past perfect vs past simple

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YourSunlight

Banned
Russian
Hello!

I have a question about the use of "past perfect" and "past simple" in this sentence:

Technology (1) (had) ADVANCED so quickly that by the 1990s mobiles could be held in the hand and people talking on the mobiles (2) (had become) BECAME a familiar sight everywhere from trains to restaurants.

Should we use past perfect here if these two actions happened before the 1990s.

Can you explain, please, why we choose this or that tense?
 
  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    There is not enough context to decide. It is not clear whether you are talking in general about the progress of technology and are using the 1990s as a casual milestone with perhaps others to follow (in which case past simple is better),
    or whether you are mainly talking about the 1990s and have just made a casual point about how far technology had advanced by then and what bearing this might have had on 1990s culture (in which case past perfect is better).
     

    YourSunlight

    Banned
    Russian
    That's the beginning of the extract:

    The first mobile phones were constructed inthe 1950s! They could be used only in cars as it weighed more than 40 kilos.

    Then my first sentence, then it continues: Not everyone welcomed mobiles, and in the mid-1990s their use was banned from some schools.

    Does it help?
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I'd use the past perfect, since both things had happened before the '90s, according to the quoted text. (Although in my observation, the statement's not factually accurate. Mobile phones weren't ubiquitous by 1990.)
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    With this little bit of extra context it's still not completely clear whether the main topic of the narrative is the development of the phone or the 1990s.
    I'm tending towards past perfect for had advanced, but bearing in mind Parla's remark about factual accuracy, it might be more a case of mobiles becoming more familiar a sight during the 1990s instead of already having become so by the 1990s. Therefore I would favour retaining the past simple for became. Other repairs would then need to be made to the sentence.

    How does past simple "could be held" sit with "by the"? Can we get away with that past simple just because "can" lacks a past participle? Should it be "had become possible to hold"?

    Became really parallels could here and not advanced. It seems to me the advance happened before the 1990s, so that from then on phones could be held in the hand and started to become a familiar sight.
     
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