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While the relations of the Soviet Union and the West kept the goods exchange at a minimum  during the Cold War, the USSR used the Iron Curtain’s policy to control its people as well. When that curtain finally fell in 1989, and the  door ‘abroad’ opened, imported equipment  flooded the market. It was expensive: a family  might have bought an apartment for the price of  a foreign car.    

Contraband equipment was rather expensive at the  beginning of the 1990s. A high quality Japanese tape  recorder could fetch a smuggler a good fortune.  Sharp, Sony, Panasonic, and Philips boomboxes  were in colossal demand. Double cassette recorders  for copying music topped everyone’s wish list.  But over time, these status symbols significantly  reduced their importance: remember portable tape  players? In the late ‘80s, wealthy parents could bring  those ‘Walkman’ players from abroad as gifts for  their spoiled kids. In the ‘90s, players were no longer  a luxury, although still expensive.    

The late ‘80s and early ‘90s were the time of  video clubs. Back then, 10–20 people would  gather in a spacious room to watch videotapes  with foreign movies recorded on them. In the late  ‘90s, when VCRs appeared in many homes, we  began to rent video cassettes for home viewing.  Some people invested in TV/VCR combi sets. Ten years later, DVD players to playback DVD-Video and DVD-Audio discs (two different and incompatible technical standards), some with karaoke functions, replaced outdated devices.    

The legendary ‘Montana’ watch, Polaroid cameras  and camcorders were among the fashion trends  of the ‘90s.    

Portable game consoles like Game Boy, Electronics,  Tetris and Dendy were all the rage in those days. For  many of us, the first gadget to own was a pocket toy  with a wolf catching falling eggs with a frying pan,  where the gamer controlled the wolf’s reactions.    

Back then, we actively used pocket calculators —  Japanese Citizen and Casio. Also, during these  times, personal computers claimed their place in  Ukrainian homes. Computer Literacy and Usage  (Computer Studies) appeared in the school  curriculum. Advanced users could connect  the keyboard to the TV and create their first  masterpieces from a symbiosis of films, cassette  records and tapes. Until the Internet became  widely available, we used home PCs primarily for  gaming.    

A pager is a pocket receiver of personal messages. A person had to call the  operator, provide the pager’s number and dictate a message to send a message  to someone’s pager. In the nineties, having a pager was considered ‘cool’.  that’s why pager owners wore the device on a belt as a sign of being in  demand and having a career.      

In 1993, our first president Leonid Kravchuk also  became the first cell phone subscriber in Ukraine.  The phone he used back then cost almost $3000.  Add the price of $1000 for connection to that.  And although our average salary at the time was  only $25 a month, half a year later, there were  2800 Ukrainian subscribers to our first mobile  network. Five hundred forty of them were in Kyiv.  But the Millennium brought real ‘mobilisation’ to Ukrainians. The 2003 was a game-changer when the law forbade providers to charge incoming calls.    

At the end of the 2000s, we experienced the  Internet boom. If only 20% of Ukrainians were  net users in 2007, five years later this number  reached 50%. Now Ukrainian IT specialists are in  demand worldwide.  The Internet virtualised our communication and  leisure and served us as a unifying force during  our Orange Revolution and Maidan. Luckily,  Ukrainian Internet users enjoy a high level of  information freedom.  The 2010s brought wireless Internet to the  masses. As a result, Ukraine became one of the  four countries with the cheapest mobile Internet  in the world in 2021.  

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