Sunday, January 5, 2014

Big interest in family living like it's the '80s

A family’s decision to live like it’s 1986 turned out to be a big modern-day attention grabber.

The Toronto Sun put the spotlight late last summer on members of a Guelph family who have shunned post-1986 electronics and other conveniences.

The story went viral and became the 11th-most read article on

“The week after you published the story, the phone was literally ringing off the hook,” father Blair McMillan, 26, told the Sun.

Newspapers from around the world frantically called his old-fashioned landline for an interview. Some contacted the Toronto Sun with the impossible request for an e-mail address to reach the family. Others asked McMillan to e-mail them, obviously forgetting that such a form of communication did not exist in 1986.

Of those who did reach McMillan, “75% of people would either say ‘look us up on this’ or ‘what’s your e-mail?’ I’d be, like, I only have the phone,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s like they don’t even realize how different it was.”

Agents for reality shows also saw the opportunity in televising the strange experiment.

But for now, McMillan said, the family is weighing its options.

“It has been hard because obviously we’re not familiar with anything and you have pressure from, like, agents and companies from Los Angeles to New York to Vancouver to Montreal,” he said.

He also has no idea who the agents are because — in keeping with the family’s pact — McMillans cannot Google anyone’s name to find out more information.

“That’s one of the funny things, that’s what so hard,” McMillan said. “Because you don’t know who’s calling you and you know nothing about them ... obviously not having that advantage is hard.”

When the Toronto Sun visited the family, the two sons — Trey and Denton — were happily playing on the front lawn instead of pushing buttons on an iPad.

It was exactly what McMillan had in mind when he proposed the life-altering plan to his 27-year-old girlfriend, Morgan Patey, last spring.

Running a household as if it were still 1986 meant the family has more quality time.

Unable to access Facebook, Patey focused on reading books. McMillan realized he wasn’t chained to his cellphone anymore.

They conduct their financial business at the bank, instead of online. Family members snapped pictures using rolls of film. The McMillans took a road trip in which they relied on paper maps.

“It’s definitely made us closer,” Patey told the Queen Latifah Show during their appearance in November.

The show provided them with a gift of a 1980s answering machine because “they couldn’t get a hold of us,” McMillan said with a laughed.

“They want us to come back the day that we go back into 2014 and they want to give us complete makeovers and technology,” he added.

The family has also been featured on the Today show, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, The Telegraph, and The Atlantic.

“It’s a catch-22, I guess, because the thing that we’re not using is the thing that blew us up,” he said.

They’ll return to their iPhones, flat-screen TVs, and modern gadgets at some point. They’re just not sure when.

“As of right now, we still want to keep it going as it is and kind of see what happens,” McMillan said.
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