GEORGE TOWN, July 4 — Remember when mobile phones were the size of bricks and winning a stack of erasers made you the envy of your school?
Penang artist Azmi Hussin brings readers three decades back in time in his latest Tanjong Life comic book titled Back to the 90s.
In the 93-page book, the artist juxtaposes the digital world of today where people crave superficial “likes” on social media against the analogue days of the 1990s when people placed higher value on the small things in life and appreciated each other in person.
Azmi’s character, Joe G, is featured in every scenario, from queuing up to make a call at the public telephones to renting VHS tapes and playing the eraser battle in school.
One to always feature typically Penang scenes in his books, the artist included the classic Penang Hill funicular train, which was slower at that time and a trip uphill allowed visitors to admire the view along the way.
He also featured the Penang minibuses that plied all the residential and inner-city routes and were always packed like sardines.
The Penang ferry was also featured as it was the main mode of public transport between the island and the mainland.
“When I was brainstorming for this book, I came up with a very long list of things in the 90s that we no longer see now so I had to cut out some to feature about 45 situations,” Azmi said.
The book, published in conjunction with George Town Festival 2022, took him three months to plan out and draw.
“I pitched the idea for this book to GTF because I wanted to bring back relatable memories for those who grew up in that era while at the same time, I want the younger generation to learn about how different the lifestyle was at that time,” he said.
He said the 1990s was a special era as it was a time when people are slowly transitioning into the digital era and yet were still heavily reliant on human-centric and analogue systems.
Though there were computer games available at Internet cafes in the latter part of the decade, children still played traditional games like ikan laga (Betta fish) battles, bottle caps games such as Bunga, Pagar, Ayam and Jamban or outdoor games like guli, gasing, lompat getah, kali-toi and tuju kasut.
The 38-year-old artist said at least half of the items listed in the book will be relatable to those who grew up in the 1990s.
“We will remember the time we catch insects and watch movies at old school theatres such Odeon, Cathay and Majestic where we can even bring packets of nasi kandar to eat inside while watching the movie,” he said.
The book ends by comparing the conveniences of technology today where real-world experiences were diminished to nothing more than for virtual likes on social media to that of a time when life was simpler and life experiences were not seen through a mobile phone.