there's nothing to be done about it!

Brian January


message 4: by Laurin (new)

Laurin (laurinlooloo) Sometimes it does. I didn't grow up with typewriters, rotary phones, records, 8-tracks, etc. It depends on how heavily used the "old" technology is. If it's a quick reference, then I don't think much of it. But if it's referenced a lot, then it can be. I was reading the 1st Scarpetta novel, and it was so distracting that they didn't have DNA! It's something that I've taken for granted, and not having it is awkward. I didn't learn how to use a typewriter until I was 18.


message 5: by Weenie (new)

Weenie | 161 comments Old technology gives the story flavour as straight away, you know or have an idea of when the story was set.


message 6: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Surani (melaniesurani) | 3 comments I like it when books are true to their time period. It's impossible to be completely technology neutral. Sometimes the continuous mention of payphones (for example), would prompt me to check the copyright date of the book, but then I'd think, "Oh, 1987. Cool."


message 7: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) I love Golden Age crime fiction and since joining GR I've developed a taste for historical crime fiction. So references to old technology (or no technology) don't bother me at all. As long as the technology used in the novel is accurate for the period in which it is set - whether that's the 1850s, the 1950s, the 1980s or 2012 - there should be no problem.

What I don't like in historical crime fiction is characters with contemporary mindsets: that was the thing that bugged me most about The Alienist, for example. In addition, some writers can overuse a particular device in order to set a novel in a particular time. For example, references to cell phones being the size of bricks in order to locate the action in the 1980s would be annoying after a while, apart from anything else because it would take readers (who know full well that cell phones got smaller)out of the narrative.


message 8: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl All of the computer references in the Stieg Larsson books are going to seem to outdated in 10 years. And they're practically on every page.

I've read books where authors wrote something like, "Lucy opened her internet browser and search engine and typed blah blah blah....." That already sounds unbelievably stale, when most people just think of that as googling.


message 9: by Iain (new)

Iain (iainpurdie) | 1 comments I read a Dick Francis novel fairly recently - the title escapes me - which was centred round some computer tapes.

Tapes.

It was written in the early 80s and, as a geek, I actually rather liked it. The author gave an accurate, for the time, depiction of computers.

Another of his books I read just after uses public phones a lot. When I come across something like that I always flip to the front and find out when the book was first published. Ah, memories!


message 10: by M. (new)

M. Myers (mruth) | 100 comments I agree that it's fun to have the "ah, memories" reaction. However, I wonder whether readers who don't remember that technology are put off by it.

I remember reading the Dick Francis book with the computer tapes -- when we'd moved on to the world of 5.25" floppies and C/PM. At the time I thought it was fun that we'd come so far.


message 11: by Jim (last edited Feb 22, 2012 10:22AM) (new)

Jim Crocker | 176 comments References to "8-tracks" always were and always will be a bad idea. And CD's and DVD's are pretty much toast, too. How 'bout the tapes getting snagged and pulling out in great tangled masses, like seaweed? And all that happens in the car, while you're driving! Folks under 40 dunno 'bout that. Of course, that's another story, completely. And the reference to "C/PM"? Jeeze, those were days well and sooo over with.


message 12: by Laurin (new)

Laurin (laurinlooloo) I know floppy disks, cassettes, VHS. Any technology after about 1995 is something that I'll understand. I understand records, only because I watched "old people" tv with my grandparents. M*A*S*H, Murder She Wrote, etc.


message 13: by Jim (new)

Jim Crocker | 176 comments Laurin wrote: "I understand records, only because I watched "old people" tv with my grandparents. M*A*S*H, M..."
Watched OPTV in BW, right?


message 14: by Laurin (new)

Laurin (laurinlooloo) No, color. They did have one of those giant tvs that's inside the wooden cabinet. If you accidentally ran into that thing, it hurt!


message 15: by M. (last edited Feb 22, 2012 02:32PM) (new)

M. Myers (mruth) | 100 comments So maybe we need a bit of new technology that we embed in every new book so it self destructs in five years? Shazam, no outdated techology references to befuddle readers. (Not really -- I hope.)


message 16: by Brian (new)

Brian Meeks (extremelyavg) | 8 comments My books take place in the 50's and I'm always worried about getting the references correct. For me, it does ruin it if a character, in a modern thriller, doesn't have a cell phone, and is in peril because of it. This is, of course, unless the author has cleverly disposed of the phone in some manner or put the cell tower out of reach.

I do think about those things when I read and I hope I do a good job of it, when I write.


message 17: by Jim (new)

Jim Crocker | 176 comments Laurin, Just tossed the gigantic TV and cabinet, now that we got HDTV and can see close-ups of everybody's skin. Yikes!


message 18: by Laurin (new)

Laurin (laurinlooloo) Jim wrote: "Laurin, Just tossed the gigantic TV and cabinet, now that we got HDTV and can see close-ups of everybody's skin. Yikes!"

When my grandparents got rid of the cabinet tv, they also got rid of a record player inside of a beautiful cabinet. I was very disappointed.


message 19: by Susan (new)

Susan | 69 comments It doesn't bother me but it might jar me for a minute. I do like books true to their time period. And one can never keep up with technology anyways.


message 20: by M. (new)

M. Myers (mruth) | 100 comments It's really fun seeing the range of reactions on this. Susan may have given the best summation with her last comment.


message 21: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) The only thing that would bother me would be if Sherlock Holmes used a cell phone!!!!!
The rush of technology will make a book written last year suddenly dated......so, just keep it in the time period and I'm a happy camper.


message 22: by Jim (new)

Jim Crocker | 176 comments Well, I believe the newly reconstituted Sherlock does in fact use a "digital" phone - probably texts-textes-Texas?, as well. To text, or not to text . . . Not me. Never have, never will. It a NOUN to me!


message 23: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) A newly reconstituted Holmes is not for me, Jim....call me old fashioned but how can you improve on perfection?


message 24: by Jim (new)

Jim Crocker | 176 comments Well, it is on TV, which pretty much buries that one. Oh, then there's the movie! With Robert Downey, Jr. GADZOOKS!


message 25: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) I know it is out there.....Laurie King's books which have Holmes married, etc..........but I am a fan of the original, so call me zany!!!!!


message 26: by M. (new)

M. Myers (mruth) | 100 comments I'm not a fan of the new TV Sherlock. The very first episode where he was shooting at the wall and saying "Bored, bored, bored," hit my funnybone. The new technology soon became intrusive, though. All the fast-cut shots of the map on his cellphone struck me as repetitive and too cute. Plot and character, please! Not special effects.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 551 comments I think I'll stick with Jeremy Brett, thank you.


message 28: by Batsap (new)

Batsap | 5 comments M. wrote: " However, I wonder whether readers who don't remember that technology are put off by it."

I'm a child of the nineties, so there's technology I don't remember, but I don't mind it being referenced if the book is set/was written 'before my time'. I'm good with 70's and 80's technology because of the TV series Ashes to Ashes and Life on Mars. So no, it doesn't bother me at all if the technology in a book is outdated. Like other people have said, as long as it's of the time (unless it's sci-fi). I think older technology is adorable, anyway.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 551 comments I still have a rotary phone. No, it doesn't bother me.


message 30: by Jim (new)

Jim Crocker | 176 comments You're kidding. A phone like that doesn't actually work any more. Does it? When they ask you to press 3, for service and then you dial and the thing goes clickety-clickety-click or whatever. You can't do stuff like that. Can you? Just Kidding You!! But seriously . . .


message 31: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy Spaulding The different tech from different eras does not bother me, sometimes attitudes from different eras will throw me off a bit. In a Perry Mason book I read his secetary said something like "They can't stay in the same room a the hotel, they aren't married." Everyone in the break room at work wondered why i was laughing.


message 32: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy Spaulding The different tech from different eras does not bother me, sometimes attitudes from different eras will throw me off a bit. In a Perry Mason book I read his secetary said something like "They can't stay in the same room a the hotel, they aren't married." Everyone in the break room at work wondered why i was laughing.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 551 comments Jim wrote: "You're kidding. A phone like that doesn't actually work any more. Does it? When they ask you to press 3, for service and then you dial and the thing goes clickety-clickety-click or whatever. You ca..."

Most certainly it works.


message 34: by M. (new)

M. Myers (mruth) | 100 comments In fact, having a rotary phone is some times the best was to get a real, live person when you call customer service at some company, 'cause you can't do the "press 1..." drill.


message 35: by William (new)

William Amerman I rewrote some sections of my second book a few times to update the technology. The last time, I tried to take out specific items but did leave in some generic concepts like web pages, databases and online auctions. The problem for me is that some of the plot hinges on these things. Well, and pistols. I don't think those are going out of style any time soon!


message 36: by Rene (new)

Rene (renehasekamp) | 7 comments I love novells in which a analyzing a footprint is about the most advanced technology. In those novels the police or detective has to do a much more interesting job than in modern high-tech novels. See Sherlock Holmes, for instance.


message 37: by Christine US (new)

Christine US (christineus) | 10 comments Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. I actually just read One for the Money, and all her old references drove me bonkers. I don't know why, but it really did. Maybe b/c it was so highly featured (the phone, the answering machine, etc).... in other books from the 90s, I don't even notice things like that.

I did go see the movie when it came out - I'm glad they did some updating for the screen.

I don't think authors should have to go back and update their books, but I can't even imagine trying to read some of the late 90's/early 2000 books that are full of technology now.


message 38: by M. (new)

M. Myers (mruth) | 100 comments Ian Rankin's THE FALLS had an online computer game as part of the plot, but it was so skillfully (and sparingly) used I don't think it will become outdated. The novel itself is fantastic!


message 39: by Jim (new)

Jim Crocker | 176 comments I still keep seeing answering machines depicted in recent movies. The guy walks in and the thing is flashing. Flashing! Whoa. When's the last time you saw that. Or maybe it's beeping. Mine's all internal to the phone, and I forget to check. I'd like an answering machine. Does Radio Shack still sell them?


message 40: by Laurin (new)

Laurin (laurinlooloo) CSI really needs to figure out how cell phones work. One lady was using a touchscreen smartphone, and "opened" it with gloved hands. Last time I checked, leather gloves don't work on touchscreens. Screen simulation much?


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 551 comments Yes, they still sell answering machines.


message 42: by Corinne (new)

Corinne (vice-versa) | 14 comments Kim wrote: "II love Golden Age crime fiction and since joining GR I've developed a taste for historical crime fiction. So references to old technology (or no technology) don't bother me at all. As long as the technology used in the novel is accurate for the period in which it is set - whether that's the 1850s, the 1950s, the 1980s or 2012 - there should be no problem."

nothing more to add, that's exactly the way I feel ;)


message 43: by Charles (new)

Charles Susanna wrote: "Yes, they still sell answering machines."

Consider what cell phones have done to the plot. Detective X is racing to capture suspect A and gets a call telling him B has killed A and is on his way to C. In reverse, the old practice of ads in the personals when there were dozens of newspapers appearing three of four times in the day and mail deliveries at 9pm. (But: Desperately Seeking Susan). If anyone has seen the movie Secrets Of the French Police you see the old pneumatic tube communication system by which surveillance was conducted. (Car 59, where are you?) And of course, databases, taking apart cell phones for call records, street cams everywhere (another movie, Red Road, in which a sort of detective who works as a street cam monitor actually follows a suspect for days that way. I find that the technology which bothers me is the recently deceased, like brick phones and IBM PCs, and bogus or over-used things like DNA testing.


message 44: by M. (new)

M. Myers (mruth) | 100 comments "Brick phones"? Is that a term for the early mobiles that traveled with a battery the size of a shoebox? Whatever it is, I love the term.


message 45: by Jim (new)

Jim Crocker | 176 comments I remember Mother's Day in 1974 at this winery/restaurant in Northern California. It was a scene straight out of The Godfather. People had flown in for this event from all over the world. Someone brought a satellite phone in a briefcase and people lined up to call Mom.


message 46: by C.nick (new)

C.nick (cnick) | 1 comments I've never opperated a trebuchet, nor have I rode in a horse-drawn buggy but I still like reading about these things, and for me technology is no different. The only thing that's distracting is if the technology is in the wrong timeline, just like other people have stated.


message 47: by Kaye (new)

Kaye (momgee) | 136 comments It doesn't bother me at all just as long as the author has done their homework and made sure that was the technology of the time. I just finished a book where a Dachau survivor comes to the US in 1945 and fell in love with TV especially the Milton Berle show. Good trick because MB did not start airing on TV until 1949.


message 48: by Kaye (new)

Kaye (momgee) | 136 comments Jim wrote: "I still keep seeing answering machines depicted in recent movies. The guy walks in and the thing is flashing. Flashing! Whoa. When's the last time you saw that. Or maybe it's beeping. Mine's all in..."

Hey, my answering machine still flashes a big red button when there's a message. Good thing otherwise I'd probably never check it. Lol!


message 49: by Charles (new)

Charles Kaye wrote: "Jim wrote: "I still keep seeing answering machines depicted in recent movies. The guy walks in and the thing is flashing. Flashing! Whoa. When's the last time you saw that. Or maybe it's beeping. M..."

Mine too. What's bothersome is that mine reports only junk. Like always getting a taxi or a parking space, in the movies there's never any phone spam to wade through. And does anyone text?


message 50: by Jim (new)

Jim Crocker | 176 comments Let's just say that people of a "certain" age do not / cannot text. Just doing the little Kindle keyboard is taxing enough. And you know what Robert Cray says about taxes.


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