How Things Work(ed)

How Things Work coverHow Things Work

How does your camcorder work? Or your VCR? Does your mobile phone look like the one pictured below? (And do you call it a “mobile phone”?)

“The floppy disk drive works like a tape recorder.” What the what?

Few of the things in this book currently work the way this book describes…except for the tin cans with string. That still works.



VCRs and video cameras


Mobile phone


floppy disk


  1. I still have and use my VCR. I also still call them ‘mobile phones’.

    Then again, I still call ‘Enter’, ‘Return’, so you probably shouldn’t go by me…

    1. My husband still calls it Return, also. It cracks me up. He has even been known to accidentally call a cell phone (which most people just call ‘phones,’ period, nowadays) a “car phone,” ha ha ha.

    2. I still call a remote control a “clicker” because the early one had a power button and 2 little breaker type switches that you clicked up and down to change channels or volume.

    3. I have been known to refer to a “carriage return” myself, so I am happy to go by you :-).

  2. If there’s room for it, a book like this could still be fun for kids to learn from their Grandparents what things were like, ‘Back in the olden days’.

    There’s even the possibility that these things could become retro and cool again.

    1. This has already happened. I have a flip phone because they’re much more durable and affordable than smart phones. A couple people have commented on it being “retro.”

  3. I just got a new Samsung phone, and in the contacts list the options for phone numbers include Mobile, Work, Home, and Other. So as of 2019, yes, it’s still a mobile phone. (After all, if you called it a cell, that would be inaccurate, and if you called it smart, everyone would ask, “Smart what?”)

  4. The “Did you know?” symbol is an odd choice. It looks like an eight-pointed Kuomitang logo. So the authors picked sides in the Republic of China/People’s Republic of China conflict?

    1. I’m sure it was public domain clipart with an inscrutable 8.3 name like ROCKMTLG.BMP that meant nothing if you didn’t already know.

    1. That means all the comments favoring “Return” over “Enter” aren’t wrong at least 😀

  5. Hehe, I love that the cover is a fax machine! And given the changing technology — and its changing aesthetics (I know black/gray elecronics were displacing beige in the early-mid 2000s) — this book could’ve easily been weeded a decade ago.

    1. Nope. We just hadn’t started using “cell phone” so much in 2003. Look at page 8 description of “electron beams.” It says, “one for each color,” not “one for each colour.”

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