Team Photo Challenges in the Pleistocene, Before Smartphones

Ah, the Good Old Days

Few things can make you feel instantly old like bygone gadgets that nobody uses anymore—the kind that people post on Facebook with the question, “Do you remember what this was for?” You sound like your grandpa as you eagerly reminisce: “Back in my day, you had to flip open your phone! And to enter a name, you might have to press the 6 key four times or more to select a capital letter O!”

When Watson Adventures was born in 1999, the cutting edge of technology was represented by video tapes you had to (please) rewind before returning them to Blockbuster. You burned your music to CDs, you backed up your files on floppy disks, and if you needed to take a photo and see it instantly, you used one of these beauties:

Geezers will recognize the svelte, turtle-back form of the Polaroid camera in the photo above—a photo taken with a digital camera on a phone. Back in 1999 or so, this silver plastic beauty was the sleek, state-of-the-art model. When we first added team photo challenges to our scavenger hunts, the only way to easily see whether the teams had actually met the conditions of the challenges was to give each team one of these machines to crank out instant photos and present the results at the finish line.

Our Hunt Hosts had to lug one of these for each team to the start of the hunt, along with these instructions for the technophobes:

How to Operate the Camera

  • Flip the top of the front upward to reveal the lens.
  • To shoot, pull back the round button on the right side.
  • Take a TEST PICTURE of your team before you leave.
  • Flip the top down to close the camera between shots so you don’t drain the battery.

Hunters would be challenged to complete a task such as, “Take a team photo looking terrified of a live animal.” Once a team posed with a suitable pooch, someone would pull back on the sliding plastic trigger, the camera would cluck and whir and spit out a square photo in a heavy white plastic frame. The surface of the photo would be moist, and the proud paparazzo would wave the photo in the air to help it dry. (Polaroid said this was not necessary, but it was part of the ritual.) There were only 10 photos in a cartridge, so if you made a mistake or took a dud, too bad, you were stuck with it. No points for you.

To the Future!

After the turn of the century, when compact digital cameras became reasonably priced, we purchased swarms of them. Hunters experienced the joy of taking endless photos and selecting the best. At the finish line, they would hold up the tiny screen to the Hunt Host and tap-tap-tap through the images.

Few people were more delighted than us when smartphones with cameras found their way into everyone’s pockets. At the finish line hunters could swipe through their photos for the Hunt Host to score them.

Today, our hunters text their shots—like the one below—to an online gallery that everyone can enjoy during and after the game. For bonus points, they can post a photo to this newfangled thing called social media, where they tag the post #watsonadventures. Back in our day, that # was called a pound sign, and you pushed it on your phone to retrieve your messages from your answering machine back home. Now, gather ’round for the story about the great terror known as Y2K