(CNN) — If the future of in-flight entertainment is virtual reality headsets, and the present is movies, music and Wi-Fi, the past was a more wholesome affair involving cards, conversation and cocktails.
Today airlines are tripping over themselves to offer the latest digital thrills to avoid stop passengers voting with device-obsessed fingers and deserting to more tech-savvy rivals.
The first in-flight movie was screened in 1921 — a short titled “Howdy Chicago” on an Aeromarine Airways flight to the Windy City.
And the early flying boats that journeyed — in 37 days — from London to Australia in the 1930s had time and space for deck quoits, golf and a promenade deck.
But it wasn’t until the early 1960s that movies became a fixture on flights.
Even on the first 747s in the 1970s, the in-flight film was a pre-selected feature on the big screen with a basic plastic tube and ear plug as the stethoscope-style headset.
It wasn’t until 1988 that miniscule screens — at 2.7 inches wide — were installed in the back of seats.
Soon, apps accessing fully customizable cloud-based content — which in itself wasn’t even a sentence in 1988 — could be the norm.
It’s a far cry from the days when the height of sophistication meant a well-mixed G&T and a game of gin rummy.