I’m driving a loaner car right now while mine is being repaired, and it has prompted me to realize how much cars have changed since I’ve been driving.
Model year 1982 — this was the car I drove in high school, one that I inherited after my grandfather died. It was about as basic as cars could come, though it did have an automatic transmission and an AM radio. It also had an awesome paint job : my friends and I painted flowers and vines all over the outside using poster paints. My parents didn’t object, because they figured poster paints would wash off. However, we painted it in July, and then 6 weeks of hot weather with no rain pretty much baked the images on. The car’s steering-wheel horn button had broken at some point, and so there was a large black button mounted smack in the middle of the dashboard that was wired up to the horn. I had an index card saying “Ejection Seat” tacked on the dashboard next to it.
Model year 1990 — this was the car I bought used when I graduated college. Now I had such amenities as power steering, power brakes, an AM/FM radio, cassette tape player, and a passenger-side rear-view mirror. It also had those automatic seatbelts that slid along tracks. In one memorable incident, I had failed to pull close enough to a tollbooth to drop my change in, so I opened the door slightly to lean out further. The seatbelt slid forward and caught on the bun of my hair and started dragging me forward, to the laughter of my 4 passengers.
Model year 2002 — this my current car, and the first one I ever bought new. Now I have amenities like all wheel drive, antilock brakes, power windows, power doorlocks, airbags, and a CD player. It’s capable of fitting an 8′ length of lumber inside, if I fold down all the seats. It’s also, unfortunately, got the most uncomfortable seats of any car I have ever driven.
Model year 2010 — the loaner car. It’s got an alarm (which I better not accidentally trigger, because I don’t know how to turn it off), heated seats (which make me feel like I just wet my pants), a passenger airbag on-off switch, and a remote door lock gizmo. It’s also got more blinky lights on the dashboard than some of the spaceships did in the sci-fi shows I used to watch, back in the Dark Ages when I was still tooling around in my flowery car with the ejection seat.