Canadian man says ‘no’ to new technology past 1986

Eighties Blair McMillan 010913

Blair McMillan holds a map he uses instead of a GPS in his car. McMillan has rid his family of all technology, living his life as he did in 1986. (Craig Robertson/Toronto Sun)

I don’t remember anything about the year 1986. I was one year old, living in Edmonton, Alberta Canada with my mom, dad, and older sister. My dad was just finishing medical school at the University of Alberta and we were dirt poor. We had a 19-inch black-and-white TV, and a hanger for an antenna.

“Do you know what was big that year?” my dad asked with a smile. “The game ‘Pong’. We played that in the student association office during our breaks.” My dad chuckled and said, “I remember thinking ‘There’s no future in this. Video games will never take off.’”

Twenty five years later, his two-year-old grandson is downloading “Make it Pop” and “Angry Birds”, and ‘reading’ books on a hand-held device that has rocked the world and changed the face of gaming forever.

But for better, or worse? Well, that’s a heated debate going on between parents, kids, and professionals world-wide.

I’m always worrying about how much time my boys are spending in front of our 50 inch HD 3D TV or iPhone/pad/pod. Are they learning? Are their brains working too hard? Not enough? Turning to mush?

I like to think I’m fairly strict about how much time they spend with technology. They are allowed two 30 minutes shows MAX each day (one in the morning while I nurse the baby to sleep for his morning nap, and one in the afternoon while I put him down for his afternoon nap.) I learned that unless they are completely occupied, they WILL burst into the nursery either a) crying, b) fighting, or c) wanting to show me the snowman they made out of play dough while little bits of their creation fall off their sticky hands and into the carpet or onto the baby’s head which he will eventually find and eat later.

So thank you, “Super Why!”

As far as phone time goes, I’m still trying to figure that out. They love looking at my pictures and watching videos of themselves. In fact, both my four and two-year-old boys have memorized the entire Star-Spangled Banner by watching a clip of their dad performing it at the Days of ’47 Rodeo.

In a recent article published in the Scholastic magazine, “Parent & Child” entitled, “The Download”, Ari Brown, M.D. and AAP spokesperson said, “There are definitely learning opportunities with traditional and new media. And we are encouraging them. But even if all your child watches is the History Channel, you still have to manage that time.”

And that time, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics is no more than one to two hours max for young children.

But I’ve often wondered…what would happen if we said “Sayonara!” to screen time? Would it be beneficial?

One dad in back in Canada is trying it out.

For an entire year, Blair McMillan from Guelph, Ontario has banned all technology from his household that was created after 1986, the year him and his girlfriend were born.

“We’re parenting our kids the same way we were parented for a year just to see what it’s like,” Blair told the Toronto Sun.

Bah! What would that be like? No texting! No Tweeting! Gasp-no Googleing?! No satellite TV. No cellphones, fancy coffee machines, digital cameras, email or GPS.

The McMillan’s took a road trip around the States and used a classic, old paper road map. They passed cars with built-in DVD screens while they tried to entertain their kids ages 5 and 2 with things like coloring books and stickers.

“It feels weird,’ McMillan said. “It feels like we’re really going back in time.”

The breaking point? Blair asked his son to come outside and play with him, and his son refused to look up from his tablet to join him. McMillan persisted, urging his son to turn off the game but to no avail.

“That’s kind of when it hit me because I’m like, wow, when I was a kid, I lived outside,” McMillan said.

But the McMillan’s have taken the whole “lets-pretend-we-still-live-in-the-80s” thing to what some may call an extreme: cut-off jeans, old jerseys, and even mullet hair styles for both dad and kids are sported around the household.

The family even refused to look at pictures of their new baby niece on a relative’s iPhone, because it would be cheating. They wanted to see the baby “live and in person.”

The drastic lifestyle change has also affected McMillan’s career. His business partner split because McMillan insisted on doing business the “old-fashioned” way. He has even spent time writing a new resume in cursive handwriting.

But the one-year challenge has also had many rewarding results: Morgan, Blair’s girlfriend says she has read close to 15 books since they began the challenge in the spring.

“We’re just closer, there’s more talking,” she said. And the family spends time enjoying the outdoors and looking at nature’s beauty instead of staring at a screen.

I heard of a “one hour a day, one day a week, one week a year” challenge for being technology-free, and we have tried to implement that. But I also think technology is a great blessing and huge asset to one’s life and career, when used appropriately.

After all…you wouldn’t be reading this blog if it weren’t for that computer and Internet you’re on!

What do you think of the McMillan family challenge? Is it too extreme? How do you balance technology in your personal life or with your family?


  1. Cat

    I would say it’s a bit extreme. I graduated High School in 1986 and we (and several other families) had a pc in our homes. I had been learning to program one for 3 years in High School. I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love all the convienence and fun it brings but I hate the isolation and contention over using it that comes up. So we have no computer Sundays and the kids only get an hour on the computer,x-box or tablet after homework and jobs are finished. Needless to say they are learning to share a bit. They have also learned that if the technology and their interaction with it, tickes me off, they get to turn it off and find other ways to keep busy or I find things for them to do. There’s a balance that needs to happen in everything. The tough job is to find the balance that works for you and your family.

  2. Cat

    BTW – Pong came for the general public in 1975. The first mass market Analog cell phone (that didn’t have to be hooked into your car) were available in 1978. I remember playing atari as much as my parents would let us and although we didn’t have cable (but friends did) we would watch TV all day if my parents didn’t stop us. We even had a party and watched Thriller on MTV the first time it was broadcast.

  3. Splitme2

    The one thing that struck me was that the parents are not married. Is that how they were raised? The ‘old fashioned’ way of living together? Otherwise I think it could be a good experiment.

    • Johnny

      I so agree Spitme2. The true title to the article should be, “Canadian man says ‘no’ to new technology past 1986, but ‘yes’ to to low morals especially past 1986.

Leave a comment encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.