Singapore then and now 

At 53 years, Singapore’s just a young hatchling in the grand scheme of things. But since our grandparents’ time, there have been plenty of changes in how we live our day-to-day lives. From public transport to movie tickets, here are 8 pictures that show how drastically Singapore has transformed in the past few decades:

1. Paying your bus fare

bus fare singapore

Image adapted from: Hida Didi and Icons of SG 

Before EZ-Link Cards came about, you’d need either a stash of coins or loaded-up TransitLink Card to take the bus. We’d fiddle away with the buttons of the ticketing machine and patiently wait for our bus tickets – most of us clung onto these slips of of paper not to show the bus inspector, but to fold them into origami hearts to give to our crushes.

2. Watching TV shows

video tape rental singapore netflix

Image adapted from: On The Upcycle

The greatest highlight of our week was when we’d head down to video tape rental stores. Our parents will be engrossed in their shows – most probably Hong Kong triad dramas or Hollywood blockbusters – and we’ll be making a beeline for cartoons like Aladdin and The Lion King. And of course, it was basic courtesy to rewind all tapes before returning them.

Today, we’re more likely to have a Netflix subscription than a fave video rental store. And it takes minimal effort to watch shows online anywhere, anytime, anyplace – just switch on your laptop and press play.

3. Borrowing library books

library books singapore

Image adapted from: Remember Singapore

For those of you who still borrow books from the library – good on you. Although most only step foot in a library now for exam mugging or cold aircon relief, libraries were the highlight of our good ol’ school days. It was probably the lack of a speedy Internet connection, but checking out the grand total of 4 books made our day.

4. Watching a movie

watching movies singapore past

Image adapted from: Mica Monkey and Pinterest

For us ‘90s kids, we’re often watching Netflix shows and YouTube videos but there’s still something special about a dinner + movie date. These days, we wouldn’t need to bring anything but our phone: we can do the entire booking online and enter the cinema by flashing a QR code.

But back in the day, watching a movie meant searching the newspapers for showtimes and entering with a paper ticket – with your seat number scrawled on by pen. And yes, movies were only $3.50 but that took a huge hit on our savings since our allowance reached $1/day at best.

5. Making phone calls

Image adapted from: Wikimedia

It wasn’t possible to go a few steps anywhere without seeing these public payphones – that’s how common they once were. A 10-cent coin was all we needed to make a quick call, usually to tell our parents that we’ll be studying – cough, playing – after school.

But we don’t even call people with our mobiles these days: we’re so used to WhatsApp-ing or Facebook Messenger that a call from an unknown number has us staring at our mobile screens in mild surprise.

6. Paying road tolls

road tolls singapore

Image adapted from: Times of My Life and Land Transport Authority

No one likes seeing an ERP, but imagine how much worse it was when the Area Licensing Scheme (ALS) was around. It was a lot like the toll gantries in Malaysia – every time you wanted to drive to the CBD, you’d have to painstakingly queue up at a post office to buy an area licence first.

Never thought it would come to this, but we actually like having an IU machine.

7. Keeping photographs

photo albums singapore

Image adapted from: Scan Photo Singapore and @oliphanofficial

Raise your hand if you’ve got a stash of yellowing family photos – yep, we’ve all got that naked baby photo tucked away somewhere. But these days, you’re more likely to be scrolling through the 1048319084 pics loaded in your Camera Roll instead.

Sure, nostalgia’s great, but we prefer the ease of our photo-editing apps and the freedom to delete whatever we like, thank you very much.

8. Visiting McDonald’s

old new singapore macdonalds

Image adapted from: National Archives of Singapore and CapitaLand

Since the very first McDonald’s outlet in Singapore, plenty has changed: we have digital menu boards instead of printed menus and no longer have to join in queues. Instead, we use self-ordering kiosks to customise our orders. Couple that with free WiFi and wew, we’d say the establishment has stepped firmly into our digital-savvy times.

Bonus: We also have a ready choice of 24-hour McDonald’s outlets and McDelivery whenever we need – we’ve got every meal sorted, from late-night suppers to early breakfasts.

Who knows how previous generations survived without a steady supply of our favourite McDonald’s food?

Singapore life: then vs now

Nothing like a blast from the past to remind us of how far we’ve come as a nation. These little tidbits of nostalgia were once part and parcel of our lives and, while we do miss their old-school charm, it’s safe to say that our daily routines have become a lot more convenient. Technological advancements at its finest!

This post was brought to you by McDonald’s. 

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