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25 things that Checkatrade has outlasted

Checkatrade was launched in 1998 to help the people of Selsey hire the best tradespeople with the most integrity following an appalling tornado. Checkatrade tradespeople have been going strong ever since... unlike some of these...

Checkatrade came into the world swinging! Kevin Byrne founded Checkatrade (then known as Scout) to support the local people of Selsey after a horrendous tornado in January 1998.

And of course, Checkatrade tradespeople supported the local community to get back on its feet and not let the awful tornado ruin the Selsey spirit!

But while Checkatrade has grown and grown, some other things… not so much. The items on this list blossomed before many fell to the wayside – unlike Checkatrade, which has constantly evolved over the past 25 years.

So join us here for a brief time-travelling tour from the year 1998 – when Checkatrade was born – to now. Let’s affectionately celebrate those creations from the Nineties, Noughties, and Tens till now, that are likely to spark some nostalgia.

Here are 25 nostalgic reminders of what’s changed – and what hasn’t. Become a member with Checkatrade, and you can rely on quality leads and service as we continue to improve. Here’s to the next 25 years!

How Checkatrade has changed

Our web design

Since 1998 there have been big changes in the way we use the internet. At Checkatrade, we’ve been updating our website ever since.

With more developments coming up, we’re always looking for the best way to put homeowners in touch with quality trades.

Looking back at our very first website, you can see just how far we’ve come!

Our team

When Checkatrade began in 1998, the idea was to set up a simple directory, and help tackle the problem of rogue traders. Since those beginnings, we keep pushing forward, to help local communities, and put people in touch with quality tradespeople.

Since being founded by Kevin Byrne, we’ve welcomed the skills and experience of many people over the years. As we celebrate 25 years of Checkatrade, we are now looking forwards to a bright future with new CEO Jambu Palaniappan at the helm.

How business technology has changed

GPS units

It’s hard to remember a time before Satnavs and Google Maps. But back at the turn of the millennium, map books and GPS units were all that we had to go on.

For trickier trade jobs in out-of-the-way locations, GPS units were sometimes all you could rely on to get you to your destination. Thankfully technology has really come on in this area!

Dial-up modems

The familiar sequence of crackles and pings was an everyday headache for trade business owners at the end of the 1990s. It was even trickier to use the internet when you couldn’t use the phone at the same time.

With broadband coverage now universal, plus landline usage dwindling, the years of dial-up internet seem like a lifetime ago!

Mobile phones

“I’m on my mobile” was a common enough cry in the Noughties. It told everyone in hearing distance that you meant business. The dominant business handset of choice was the BlackBerry. Remember its ‘QWERTY’ typewriter keypad set-up?

BlackBerry didn’t last the distance though. The company failed to keep up with the pace of changing mobile phone technology and the once-ubiquitous brand largely disappeared.

Another mobile heavyweight was the legendary Nokia 3210. You could drop it from a great height, you could hit the thing with a hammer.

You could also crush this “Nokia Brick” with a mechanical device and it just would not break.

There were other reasons to love this phone, too. Offering owners the chance to use an in-built calculator, as well as a stopwatch and, let’s not forget, giving your thumb repetitive strain injury playing ‘Snake’.

Radio pagers

Who can forget radio pagers – or ‘beepers’? You strapped them on your belt while on a job and they beeped whenever a message was received on their tiny screen. You then usually had to search for a landline telephone to respond to whatever urgent callback request had been transmitted to your pager.

Computers

As its name indicates, Microsoft’s mighty Windows 98 was launched the same year as Checkatrade. It replaced Windows 95 and was superseded by Windows 2000.

Elsewhere, Apple first unveiled its ultra-trendy iMac in 1998. This helped move the brand beyond a largely designer-focused customer base to a more mainstream audience. 1998 was also the year Google launched.

Checkatrade has outlasted a mountain of obsolete technology. Most tradespeople nowadays head out on a job with at least one super-sleek and powerful laptop or smart device.

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Answerphones

An absolutely essential of business life back in the day. The annoying bleep when you returned to your office told you your voicemail (recorded on a tiny cassette tape) was full.

A playback often revealed just a single long-winded message – and it was probably only your mum wanting to know why you hadn’t called. Not a great way to run a business.

Fax machines

Another office stalwart was the trusty fax. Vital business information would be noisily and slowly splurged out by the machine.

For those using thermal fax paper that meant an endlessly long roll of paper spilling snake-like across the office floor. Anyone inadvertently phoning a fax number received a brain-jarring screech in their ear.

Y2K

The much-feared meltdown of computers failing to recognise the new millennium and their clocks reverting to 1 January 1900 never happened.

But not before computer ‘experts’ warned us that the world was about to end at the hands of this Millennium Bug. Of course, they took huge consultancy fees to fix things for us.

How business life has changed

Work tools

We take cordless power tools pretty much for granted today. But in the 1990s many tradespeople had to rely on plugging in their tools. Not only was this inconvenient it could also be rather dangerous.

Mains-powered tools have faded in popularity for many tradespeople. Cordless tools have been around for a long time but their uses back then were relatively limited. Now we can access much more powerful tools with a longer battery life that are lighter and faster.

On the road

In one sense, the trusty work van hasn’t changed much over the years. In 1998 the second-generation Renault Master was Van of the Year and its successors are still around today.

The Ford Transit’s popularity endures, with today’s models featuring infotainment systems, and digital instrument clusters.

What has changed is how we power them. Diesel’s days are ending. Tradespeople are gearing up for electric and hybrid vehicles in the drive to greater sustainability.

van fuel cost

Fuel prices

Petrol and diesel cost around 60p per litre in the late 90s. Those were the days, but it didn’t last. Fuel protests in 2000 pushed prices over 80p. They climbed to around 145p in 2012 and were about 138p by 2018. Since then, the Covid-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine saw prices rocket to nearly £2. Today, it’s generally back to mid-150p.

Getting paid on time

‘The cheque is in the post’ was a common business headache in the 1990s. Getting paid on time or at all was a lot harder.

Like cheques, cash was essential for small business back then. The £2 coin was introduced in 1998 and the euro launched in 1999.

Cheques are largely a thing of the past – as are many local bank branches. We’re now in a cashless age which is a benefit for many tradespeople.

Apps and handheld card payment devices make getting paid far easier.

A major boost to labour rates came in 1998 when Parliament passed the National Minimum Age Act. For people aged over 22, it was £3.60 per hour.

Dangerous work practices

1998 was a busy year for improvements to health and safety at work. A raft of new legislation was introduced to improve working conditions for tradespeople.

It included the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) Act and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER), as well as a strengthening of Health and Safety Regulations.

What should a builder wear?

How entertainment has changed

The price of a pint

Who would have thought that pubs themselves would ever struggle? It was a busier age for publicans in 1998, with a pint of lager or bitter costing about 90-98p. A daily tabloid to read with it would have set you back around 20p.

The trend for drinking at home and a ban on smoking in pubs took their toll on pub profits. Nowadays, you’re likely to see as many zero-alcohol varieties as the real thing.

Football’s coming home

England getting agonisingly knocked out of football World Cups reached a pinnacle in 1998 with the loss to Argentina. The match saw a young David Beckham receive a red card and an even younger Michael Owen score an unforgettable wonder goal.

But the losing feeling seems to be a thing of the past. At least it is in women’s sport – which barely got a mention in 1998. The Lionesses triumphed at Wembley in the Women’s Euro Final in 2022 and narrowly lost to Spain in the 2023 World Cup final.

Olympic heroes

London hosted the Summer Olympics in 2012. While Team GB has excelled in subsequent events, nothing beats those previous achievements or the incredible level of public support for a home Olympics. Another Olympics on these shores seems unrealistic.

Music

Good old vinyl records have largely had their day (although they remain popular in some quarters). Technology has revolutionised our listening habits. MP3 players and iPods came and went for most of us.

Spotify now dominates streaming and Apple Music is a popular choice. If the radio is on at work, then it’s probably a digital DAB model. The latest change is how artificial intelligence is going to influence our listening habits.

Home entertainment

Blockbuster arrived in the UK from the US in 1989. Hiring a video brought the cinema experience into our homes. Video was king and DVDs were launched in 1997.

The dominance of both formats has waned. Blockbuster closed its doors in 2013. Today, it’s all about online digital entertainment and streaming services.

The year Checkatrade began saw Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan, Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 4 and a large monster in Godzilla. Watery hit Titanic landed 10 Oscars in 1989.

Millennium Dome

In 1999, the place to be seen was the Millennium Dome. No one quite knew why. A bunch of exhibitions celebrated a load of things no one can remember.

A disastrous New Year’s Eve event doomed the venue’s reputation. It quickly reinvented itself as a cavernous entertainment venue.

Digital pets

The late 90s saw several tech-based toy crazes. The Tamagotchi digital pet entranced and traumatised kids in equal measure. The obsession with keeping the pet alive infuriated parents and teachers, leading to bans in some countries.

The cute and slightly robotic Furby was launched in 1998 before scurrying off. In 2023, it attempted a comeback.

Homeowner demand has dropped - what this means for tradesmen

How home life has changed

House prices

Look away now if you don’t want to weep into your £4+ pint of lager. The average house price in 1998 was around £65,000. Today, it’s nearer £228,000.

Over the decades, moving home has been matched by staying put. Home improvement has become much more sophisticated.

Back then, there were few solar panels, walk-in shower rooms or island kitchens. With hybrid working now in the ascendency, tradespeople today are also busy creating home offices.

Magnolia paint craze

It’s a colour that sums up not one but several decades. Best described by a character in an Agatha Christie thriller as a combination of “mustard-meets-biscuit”, this was the wall-covering of choice for every disinterested builder and estate agent in Britain.

And not just throughout the Nineties. If you were renting out your home, you were strongly advised to cover every wall in this 18th-century-invented water-based tone. This magnolia paint craze eventually ran out of steam in the early Noughties.

Holiday adventures

Package holidays have been around since the 1970s but were boosted in the 1990s by intense budget airline competition. EasyJet launched in 1995 and BA’s Go in 1998.

With little access to the internet, back then you had to trek to your local travel agent to book your holiday.

Our holidaying habits have changed. The traditional two weeks in the sun during the school summer holidays are as popular as ever. But cross-Channel ‘booze cruises’ hit the rocks.

The 1990s and onwards saw more short-break and long-weekend getaways. Short-haul flights to European cities gained in popularity – especially with the stag and hen brigade.

The 2007 global financial crash and, more recently the Covid-19 pandemic and cost-of-living crisis, helped put UK staycations on the map.

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