The first HeadOn commercial didn't have "HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead." three times. It was actually people discussing the product, ending with "Should I know about HeadOn?"
Founder George Zimmer didn't even appear in the earliest Men's Wearhouse commercials, and even then his delivery was much more enthusiastic compared to the deep, gravelly voice he's better known by. I guarantee it.
The original Geico gecko commercials with the Gecko were all about the Gecko complaining about mistaken identity, with hundreds of people calling him when they were looking for an insurance company. Now, the Gecko is a Geico employee. (And of course, Geico was advertising way before they had the gecko.)
Fanfics in general fall into this - as is the case with professional authors. Many fanfic writers' earlier fanfics might not resemble their later fanfics in terms of plot or format. This is understandable as fanfic writers often get tips from reviewers on how to improve, and will often use them.
Comedian Jeff Foxworthy had several albums' worth of material from the 1980s, none of which were released until after his breakthrough in 1994 with You Might Be a Redneck If… The 1980s albums show him to be far more vulgar, and somewhat less reliant on his now-trademark Southern humor. Very early on, he didn't even have his famous "If you X, you might be a redneck" one-liners; instead, his original trademark joke was a story that worked in every letter of the alphabet ("A there, dudes! I'm gonna tell you a story you might not B-lieve. 'Cause you C, it's about this friend of mine, he's from D-troit…").
Larry The Cable Guy's affected Southern drawl (he's actually from Nebraska) sounded radically different on his first major-label album, Lord, I Apologize: it was higher and less raspy than it is now. It was also his only major-label album to feature a "Toddler Mail" segment (a carryover from his independent days), and the only one besides his Christmas album to feature a musical track (the title track, which features Larry singing while Mark Tremonti backs him on guitar).
Billy Connolly's now-famous swearing rarely extends past the word "jobby" in his early albums. One usage of the F-Word even gets bleeped out!
Real Life — Businesses
Early J. C. Penney stores were far smaller than they are now. They sold only clothes, and were about the size that a dollar store would be today. No salons, bedding, or jewelry, not even the now-defunct auto parts and service, appliances, or sporting goods.
Going the other way, Sears and many other department store chains used to have all of the aforementioned lines, along with many other now-defunct features such as candy counters and even full restaurants. Nowadays, most department stores focus only on "softlines" such as clothing, bedding, jewelry, and footwear. Outside the "discount" department stores (e.g., Walmart), Sears is the only department store left that still sells "hardlines" like electronics, appliances, and tools.
Originally, f.y.e. stores were much larger, like Tower Records or Media Play (both now defunct). Some of them even sold books. Also, they had this colorful, wonderfully 90's logo. In 2001, the parent company began phasing out the superstores in favor of rebranding all of its smaller, often mall-based stores (including Record Town, Camelot Music, Strawberries, The Wall, Disc Jockey, and Coconuts) under the f.y.e. banner, also bringing in the current blue logo.
The first McDonald's stores didn't have seating or drive-thru windows. The most familiar design with the red Mansard roofs didn't come along until the early 1970s, generally staying that way until it was replaced in the late 2000s by the Giant Eyebrow ofDoom. Very early on, they served hot dogs instead of hamburgers.
Abercrombie & Fitch was originally a mail-order sporting goods and sportswear store dating back to the late 19th century. After languishing in the 1970s and 1980s under the ownership of sporting goods retailer Oshman's, it was reinvented in the 1990s as a teen clothing store by The Limited, who later spun it off.
The Gap family of brands went through this entirely. Gap originally sold jeans, brand-name clothing, and albums before becoming a more upscale private-label brand in 1986. Banana Republic originally sold safari clothing before Gap bought it and Re Tooled it into a luxury clothing retailer. Sister chain Old Navy was originally far larger and called Gap Warehouse.
Early Walmart stores were about one-fourth the size they are now, with no auto repair, pharmacy, jewelry, restaurant, or groceries in sight. For many years, their logo used an old West-style font. There was no Sam's Club, either. And going a step further, early supercenters were called "hypermarts" that were practically entire shopping malls compressed into one store — they even had entire food courts. Only a few hypermarkets were built before the Flawed Prototype was tweaked into the "supercenter" format of today.
For many years, those that had restaurants almost exclusively had McDonald's or Radio Grill; they didn't start partnering with Subway until 2007. You might still find the odd one with a McDonald's still in it, or a one-off with some other fast food chain instead.
Originally, most Kmart stores were paired with Kmart Foods supermarkets. This was phased out in the 1970s.
Early Cracker Barrel stores had gas station/convenience stores, thus making them more akin to Stuckey's. They ditched the gas pumps during the 1970s oil crisis and focused on the restaurant/gift shop hybrid.
Originally, Kentucky Fried Chicken was not sold at its own restaurants; instead, other restaurants could pay for the franchise rights to sell chicken made with Colonel Sanders's recipe. The first de-facto KFC opened in Utah in the sixties.
Denny's was originally a doughnut shop called Danny's.
Many early shopping malls were open-air concourses. They often featured a high number of service tenants (shoe repair, barber shop, etc.), a dime store, a supermarket (sometimes two), a drugstore, and maybe one department store. Overall, it probably would've had only 30 or 40 stores. One of the first malls to resemble what they look like now was Southdale in Minnesota, although even it had the aforementioned lineup. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the "dumbbell" mall (a huge concourse with a major department store at either end) became the default layout, and particularly in colder northern climates, more malls became enclosed. As malls grew larger, supermarkets and drugstores became less practical tenants (why would you buy groceries at a place with 100 other stores?), while dime stores lost footing to discount stores such as Kmart (which rarely anchored malls except in smaller towns).
Real Life — Other
Your life is this, you can now dress, feed, and care for yourself, but back then you depended on your parents for everything. You also think way differently now then you did when you were a child, or even a few years ago.
Due to the strange path evolution often ends up taking, the evolutionary history of a number of groups can appear like this.
In a more obvious example, the earliest vertebrates were mostly small creatures with no jaws. (Jawless fish exist today, but only a few species out of the tens of thousands of modern day vertebrates.)
The earliest dinosaurs weren't particularly large, starting as medium sized or small two legged creatures.
Earlier cephalopods had shells, although the transition to modern non-shelled types took place over some time.
The Cambrian Explosion had a number of unusual creatures and forms that aren't found much today.
After several mass extinctions, the first few creatures to diversify didn't resemble later types of animals that would later become more common.
As far as humanity is concerned, the initial peoples did not build their own houses, instead residing in natural caves. They often painted in them. These paintings feature animals no longer around today. Law did not exist either.
In their earliest form, the modern Olympic Games were a fairly low-key affair. They weren't heavily promoted (since most people couldn't follow them) and competitions were open to any amateur athletes who wanted to try their luck at the games—professional athletes were actually discouraged from competing, since they would have had an unfair advantage over the common citizenry (or, more cynically, to restrict the games to "amateurs" rich enough to pay for their own training without endorsements).
The 1900 and 1904 Olympics, in Paris and St. Louis respectively, were held as appendages to World's Fairs being held in those cities at the same time. They both took place over a series of months and were very low-key affairs. The St. Louis Games attracted very few international athletes, allowing Americans to win most of the medals.
The Ancient Olympics. They had no female competitors, staff, or audience, they were explicitly pagan in nature, only a few Greek city-states participated in them, and they were performed in the nude. Instead of medals, people got wreaths.
It's common to put up faces and guard bits of yourself when meeting new people, causing any early memories of spending time with your friends or acquaintances before you understand them to be this.
Originally, the Statue of Liberty was brown-gold. Now it's green, due to the copper accumulating a thick layer of verdigris.
Every December (specifically the Monday following the second Wednesday in December) after a U.S. Presidential election, the members of the Electoral College assemble in their respective state capitals to decide who won the election. Or, rather, they met to decide it once or twice. When the constitution was written, people didn't actually vote for a President; they voted for an Elector, who was expected to exercise his own judgement in actually choosing who to place his vote for. Ever since, however, Electors have all been sworn to support a single candidate each, making the Electoral College a simple layer of abstraction in voting for the President mostly-directly. (Only in a few US states do the ballots even show the name of the elector along with the name of the candidate they're pledged for.) The EC vote is such a formality that many US voters don't even realize it exists, and it's generally forgotten entirely except when a) a candidate gets more popular votes but loses because he didn't get enough electoral votes (most recently in 2000), or b) "faithless electors" vote for someone other than who his/her state's voters picked.
Similarly, U.S. political party conventions were initially serious affairs where elected delegates chose a candidate according to their own judgement. Now the candidate is determined before the convention with a series of statewide primaries, and the convention is simply a pompous "coronation" ceremony for the winner.
The first three Cirque du Soleil shows, including their breakthrough hit Le Cirque Réinventé, had traditional one-ring circus staging, going through one self-contained segment at a time with little thought to thematic bridges beyond a loose "whimsical-circus-star-for-a-day" conceit expressed mostly in the opening and closing sequences. Starting with their fourth show Nouvelle Experience, the ring and curtain at the back were eliminated from the staging and the thematic throughlines of each show became much more detailed. Performers were encouraged to create distinctive characters for themselves, and the resultant interactions between the characters helped informed how one act flowed into another, resulting in a far more theatrical approach to the circus format that came to define the company. Aestethically, the early shows also have simpler, less surreal costuming and music than later shows do (musically the Cirque shows evolve significantly with #5, Saltimbanco).
Russia had a non-communist, democratic government for eight months in 1917, between the February Revolution (which overthrew the Czar) and the October Revolution (when Lenin and the communists took over). The two revolutions are usually conflated together in the popular imagination.
The universe directly after the big bang was a super-hot, super-dense miasma of particles, compared to the almost entirely empty cold vacuum it is now. Even the four fundamental forces were all just one "superforce".*
The first FIFA World Cup in 1930 was entered by just 13 teams. The first winners, Uruguay, subsequently skipped the next two Tournaments and didn't play again until 1950 (when they won again!)
As recently as the 1950 tournament, it was common for teams to drop out more or less at the last minute with no possibility of FIFA being able to find a replacement.
In 1954, the 16 teams were split into four groups of four, as would be the case for the first round at the finals until 1982. But instead of playing all the teams in their group once, there were two seeded teams who played against two unseeded teams.
In qualifying for the 1950 and 1954 tournaments, the 'Home Nations' of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (all of Ireland until 1950) were given two finals places between them, whereas Africa and Asia, two entire continents got just one between them.
Until 1946, the England football team had no manager. The team was instead picked by a 'Selection Committee' chosen by the FA, who would also often send a prestigious English club manager (usually different every time) with the team to offer tactical advice. In 1946, this was made into a permanent position and Walter Winterbottom was appointed the first England manager. However, he still couldn't pick the team; that was left to the committee. In 1962 Winterbottom resigned and the FA offered Ipswich Town manager Alf Ramsey the job. He accepted on the condition that he could pick the team. The FA agreed, originally seeing this as an experiment that could be deemed a failure if Ramsey didn't get results. Ramsey went on to win the World Cup with England in 1966, and the practice stuck.
Ironically, to this day Ramsey is the only England manager with a better win:game ration than the Selection Commitee.
The first playoff defeat for Michael Jordan wasn't to Larry Bird's Celtics or the "Bad Boys" Pistons, but to... the Milwaukee Bucks led by Sidney "Sid the Squid" Moncrief, whom subsequently Jordan praised heavily.
During the first two Space Shuttle missions the external fuel tank was painted white, to match the color scheme of the shuttle and booster rockets. From the third mission on it was left the reddish-brown color everyone recognizes.
Even after the Ultimate Fighting Championship began, becoming the codifier for Mixed Martial Arts, the sport developed a great deal during the early years. The very first UFC event was a one-man, single elimination tournament, without any gloves or rounds, and almost no rules. As the years went by, many new rules were adopted until the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts were adopted, which became the industry standard.
The earliest versions of Microsoft Windows were simply built as a GUI alternative to MS-DOS, with little intention on being as popular as it would turn out. Versions before 95 lacked the iconic taskbar and start menu that would define it many years later. Instead it included the MS-DOS executive (later retooled into the Program Manager), which was a window that included the main programs, and when it was closed the computer would shut down. Finally, the minimize-maximize-close buttons in the top right are entirely missing, replaced with a minus button on the top left that triggers a drop down menu with these types of controls (this button has managed to survive into modern versions, but the menu is now triggered when you click the top right of the menu with no button, probably to prevent Damn You, Muscle Memory).
The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has adopted a great many televised formats since the era of television began. During the 1980s and early '90s, for example, it was known as "The All-American Thanksgiving Day Parade" and was actually four parades shown more or less simultaneously: the traditional New York City parade; a Hawaiian-themed parade in Honolulu; a Disneyland parade in Anaheim, California; and a parade in Toronto, Ontario (Canada). Starting in the early 1990s, the parade broadcast took on the format it has today: a New York-only affair, and more of a media extravaganza than a parade, with Broadway musical numbers performed in the street in front of the department store and many guest appearances by celebrities (some of which are completely gratuitous). The festivities also once included an ice show performed at the Wollman Rink in Central Park, but that seems to have ended long ago.
The National Bible Bee, a Scripture memory and knowledge competition, has a big case of this. The way it is now, its defining traits include the Sword Study (an extremely in-depth study on a single, very short book of the Bible), the "Bible Bee box" of materials (including cards with all the passages on them), and a Nationals competition with lots of family-friendly fun. The very first year, 2009, you had to study no less than six books of the Bible, all of them quite long, on a very non-in-depth level. There was no "Bible Bee box" - it was up to you to print out the cards yourself. And the Nationals competition took place in a hotel better suited for guys on business trips than vacationing families, featuring such wonders as weighted tables with snacks in jars on them that charges you the cost of the product if you pick up anything (and the prices aren't exactly competitive - i.e. eight dollars for gummy bears). There's a lot more than that, though, such as all sorts of format changes and the number of verses (it's been changed around over the years, but the first year the highest age division had to memorize 1,500 verses).