S&H Green Stamps, 1981
A few years back there was a reporter who noticed that virtually every gadget pictured in a Radio Shack newspaper ad from 1991 could now be replaced by iphone apps. With these two pages from a 1981 S&H Green Stamps catalog, we’re almost in the same place.
What have we here? Radios in all shapes and sizes. Fat TVs for color and (still) black & white! An integrated stereo with record changer and cassette recorder. A Walkman for playing tapes on the go. One VHS videocassette machine for viewing movies at home. In 1981 we’re still 4 years away from the first Blockbuster Video store! (While in 2018 we’re down to the very last Blockbuster.)
There’s also quaint advice to dust your records before playing, and keep cassette tapes away from direct sunlight. Ancient history – as is the page design, trying hard to be trendy by looking like paper file folders with typewritten labels.
But then catalogs themselves are starting a slide into antiquity by the 1980s. We have fewer catalogs in our archives from the last two decades of the 20th century, which pretty much marked the ascendancy of the Shopping Mall. Why wait for mail order when you could get everything during a Saturday spent at the air conditioned local mall? What could be better than that?