Your server carried around a pad of paper, and wrote your order on it.
The servers are still frequently carrying around pads of paper, but now it's just to remember long enough to get to the computer to enter the order; the computer will then deliver the order to the cooks. You obvs don't read a paper anymore. You read your phone or ereader or tablet or laptop or whatev, and hope the place has wifi, otherwise, you make do by your phone or use it as a hotspot.
But there wasn't a ton of interaction at a diner, ever. We always had our eyes pointed straight at words. Which makes this insane and sort of humorous.
"You laugh, but I'm sitting in my favorite diner waiting for my rubberized eggs and surveying a roomful of patrons who refuse to look at anything but their phones. I think the guy next at the counter is ordering his food from the diner's website while the waitress is staring at her PC waiting. Neither knows the other exists."
I know I've been the bored, lonely person chatting up the employees at the restaurant: when traveling, when I've somehow managed to escape the kids, etc. But I'm wondering if Cringely doesn't realize how diner etiquette works?