Was flying more fun before in-flight movies?

(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.

But back in the day, flying as a “thing” was enough of a novelty. As the images above of yesteryear flying fun supplied by our friends at AirlineRatings.com reveal, if you needed any extra entertainment, you mostly provided it yourself, or got stuck into the free booze.

In-flight entertainment of yesteryear was of the do-it-yourself variety.

Boeing Historical Archives

‘Excited’

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.

“Flying back in the 1950s and 1960s was very different — it was still the province of the very wealthy who would be happy to immerse themselves in the classics like ‘War and Peace,’ ” Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of AirlineRatings.com, tells CNN Travel.

“Passengers were so excited by jet travel that was entertainment enough.”

Sophistication

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.

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